On June 13th, new and experienced legal aid staff members funded by grants from the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) will converge in Richmond to share information, resources and obtain training. Through VOCA funds newly made available to legal aid programs, Virginia’s legal aid agencies will provide increased and more comprehensive services to domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking and stalking victims, including divorce, custody, child support, spousal support, financial exploitation defense and immigration assistance. VOCA funds not only allow us to provide more comprehensive services to a greater number of eligible low-income victims of crime, it supports outreach to the most vulnerable among these, including the elderly, disabled, children, teens and LGBTQ.

We are extremely grateful to the Department of Criminal Justice Services, Virginia’s State VOCA Administrator, for recognizing the need for and funding comprehensive services that we hope and expect will transform the landscape of victim service provision in Virginia.

A new rule that became effective on August 8, 2016, allows state VOCA Administrators more flexibility in distributing funds to serve victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking and stalking. VOCA funds, for the first time, may be used for legal services beyond emergency services immediately following the crime (such as protective orders for victims). Virginia’s state VOCA Administrator, the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), distributed funding for comprehensive legal services such as divorce, custody, immigration visas and housing.