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Victim-Survivor’s Rights & Resources

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Experiencing and healing from a crime or attack can be a long process of navigating trauma, seeking justice, and ultimately, healing. This process has its own challenges for each person. At the North Carolina Department of Justice, we seek to do everything in our power to direct people to the appropriate resources and help and improve the justice system, so it does not cause additional harm or trauma to those who have suffered so much. If you are navigating this journey, we hope the information and resources below are helpful.

Trauma

Many victim-survivors experience trauma as a result of a crime. The trauma may be physical, psychological, or emotional, and trauma responses can include shock, denial, anger, or acute stress. A survivor’s journey with grief is personal, and many experience a progression of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression to ultimately reach acceptance. This progression may be exacerbated if the survivor is also a product of intergenerational trauma or has been justice-involved. Recognizing trauma and seeking support can be life changing. NC 211 can direct those in need to support.

  • Inter-generational trauma – Many generations experience the damages of traumatic events that occurred years before the current generation, affecting how people move through the healing process.
  • Justice-involved trauma – Trauma experienced by justice-involved populations is considered to be a universal experience, with childhood trauma and mental illness experienced by these people often contributing to their displays of violent/aggressive behavior.

The following resources provide fact sheets, up-to-date research, and additional links to help you understand how to support your mental health.

Programs & Sections within the Department of Justice

The Address Confidentiality Program provides survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and stalking, and their household members with a substitute address to use as their home, school, and work addresses, instead of the actual addresses. The ACP substitute address helps prevent perpetrators from locating survivors. For information on how to apply to participate in the North Carolina Address Confidentiality Program, visit https://ncdoj.gov/public-protection/address-confidentiality-program/.

In 2018, NCDOJ was awarded a Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant of $2 million that is being used to test untested kits currently in the custody of local law enforcement and train members of the criminal justice system in how to create and implement multi-disciplinary teams to ensure victim-centered sexual assault investigations.

Money from the SAKI grant also created the NC Survivor Fund, which helps cold case sexual assault survivors, particularly those who were notified of lab results from a previously unsubmitted sexual assault kit. The dedicated funds are used to cover therapy, prescriptions or medication, and traveling and lodging costs associated with court dates and meeting with law enforcement.

The North Carolina State Crime Lab manages the NC Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit Tracking System (STIMS). The system ensures that survivors, law enforcement, medical providers, prosecutors, and lab personnel can see the status of their kit. This transparency helps ensure that survivors are not kept in the dark about their kit testing, prevents backlogs, and places greater accountability on criminal justice stakeholders.

The Consumer Protection Section within NCDOJ works to protect consumers from financial exploitation, identity theft, scams, and fraud. The Public Protection Section within NCDOJ is focused on protecting the public and preventing crimes. They do this through policy and public protection education and prioritizing victims and survivors of violent crime, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and stalking.

A Victim-Survivor’s Constitutional Rights

Marsy’s Law in North Carolina was passed in 2018 (Session Law 2018-110) and guarantees victim-survivors certain rights in the criminal justice system. This law makes the courts take into consideration the safety of the victims and their families when setting bail and release conditions. This law provides the victims with the right to:

  • receive reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of court proceedings of the accused;
  • upon request, be present at court proceedings of the accused;
  • be reasonably heard at any court proceeding involving the plea, conviction, adjudication, sentencing, or release of the accused;
  • be present at any proceeding involving a plea, sentencing, parole, release of the defendant, and any proceeding in which the victim’s rights are implicated, except for the defendant’s initial appearance;
  • receive restitution in a reasonably timely manner, when ordered by the court;
  • to receive information about the conviction, adjudication, or final disposition and sentence of the accused;
  • receive notification of escape, release, proposed parole or pardon of the accused;
  • present the victim’s views and concerns to the Governor or agency considering taking an action that could release the accused.

More information on Marcy’s Law can be found here.

Notification Systems

NC Statewide Automated Victim Assistance & Notification (SAVAN)

NC SAVAN (North Carolina Statewide Automated Victim Assistance and Notification) is a criminal justice information-sharing system that supports automated victim notification. 1-877-NC SAVAN (1-877-627-2826) is a 24-hour toll-free automated offender information and notification service that people may call to learn about a defendant’s status, register for defendant notification, or to learn about victim assistance resources in their area. This service is also available online or via a cell phone app.

Sex Offender Registry/Alerts

The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) is an unprecedented public safety resource that provides the public with access to data nationwide on people who have been convicted of certain offenses of a sexual nature. NSOPW is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Justice and state, territorial and tribal governments, working together for the safety of adults and children.

Overview of the Criminal Process

Roles

Attorney General: an elected official who represents state government departments, agencies, and commissions in legal matters and leads the North Carolina Department of Justice. The Attorney General handles all criminal appeals from state trial courts. The Attorney General does not have the authority to prosecute specific crimes unless requested to do so by the District Attorney. They also do not have supervisory authority over local district attorneys or the authority to open investigations or initial criminal actions.

