Whether it happened yesterday or decades ago, the after-effects of being bullied, sexually assaulted, abused, neglected or otherwise victimized can cause deep and lasting damage.
Now, thanks to a second round of funding from our state Department of Corrections, past and current victims may qualify for free or reduced mental health therapy via a Victims of Crime Act grant awarded to Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota.
After receiving a $25,000 grant to help crime victims last year, LSSND received an additional $40,000 VOCA grant recently to help cover therapy fees and associated expenses for victims who seek mental-health support through Abound Counseling.
Although there are other state funds available to victims, the VOCA grant broadens the definition of victimization to include those affected by property damage, and does not require that the crime occurred recently or was reported to law enforcement within a specific frame of time.
The fund could be especially useful at a time when more households face financial instability, along with increased mental-health challenges, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Having this fund means that people won't have to choose between getting the therapy they need and putting food on the table. It means that the emotional recovery from a crime can be a priority," says Terri Sonsthagen Burns, an intake coordinator for the VOCA program at LSSND.
The VOCA grant defines victims as those who have experienced: physical harm, online or face-to-face bullying or harassment, child abuse, community violence, domestic violence, neglect (child and vulnerable/elderly adults), persecution due to factors like race and sexual orientation, property crimes, sexual assault, and torture or other crimes against humanity.
Targets of serious victimization often suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which, unless diagnosed and treated, can affect every aspect of their lives. When attempting to add up the overall impact of victimization – not only to individuals and their loved ones, but to communities and society as a whole – the statistics are eye-opening:
In a synthesis of several published reports, it was reported that individuals with PTSD had a 150% elevated likelihood of being unemployed compared to those without PTSD.
68% of victims of serious violence experienced socio-emotional problems as a result of their victimization. (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.)
91% of victims indicated they had resigned from a job or been terminated over the past two years as a result of difficulties related to partner violence. (The Journal of Traumatic Stress.)
A U.S. study found the estimated total lifetime costs associated with child maltreatment over a 12-month period to be $124 billion. In the 1,740 fatal cases of child maltreatment, the estimated cost per case was $1.3 million, including medical expenses and productivity loss. (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.)
Rape costs victims more than any other crime, with total estimated costs of $127 billion per year. Research has estimated that each rape costs between $87,000 and $240,776. (National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.)
Each year, U.S. women lose nearly 8 million days of paid work each year because of violence perpetrated against them by former or current husbands, cohabitants, dates and boyfriends. This is the equivalent of 32, 114 full-time jobs each year. (Centers for Disease Control.)
Survivors who were sexually assaulted during adolescence have been found to have reduced income as adults, with an estimated lifetime income loss of $241,000. (The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.)
Victims can be self-referred or referred by a third party, such as a social worker. An Abound mental-health provider will conduct an initial assessment to determine if therapy is warranted. The intake process is simple, as the aim is to remove as many barriers as possible for victims to seek help, Sonsthagen Burns says.
If approved for coverage, the VOCA grant will pay for any remaining costs after the client’s primary insurance coverage has been depleted. The grant may also help the uninsured or underinsured.
Once enrolled, rural residents can receive face-to-face counseling at an Abound office near them or use Abound’s telehealth option. The telehealth system allows guests to use a video connection to interact with a counselor via home computer, laptop or mobile phone, regardless of where they live.
Some grant money is also available for related expenses such as Imagine Thriving Skills Coaches, who work one-on-one with clients to help them strengthen functions impacted by past trauma or mental illness. Funds also are available to pay for interpreter services for non-English-speaking clients.
By Tammy Swift