Office of Victim Advocate

Office of Victim Advocate The Pennsylvania Office of the Victim Advocate is dedicated to representing, protecting & advancing the individual & collective rights of crime victims. *Posts, comments and images on our page may contain material that may be triggering or upsetting.
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The Pennsylvania Office of the Victim Advocate (OVA) was created by Act 8, 1995 during Governor Tom Ridge's Special Session on Crime and the office is dedicated to representing, protecting and advancing the individual and collective rights and interests of crime victims. The Victim Advocate is nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate to serve a term of six years. The Victim Advocate has the authority and the duty to represent the rights and interest of crime victims before the PA Department of Corrections (DOC) and the PA Board of Probation and Parole (PBPP). One of OVA’s goals is to provide crime victims with a victim-centered continuum of service throughout the post sentencing process. Our efforts are primarily directed toward ensuring that crime victims registered with OVA are afforded their post sentencing rights to notification and input when offenders under the jurisdiction of the DOC or PBPP are being considered for release back to the community. Another of OVA’s goals is to advocate for the effective use of victim comments into the decision making process for release and for the inclusion of victim issues into the release plans of inmates. Crime victims often have questions about the types of releases for which an offender may be eligible. Or they may want to know what types of information is used by DOC and PBPP to make decisions about releasing offenders. OVA can help provide this type of information. We can also provide referrals to local and statewide agencies and organizations that may be able to provide support and assistance. OVA staff are available to provide information and assistance when victims and their family and friends prepare statements to be considered whenever DOC and PBPP are considering an inmate for different types of releases. OVA is also committed to improving and expanding the response of the criminal justice system to the needs and concerns of crime victims so that the inclusion of crime victims moves from being an obligation to being viewed as an opportunity for justice and healing. OVA offers special programs such as: *Address Confidentiality Program: Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and persons who live in the same household as the victim may apply to participate in ACP. ACP will determine if an applicant meets the requirements for participation. Applicants should have moved or be moving to a new address that is unknown to the perpetrator. *Victim Offender Dialogue is a way of bringing a victim and offender together for a face-to-face meeting, in the presence of a trained unbiased mediator, between the victim of a crime and the person who committed that crime. The practice is also known as victim offender mediation, victim-offender reconciliation, or restorative justice dialogue.

Mission: The Pennsylvania Office of the Victim Advocate is dedicated to representing, protecting and advancing the individual and collective rights and interests of crime victims.

Operating as usual

Trauma is an experience, not an incident. It is the emotional and mental result of abnormally stressful events that over...
11/02/2020

Trauma is an experience, not an incident. It is the emotional and mental result of abnormally stressful events that overwhelm your sense of security and safety, making you feel helpless.

In these times of ongoing, overwhelming stress, it's critical that you care for yourself. By investing in yourself, you will have the energy to care for others.

Take a look at OVA's simple self-care guide to get started.https://www.ova.pa.gov/Resources/Trauma/Documents/Self-Care.pdf

You're worth it!

Congratulations to advocate Karen Widdoss for her tireless efforts on behalf of all survivors! Karen's Law amends Title ...
10/23/2020

Congratulations to advocate Karen Widdoss for her tireless efforts on behalf of all survivors!

Karen's Law amends Title 61, extending the parole application period for Sexually Violent Predators from 1 to 3 years. As the law currently stands, if they PA Parole Board refuses the offender for parole, inmates can re-apply for parole on an annual basis. By amending this law, when the Board denies parole for an SVP offender, they will not be permitted to reapply for 3 years.

To learn more about victims' rights in parole consideration, visit https://www.ova.pa.gov/SafetyandSupport/Testimony/Pages/default.aspx.

🔴 Breaking News! We are extremely excited to announce that the PA Senate gives FINAL PASSAGE to Karen's Law (HB 1538)! Today, our elected officials took a stand for the victims of sexually / violent crime across the Commonwealth.