Prosecutor/District Attorney: legal representative for the victim and State of North Carolina in any criminal proceeding. They are responsible for presenting the criminal cases for prosecution to the judge and jury. The District Attorney is an elected official of a designated district with the responsibility for prosecuting crimes. You can find your local District Attorney here.

Victim Service Coordinator: work closely with crime victims and witnesses during the trials. They will help to provide education regarding the legal system and refer people to victims’ services such as counseling.

Defense Attorneys: represent the defendant in a lawsuit or a criminal prosecution. All defendants have a right to counsel and to be represented in their trial. If one cannot afford a defense attorney, a public defender will be appointed by the courts.

Law Enforcement Agencies: local police departments and county sheriffs conduct criminal investigations and can call upon the NC State Bureau of Investigation when needed for assistance.

Case Procedure

It takes time after a crime takes place for an investigation to be conducted, arrests to be made, and trials to be conducted and possibly appealed. Learn more about the criminal court process here.

Learn more about the Attorney General and the North Carolina Department of Justice’s role in the criminal appeals process here.

Protective Orders

Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) or 50B

The domestic violence protection order is a court order that requires the perpetrator of domestic violence to stay away from the victim. Law enforcement can arrest the perpetrator on the spot for violating the order. Anyone in North Carolina can file a DVPO if they have a personal relationship to the abuser. As of December 2020, in the case of M.E. v. T.J. unmarried people in same-sex relationships are allowed the same protections under the Domestic Violence Protection Order. Learn more about DVPO/50B protective orders here.

No-Contact Protection Order or 50C

A no-contact protection order is a restraining order that is designated specifically for the victims of sexual assault or stalking who do not have a personal relationship with the accused. It is different from a general restraining order because it allows a judge to order more specific forms of protection for a victim. However, it provides less protections than the domestic violence order. Learn more about no-contact protective orders here.

Crime Victim Compensation

Victims Compensation Services reimburses citizens who suffer medical expenses and lost wages as a result of being an innocent victim of a crime committed in North Carolina. North Carolina is a payer of last resort for expenses such as medical care, counseling, lost wages, health/auto/disability insurance, and funerals. While no amount of money can erase the trauma and grief victims suffer, this aid can be crucial in the recovery process.

Please note, victims are not compensated for damaged or stolen property, or for the pain and suffering they have endured. Claims must be filed within two years of the injury occurrence, and within one year for medical expenses related to injuries from the crime.

Benefits of up to $30,000 for medical expenses and $5,000 for funeral expenses are paid directly to the service provider.

For information on how to apply, visit North Carolina Crime Victims Compensation Services or call toll free at 1-800-826-6200 or at (919) 733-7974.

Restorative Justice

Restorative justice is an alternative approach to justice in which justice-involved people and the people and communities they harmed come together and engage cooperatively. Its emphasis on accountability creates a reflective environment that allows for those who caused harm to not only take responsibility but also contribute to repairing the harm they caused. Restorative justice practices are also recommended as an approach to address racial equity in the criminal justice system.

The following links dive into the purpose of restorative justice and provide further information on what the process entails and how it can be used to benefit those who have been harmed, justice-involved people, and the community.

Considerations for Immigrant Victims

Many victims without lawful immigration status may be hesitant to cooperate in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity due to fear of removal of the United States.

Visa Eligibility

Victims of certain crimes who are in the United States without lawful immigration status may be eligible to apply for a T-visa or U-visa with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

T-visas enable victims of human trafficking to remain in the United States for up to 4 years in exchange for assisting in the investigations or prosecution of that criminal activity. Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to compel people to provide labor or services, including commercial sex. T-visa nonimmigrants who qualify may also be able to adjust their status and become lawful permanent residents. To learn more about efforts to end human trafficking in North Carolina, visit Project No Rest.

U-visas enable victims of certain qualifying crimes to remain in the US in exchange for assisting investigators or prosecutors in their case. The Department of Homeland Security has issued a U-Visas Law Enforcement Resource Guide to assist law enforcement agencies with navigating their roles and responsibilities as a certifying agency. A law enforcement agency’s main responsibility is to investigate and/or prosecute the allegations of the crime and confirm the victim’s cooperation in the investigation or prosecution.

It is the sole responsibility of USCIS to determines the immigrant’s eligibility for a U-visa after reviewing the entire U-visa application. A U-visa application includes the I-918B form and Supplement B form that must be filled out by the certifying agency, on the petitioner’s behalf, and in the certifying agency’s discretion.

Additional Resources for Immigrants

Accessibility of Victim-Survivor Programs & Services

Various federal laws, including Tittle VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and state laws require that people with limited English proficiency and/or disabilities have access to effective communication to court proceedings. Information on how to request information in your own language or an accommodation contact the N.C. Judicial Branch’s Office of Language Access Services.

Additional Resources