Coakley, Buoniconti lobby for victims' rights
Date: 5/4/2010May 5, 2010.
By Katelyn Gendron
Reminder Assistant Editor
GREATER SPRINGFIELD -- The Massachusetts Office of Victims Assistance (MOVA), Attorney General Martha Coakley, chair of MOVA's board, and State Sen. Stephen Buoniconti are working to ensure legislative changes are made to enhance victims' rights.
Coakley and Buoniconti have filed An Act Relative to Victims of Violent Crimes, updating the Victims of Violent Crimes Compensation statute, providing support services to victims and their families.
"Along with Sen. Buoniconti, we have proposed a bill to further support families and victims of violent crimes," Coakley said. "This revenue-neutral bill will, among other things, assist victims of rape who need to replace clothing or bedding damaged during an attack, replace locks at their home to protect them from their abuser, or hire professionals to clean a crime scene if it occurred in their own home.
"This bill is a small step that we can take to help alleviate the burden of families who have gone through such a horrific ordeal," she continued.
The bill would not raise the $25,000 maximum compensation victims may receive; however, it does allow for an increased cap for certain provisions. Victims would be allowed to claim a maximum of $1,500 for crime scene cleanup; a total of $250 for seized or damaged bedding and clothing; a maximum of $500 for damaged security devices; a total of $6,000 for funeral expenses; and a cap of $800 for additional funeral expenses such as tombstones or urns.
Buoniconti said the aim is to "increase awareness" of victims' rights as well as the rights of victims' family members.
"We've tended to just focus on the victim of the crime, which is not the only person who's [affected]," he added.
Buoniconti noted the bill allows for such provisions as counseling and other services for the non-offending parent of a child abuse victim.
Janet Fine, executive director of MOVA, explained her organization is also lobbying for amendments to the Victim Bill of Rights.
"The Victim Bill of Rights has been in effect since 1984 and was amended in 1995 and so it's long overdue," she said of the changes needed to assist today's victims.
An Act to Protect and Enhance the Rights of Child and Adult Victims and Witnesses of Crime calls for new and updated provisions such as guaranteed separate waiting areas for victims and defendants in courthouses; allows victims to issue Victim Impact Statements as testimony, rather than appearing in court, which would cause "unreasonable hardship"; and requires first responders to a violent crime to provide victims with written rights and resource referrals.
Additional information about MOVA, victims' rights and compensation may be obtained at http://mova.state.ma.us