#karenslaw

It has recently been speculated that OVA is not present in the Philadelphia region, and due to a lack of leadership, is ...
10/19/2020
My story, my experience make me best suited to be Pa.'s victim advocate | Jennifer Storm | Pennsylvania Capital-Star

It has recently been speculated that OVA is not present in the Philadelphia region, and due to a lack of leadership, is not adequately responding to survivors. Contrary to this false claim, OVA staff remain ready and available to support crime victims/survivors across the state.

“Let this be an example to victims of crime and to advocates – never allow someone to diminish your story or your character. And if the day comes that you need an advocate by your side, the Pennsylvania Office of Victim Advocate will rise with you,” shares Storm.

If you are a victim service provider or a survivor who feels OVA can do more to support your work and healing, please contact our office at 1-800-563-6399 or [email protected].

https://www.penncapital-star.com/commentary/my-story-my-experience-make-me-best-suited-to-be-pa-s-victim-advocate-jennifer-storm/

As a symbol of my transparency and the integrity of my office, I will address those now and remain available to respond to any questions from my colleagues across the state.

On Oct 20 at 11am, PAHTAWG presents "Virtual Anti-Trafficking Advocacy Day", an online webinar in support of PA House Bi...
10/19/2020

On Oct 20 at 11am, PAHTAWG presents "Virtual Anti-Trafficking Advocacy Day", an online webinar in support of PA House Bill 2170. Hear from Rep. Joanna McClinton, a representative from the survivor community, as well as advocates.

Register in advance for this webinar:
https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_uvK1zzu7S-uzAr3kJ8N4-Q

10/19/2020
DVAM Month Series

Today we are joined by Becky MacDicken from the PA Department of Banking and Securities to discuss rebuilding after financial abuse.

Join OVA on FB Live on Monday October 19 at 10am to hear from Dept of Banking & Services in a special presentation on ho...
10/15/2020

Join OVA on FB Live on Monday October 19 at 10am to hear from Dept of Banking & Services in a special presentation on how to rebuild finances after leaving an abusive situation.

Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm discusses live streaming trials in this Spotlight on America story.
10/13/2020
Justice in the COVID-19 era: Courts live streaming cases to social media ignites debate

Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm discusses live streaming trials in this Spotlight on America story.

WASHINGTON (SBG) —New questions are being raised about our justice system in the time of COVID-19. To ensure social distancing, many courts have closed their doors and moved to virtual hearings, with some even using social media to stream the proceedings. But who should have access to watch th...

Did you know nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the US. During one year, this e...
10/13/2020

Did you know nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the US. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million people.

Join us on FB Live with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence on Oct 14 at 2pm to learn about domestic violence services across PA and how to access PFA support.

10/09/2020

OVA DVAM Live Series

The path to healing is different for everyone. Often times, for survivors, healing leads to a desire to speak – to embra...
10/08/2020

The path to healing is different for everyone. Often times, for survivors, healing leads to a desire to speak – to embrace their voice and share their personal experience in the hope of raising awareness and ending stigma.

Fri Oct 9, you have the opportunity to learn about domestic violence directly from a survivor. Tune in on FB Live at 1pm for a powerful story.

#DomesticViolenceAwarenessMonth

It's Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Learn how to recognize the signs of domestic violence , and how to help. https:/...
10/08/2020

It's Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Learn how to recognize the signs of domestic violence , and how to help. https://youtu.be/wTpP0k7lYfs

During the COVID pandemic, domestic violence has become an even more pressing issue, as incidents increase and victims are struggling to leave home and seek help. If we all are #ListeningFromHome, we can help our neighbors. Learn how to recognize the signs of domestic violence , and how to help. https://youtu.be/wTpP0k7lYfs

You're invited to join the PA Human Relations Commission for a segment on hate crimes. Hate crimes are motivated by the ...
10/06/2020

You're invited to join the PA Human Relations Commission for a segment on hate crimes.

Hate crimes are motivated by the offender's bias against race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.

Your safety is important every day. We know that crime doesn't stop - not even for a pandemic. Join OVA & the YWCA York ...
10/05/2020

Your safety is important every day. We know that crime doesn't stop - not even for a pandemic.

