Over 30 years ago, a group of concerned citizens convened to respond to concerns that victims had no rights in the legal system, no right to stay informed of the progress of an investigation, no right to appear at trial, no right to know if an arrest had been made, and no right to know when an offender was released from prison. Their advocacy and the subsequent South Carolina Crime Victims Bill of Rights enacted by the General Assembly in 1984 followed by the passage,in1998, of the Constitutional Amendment, Section 24, Victims 'Bill of Rights and Act 141 ensured the provision and enforcement of those rights.
The South Carolina Victim Assistance Network (SCVAN), a 501(c)(3) organization, was created in response to a mandate in theSouth Carolina Crime Victims Bill of Right for a network of service providers to be formed to better protect and serve victims of crime. For over thirty years, SCVAN has been the “go to” agency as the voice of victims of crime and a resource for the providers who serve them.
SCVAN fulfills three main objectives: 1) to ensure ALL crime victims receive access to and assistance from the criminal justice system; 2) to improve the quality of services provided to crime victims by victim advocates; and 3) to ensure the criminal justice system adequately serves crime victims.
To fulfill those objectives, SCVAN advocates on behalf of victims and witnesses of crime, maintains a communication network, enhances public awareness, facilitates research and evaluation, serves as technical support, facilitates quality training, provides education regarding legislative initiatives pertaining to crime issues, coordinates policy development, manages “one of a kind” programs and encourages citizen and victim participation in the justice process.
Throughout its history, SCVAN has made an impressive impact on services available to our state’s victims and criminal justice professionals, with a proven track record of addressing the needs of crime victims with measurable results in all of our programs.
SCVAN provides effective fiscal oversight and management of five grant programs. Our VOCA grant programs: the Victim Information Program, provides direct Emergency Assistance and Information to victims; the Crime Victim Information Services System, provides a research/resource website and helps direct victims and service providers to needed resources; and the SC Immigrant Victim Program, provides legal assistance and access to resources for underserved foreign-born crime victims. Support from the US Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) in 2014, enabled SCVAN to expand its Legal Assistance to Victims Program to add legal services to all survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment and stalking. SCVAN attorneys also provide free legal education and technical assistance to the bench and bar in South Carolina regarding victims’ rights and services.
In 2010, SCVAN created the Statewide Forensic Nurse Examiner Program, through a VAWA-funded grant, to coordinate and support existing and developing FNE programs by building alliances with service providers to promote victim-oriented medical response and treatment of sexual assault victims. The Coordinator also assists with the development of Sexual Assault Response Teams across South Carolina to ensure victims are provided compassionate and comprehensive support and to increase the likelihood of successful prosecution of offenders. The specialized services offered by FNEs through the accurate collection of forensic evidence and providing testimony at trials, are essential to the prosecutor’s case.
Since 1986, SCVAN and the State Office of Victim Assistance have sponsored the Victims’ Rights Week Annual Conference. One of the Nation’s longest standing observances recognizing and publicizing crime victim issues, this conference assembles over300 crime victims, victim service providers, criminal justice professionals, judges, lawyers. mental health professionals and social workers to receive cutting-edge training from some of the most notable criminal justice and victim service providers across the state and nation. The three day conference also provides support and information to crime victims and honors them through a Candlelight Vigil and awards ceremony.
SCVAN’s organizational structure includes a CEO who reports to a Board of Directors composed of representatives of the business community. An Advisory Board, comprised of a cross section of victim service providers, victims and experts in the field, make policy and program recommendations to the governing board. Office and grant staff report to the CEO. Financial transactions are recorded on QuickBooks Pro, using a program approved by the U.S. Department of Justice Comptroller General and the South Carolina Department of Public Safety Grants Accounting Division. SCVAN is audited annually by an independent accounting firm.