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History of Victims' Rights

The history of the victims’ rights movement is the story of victims, victim advocates, and countless other individuals working together to bring hope to millions of individuals, families, and communities harmed by crime each year.  It is a story of steady, certain progress that continues  still today. 

1972:  The first three victim assistance programs were established in St. Louis, Missouri; San Francisco, California; and Washington, DC.


1974:  The first law enforcement-based victim assistance programs were established in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act was established that same year.

1975:  The first “Victims’ Rights Week” was organized by the Philadelphia District Attorney.  Citizen activists across the country united to expand victim services and increase recognition of victims’ rights through the formation of the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA).

1976:  The first national conference on battered women was sponsored by the Milwaukee Task Force on Women in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The first shelters for battered women were established in Pasadena, California.

1977:  Oregon became the first state to enact mandatory arrest in domestic violence cases.

1978:  The National Coalition Against Sexual Assault was formed to combat sexual violence and promote services for rape victims.  That same year, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) was organized as a voice for the battered women’s movement on a national level.

1980:  The first National Day of Unity was established in October by NCADV to mourn battered women who have died, celebrate women who have survived the violence, and honor all who have worked to defeat domestic violence.

1987:  Security on Campus (SOC) was established by the parents of a college student who was tragically robbed, raped and murdered at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.  SOC raises national awareness about crime and victimization on our nation’s campuses.

1992:  Twenty-eight states passed anti-stalking laws.

1994:  President Clinton signed a comprehensive package of federal victims’ rights legislation as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.  The Act included more than $1-billion in funding for programs to combat violence against women and established the National Child Sex Offender Registry.

1996:  The National Domestic Violence Hotline was established by Congress to provide crisis intervention information and referrals to victims of domestic violence and their friends and family.

2000:  Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, extending funding over a 5-year period for rape prevention and education grants; battered women’s shelters; transitional housing programs; and to address violence against older women and women with disabilities.  This Act also included expanding federal stalking statutes to include stalking on the Internet.

2003:  Congress passed and President Bush signed the PROTECT Act—also known as the “Amber Alert” law—which created a national AMBER network to facilitate rapid law enforcement and community response to kidnapped or abducted children.

2004:  Congress passed and President Bush signed the Justice for All Act, which provides substantive rights for crime victims.  The law provides mechanisms at the federal level to enforce the rights of crime victims, giving victims and prosecutors legal standing to assert victims’ rights, and provides funding for DNA testing, crime labs, sexual assault forensic examiners, and programs for post-conviction DNA testing.

2010:  Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 316 was approved by the Senate and House, and signed into law by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. SEA 316 is referred to as "Heather's Law," named for Heather Norris, who was brutally murdered by her estranged high school boyfriend in 2007.  This new law will make sure every student in grades 6 through 12 will get the message.


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