Join OVA & the YWCA York on Thurs Oct 8 at 10am on FB Live to discuss how domestic violence service providers have pivoted to meet the demands in this challenging COVID climate.

10/05/2020
DV Awareness and Address Confidentiality

OVA kicks off Domestic Violence Awareness month with the first in a series of FB Live events!

Listen in while we discuss the varying aspects of intimate partner violence – emotional, physical, financial, etc – and learn how OVA’s Address Confidentiality Program can aid those leaving abusive situations.

Stay tuned throughout the month while we announce more Live discussions.

OVA kicks off Domestic Violence Awareness month with the first in a series of FB Live events on Mon Oct 5! Please join u...
10/03/2020

OVA kicks off Domestic Violence Awareness month with the first in a series of FB Live events on Mon Oct 5!

Please join us while we discuss the varying aspects of intimate partner violence – emotional, physical, financial, etc – and learn how OVA’s Address Confidentiality Program can aid those leaving abusive situations.

Stay tuned throughout the month while we announce more Live discussions.

The Office of Victim Advocate stands in solidarity with all victims/survivors of Domestic Abuse in October and always. D...
10/02/2020

The Office of Victim Advocate stands in solidarity with all victims/survivors of Domestic Abuse in October and always.

Domestic Violence* is more than physical abuse. It is a pattern of behaviors used to maintain power and control over another in the relationship. This can include isolation, control of finances, as well as reproductive and other types of manipulation. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary greatly, but the effects often last a lifetime.

Watch for announcements of our series of Domestic Violence FB Lives throughout the month of October with various subject matter experts.

*Domestic Violence is also referred to as Intimate Partner Violence, dating violence, relationship abuse.

Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm sits down with investigative journalist Joce Sterman to discuss OVA’s vocal stance agains...
09/28/2020

Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm sits down with investigative journalist Joce Sterman to discuss OVA’s vocal stance against live streaming trials. The full story will air, as part of a criminal justice examination, on October 12 via local CBS27.

"Blanket provisions are not reform. Yes, let us redefine our justice system in a way that resets the scales for those wh...
09/23/2020
Opinion

"Blanket provisions are not reform. Yes, let us redefine our justice system in a way that resets the scales for those who have been wronged by that very system. But let us not smite ourselves, risking public safety, by categorizing unequal crimes as equal," shares Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm.

Read more about the balanced reform that survivors are looking for:

https://www.readingeagle.com/opinion/victim-advocate-lets-talk-about-compassionate-reform-opinion/article_b6e79c52-fcc5-11ea-b6e6-9b9b9b07a278.html

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We're Hiring! In Philadelphia! Victim assistance coordinators are responsible for registration, notification, and advoca...
09/22/2020
Victim Assistance Coordinator (Philadelphia Area)

We're Hiring! In Philadelphia!

Victim assistance coordinators are responsible for registration, notification, and advocacy for victims of crime, crime victim families, and victim service providers.

Duties include, but are not limited to:
• crisis intervention
• registering crime victims for OVA services
• notifying crime victims of pending release, parole interviews, results of parole interviews and release decisions, etc
• soliciting and reviewing comments from crime victims for inclusion in the decision making process
• preparing and assisting crime victims during the post-sentencing process
• and more

This position will be based in the Philadelphia area.

View the job posting and apply here: https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/pabureau/jobs/2863911/victim-assistance-coordinator-philadelphia-area

The Pennsylvania Office of Victim Advocate (OVA) is seeking a detail-oriented person who is able to work with considerable independence as Victim Assistance Coordinator in the Philadelphia area.  Schedule/Other Information:This position is a 37.5 hour work week. Work hours: Monday - Friday, 8:00am...

A victory for crime victims/survivors! “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a halt to the live broadcasts...
09/18/2020
Pa. Supreme Court halts Philly criminal trials streamed on YouTube over possible harassment

A victory for crime victims/survivors!

