The Office for Victim Assistance (OVA) is responsible for ensuring that victims of crimes investigated by the FBI are afforded the opportunity to receive the services and notification as required by federal law and the Attorney General Guidelines on Victim and Witness Assistance (2005). The OVA manages the day-to-day operational aspects of the Victim Assistance Program (VAP) in the 56 FBI field office across the country as well as the FBI’s international offices. In addition, the OVA is responsible for providing training and information that helps to equip FBI agents and other FBI personnel to work effectively with victims.
The OVA is directly responsible for several special programs:
The Terrorism Victim Assistance Unit provides emergency assistance to injured victims and families of victims murdered in terrorist attacks within the U.S. and outside the borders of the U.S. and serves as a permanent point-of-contact for terrorism victims within the FBI.
The OVA coordinates assistance and notification services for child victims of pornography and their guardians as part of the Child Victim Identification Program (CVIP).
The Forensic Child Interviewing Program ensures that investigative interviews of child victims and witnesses of federal crimes are tailored to the child's stage of development and minimize any additional trauma to the child. FBI child interview specialists directly assist with some interviews and provide detailed training to special agents and other law enforcement personnel on child interviewing.
The OVA devotes special resources to ensure that Native American victims have access to assistance and services. More than 30 of the 112 victim specialists working in the FBI are dedicated to serving Native American victims.
Victim Specialist Staff
FBI victim specialists are located in field offices across the country and are available to personally assist victims of federal crimes investigated by the division or field office where they work. Victim specialists must have extensive knowledge and experience in crisis intervention, social services, and victim assistance. The victim specialist is charged with ensuring that victims who choose to do so receive the opportunity to be notified of important case events and receive information about and assistance with a wide range of victim assistance services in his or her location. Some of these services include state crime victims compensation programs, rape crisis centers, homicide bereavement support groups, mental health counseling, and special services for child victims. To reach the victim specialist in the nearest FBI office, please contact your local FBI office.
Victim Notification System
The FBI is a partner with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Federal Bureau of Prisons in the automated Victim Notification System (VNS). VNS is designed to provide victims with information about their cases. This free, computer-based system provides two important services to victims: information and notification. This information is available in English and Spanish. VNS can inform about scheduled court proceedings and about an offender’s custody status, such as placement in community corrections centers, furlough, release, or death.
The FBI’s victim specialist should be in contact with victims during the investigation stage of the case. Notifications which may be provided include the arrest of a suspect and scheduling of a release hearing, whether the case is being referred to state or local authorities, and when a case may be administratively closed. Victims will need to register with the FBI office handling their case. They will receive a Victim Identification Number (VIN) and a Personal Identification Number (PIN) that will allow them to access the VNS system. VNS now has an Internet-based website that can be found at http://www.notify.usdoj.gov.