Lost mail may have led Ohio to deny aid to an assault victim


Editors’s note: A months-long I-Team investigation of Ohio’s Crime Victim Compensation Program found the amount of assistance paid through the program has been steadily declining for a decade. Last year the program denied more people than it approved, and now spends almost as much on staff salaries and overhead as it gives in aid. Victims and victims’ advocates say some of the rules are too stringent for a program funded by criminals to help make repair damages done by crimes. Read the full story here.

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A woman applied for aid from the Ohio Victims Compensation Program after her boyfriend allegedly assaulted her in April 2016. The state denied the claim saying she refused to honor a subpoena to appear in court and testify against her assailant, despite multiple attempts to reach her.

“The facts in this claim have been thoroughly reviewed and we recognize your loss,” the denial letter says. “However, the law requires a full award rising out of a crime only if the applicant or victim has fully cooperated with law enforcement.”

RELATED: Alleged rape victim denied aid because of drug use

The woman responded that she never received a request for a court appearance. Municipal Court records show three subpoenas were sent by regular mail, the third of which was returned to the sender. The address they were sent to is different from the one on her victims compensation application.

“There has been no hearing and I complied with Trotwood police,” she wrote in response to the denial.

FULL REPORT: Claims spike, but fewer victims get compensation

The misdemeanor domestic violence charges against her ex-boyfriend were dropped because of the lack of a complaining witness. The man was already in federal custody though on unrelated drug charges.

Audrey Starr, spokeswoman for the YWCA Dayton, which treats battered women, said every woman who comes into their care is told about the program. .

“The system is not perfect,” she said. “Most of the women we serve don’t qualify for compensation. To be eligible for compensation, the victim must have reported the crime.”

RELATED: Lawmaker on victims aid restrictions: ‘I think that’s over-broad’

Only 25 percent of all physical assaults and 20 percent of all rapes perpetrated against females by their partners are reported to the police, she said.

“The majority of women seeking YW’s emergency shelter or calling our 24/7 crisis hotline have not reported the incident(s) to police for fear of retaliation by their abuser,” she said.

Lifting the statute of limitations was a positive change, she said.

RELATED: Murder victim’s family denied aid because prior drug use

Elizabeth Well, legal director of the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center, said requiring a crime to be reported and compliance with law enforcement to get victims compensation is a useful incentive for holding perpetrators accountable.

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