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a halt to the live broadcasts of Philadelphia criminal trials on YouTube, after District Attorney Larry Krasner argued that the airing of such proceedings had opened a new window for harassment of witnesses, victims, and defendants,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Thank you to all of the criminal justice and victim service professionals who joined OVA in speaking out against this practice. Because of your forthright advocacy, this practice has been stopped.

https://www.inquirer.com/news/youtube-broadcasts-philadelphia-supreme-court-krasner-20200917.html

District Attorney Larry Krasner said that the broadcasts posed significant risk for intimidation of witnesses, victims and defendants.

Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm spoke this morning with the Rotary Club of Mechanicsburg about crime victim services in P...
09/16/2020

Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm spoke this morning with the Rotary Club of Mechanicsburg about crime victim services in PA. This group asked deep questions about how communities can support victims/survivors and how to stay educated and up to date. What a great start to the day!

Together with partner victim service organizations, OVA has released a statement regarding the reopening of Pennsylvania...
09/15/2020

Together with partner victim service organizations, OVA has released a statement regarding the reopening of Pennsylvania courts and the considerations that should be afforded to crime victims/survivors, as well as crime witnesses.

“As courts begin re-opening across PA and pivoting to meet the ever changing demands of balancing public health and public safety, we must be ever vigilant that we are also balancing rights within our justice systems. Over the course of several weeks, OVA has received inquiries from victims and advocates seeking clarity on how their counties are choosing to move forward with case administration and what that means for victims of crime,” remarks PA Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm.

Read the statement here:https://www.ova.pa.gov/Key%20Initiatives/OVA%20News/Documents/Joint%20Statement%20Philadelphia%20Courts.pdf

"Storm, the state Victim Advocate, raised an alarm last week, as the first homicide trial since March was held in Philad...
09/12/2020
Plans to restart Lehigh County jury trials amid coronavirus pandemic face scrutiny

"Storm, the state Victim Advocate, raised an alarm last week, as the first homicide trial since March was held in Philadelphia and streamed on YouTube.

While providing public access to courts is important, Storm argued, there are better alternatives than YouTube. She suggested holding jury trials in larger spaces such as casinos or sports stadiums, or using a password-protected Zoom channel to screen viewers."

https://www.mcall.com/news/police/mc-nws-lehigh-county-jury-trials-covid-hearing-day-one-20200912-v5k54o5k6beqzkgazzbbuyt63i-story.html

As courthouses across the state attempt to resume operations following months of near-lockdown due to the coronavirus, questions of safety and fairness are being raised that must be answered before the first trial witness can be sworn in.

This week, the PA Senate approved a bill sponsored by Senator Langerholc that would allow expert witnesses in cases of d...
09/11/2020

This week, the PA Senate approved a bill sponsored by Senator Langerholc that would allow expert witnesses in cases of domestic violence and human trafficking.

Senate Bill 1170 amends the Judicial Code to permit the Commonwealth to call expert witnesses in court cases involving domestic violence and human trafficking in order to provide a clearer picture of the crime, how it impacts victims, and the effects of trauma. (Expert witnesses can already be called for cases of sexual violence.)

“These types of expert witnesses have been crucial to helping jurors understand the tremendous trauma that a sexual assault can have on a victim and how that trauma can affect their behavior and their overall health,” Langerholc said.

“This is a big win for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. This week, the Senate told these survivors that their experiences and their trauma matters, and that they deserve to understood and represented thoroughly,” shared PA Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm.

In the last 10 years, more than 1,600 people have died from domestic violence-related incidents in Pennsylvania. In 2019, 112 victims lost their lives to domestic violence in Pennsylvania.

“The Office of Victim Advocate wholeheartedly supports this measure and encourages swift signing,” said Storm.

The Office of Victim Advocate administers the post-sentencing rights of crime victims/survivors – at the state level. Th...
09/11/2020
State Senators pushing to increase requirements for PA Advocate

The Office of Victim Advocate administers the post-sentencing rights of crime victims/survivors – at the state level. This means, we provide the necessary notification and accompaniment services when victims have opportunity to provide input and discuss safety concerns when offenders become parole eligible.

OVA also provides various restorative justice opportunities that support healing for victims/survivors, and works closely with county victim service organizations to ensure there are no gaps in services.

What OVA does not do is provide legal advice. Victim advocates and victim service professionals do not hold law degrees – not in Pennsylvania, nor anywhere in the country. This is purposeful. Advocates are navigators of the justice system, ensuring all considerations and resources are available to support healing.

Read more about what has been happening in the Senate this week:
https://www.abc27.com/news/local/harrisburg/state-senators-pushing-to-change-requirements-for-pa-advocate/

“I think if you are a good advocate, certainly on issues that impact such a vast diverse group of people, you’re not going to be liked by everyone in the room. If everyone in the room likes me, then I’m probably not doing justice to victims. These are complex issues, but victimization is bipartisan. It certainly is often a challenge to represent every of victim, but that is my role. …my job is to support all of those perspectives without imparting my own opinions,” shares Acting PA Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Members of the Pennsylvania Senate are pushing for the qualifications of the state Victim Advocate to include a law degree. Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said it…

Victims/survivors are more likely to suffer from addiction due to enduring long term effects of trauma. You are not alon...
09/08/2020

Victims/survivors are more likely to suffer from addiction due to enduring long term effects of trauma. You are not alone – hope and healing is possible. Recovery month is September, and all PA citizens are invited to join events from the PA Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs (DDAP). Check the link below – in their post – to learn more.

You can learn more about trauma at https://www.ova.pa.gov/Resources/Trauma/Pages/default.aspx.

It's National Recovery Month! Join us all month as we reinforce the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover.

List of events: bit.ly/2020recoverymonth

As courts begin re-opening across the Commonwealth and pivoting to meet the ever changing demands of balancing public he...
08/11/2020
Court opening and victims’ rights in the time of COVID

As courts begin re-opening across the Commonwealth and pivoting to meet the ever changing demands of balancing public health and public safety, we must be ever vigilant that we are also balancing rights within our justice systems. Over the course of several weeks, OVA has received inquiries from victims and advocates seeking clarity on how their counties are choosing to move forward with case administration and what that means for victims of crime. Read the full OpEd to learn how OVA is urging courts to continue to protect victims' privacy and safety...

https://www.abc27.com/news/local/harrisburg/court-opening-and-victims-rights-in-the-time-of-covid/

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — As courts begin re-opening across the Commonwealth and pivot to meet the changing demands of public health and safety, Acting Commonwealth Victim Advocate Jennifer St…

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1101 S Front St, Ste 5200
Harrisburg, PA
17104

General information

The Office of the Victim Advocate can register any crime victim in a case where the sentencing court has ordered jurisdiction of the offender to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and/or the Pennsylvania Board of Probation & Parole. This includes: Sentenced offenders who are housed in Pennsylvania state correctional institutions (SCIs) Sentenced offenders who received a state sentence (24 months) and by judicial order are serving their sentence in a Pennsylvania county correctional facility Sentenced offenders who received a county sentence (less than 24 months) and by judicial order are serving their sentence in a Pennsylvania state correctional institution Sentenced offenders who are under the supervision of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation & Parole Who is Eligible to be Registered? Adult victims (18 years of age or older) Parents/legal guardians of minor victims (until the minor reaches 18 years of age) Parents/legal guardians with power of attorney for incapacitated adult victims Family members of homicide victims Why Should Victims Register? To receive notification of their right under Pennsylvania to provide input regarding any pre-release and parole review of the offender. To receive automated notification via PA SAVIN of transfers, release escape and other types of custody changes. To receive notification of execution warrants and stays. To receive notification from the Board of Pardons. How Can Victims Register? Call 1-800-322-4472 during regular business hours and someone will be available to assist you. What happens after I register? You will receive a letter from OVA confirming your registration and advising what types of notifications you can expect to receive and when appropriate, information on the current status of the offender. Your 4-digit PA SAVIN PIN will also be provided. You will also receive information about additional services available to you as a victim of crime.

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