The Solicitor’s Victim/Witness Assistance Program (VWAP) provides support to victims of and witnesses to crime throughout the prosecutorial process. The Victim/Witness Assistance Program assists with Victim Impact Statements, applications for compensation, notification of case proceedings, employer and creditor intervention, courtroom orientation/accompaniment and restitution recovery. We also work cooperatively with other advocacy and criminal justice agencies to provide every available resource to victims.
The Solicitor’s Victim Witness Assistance Program (VWAP) serves approximately 2,000 victims with approximately 30,000 victim contacts which included:
Victim Orientation Attendance
Victim Impact Statements Returned
Victim Transportation Provided
Necessity Assistance (Food-Clothing-Gas Cards, Etc.)
Post-Conviction Registrations and Assistance
Other: Restitution, Childcare, Creditor/Employee Intervention, Community Awareness/Involvement, Unrelated Inquires/Referrals,
The Victim/Witness Assistance Program collected $246,608.06 in restitution for victims from July 2016 – June 2020.
With the award of VOCA Grant No. 1V15163 – ‘Victim Orientation: An Introduction to Advocacy and Prosecution’, an advocate is designated to the coordination of Victim Orientation and outreach to victims in the first thirty days of their case. Victim Orientation provides an opportunity to meet victims early in prosecution to address their questions and concerns. The orientation presentation, which includes educational and referral materials, is designed to educate victims about, and encourage them to participate in, the prosecution of their case. Following the Victim Orientation, attendees meet with an advocate to discuss their individual case. The thirty day follow-up contacts have initiated increased communications with victims which translates into increased victim involvement and the procurement of needed information and documentation. With the dedicated position to victim orientation and follow-up, the remaining advocates now work their attorney dockets as a case load and have become proactive regarding victim participation.
VWAP monitors a category of “Vulnerable Victims” who have the following distinctions: domestic abuse, sexual assault, under the age of eighteen, over the age of sixty-five, disabled classification, rural residency, transportation limitations, language barriers, law enforcement and the family of murder victims. VWAP provides transportation, technical support and accessibility assistance to vulnerable victims. Special considerations are given to “Vulnerable Victim” cases.
VWAP assist victims and their families in acquiring services from SCVAN Emergency Funds,, Area Churches Together Serving (ACTS), The Cumbee Center, Habitat for Humanity and other community organizations. VWAP also participates in the North Augusta Christmas Community Care Project by sponsoring Christmas gifts for several families.
VWAP provides interpretation and other translation services. Assistance is provided in General Sessions Court, Summary Court, hospital settings, and when needed to advocacy, law enforcement and counseling agencies.
VWAP developed and facilitates the Solicitor’s Victim Impact Program which consist of a panel of victims and interested community members who discuss the consequences of impaired behaviors and poor decision making. The attendees report a better understanding of how we can positively or negatively impact the community. The participating panelist report satisfaction in the possibly of making a difference in the lives of the attendees.
VWAP maintains a paperless, digital filing system and an electronic resource library with over 600 entries. This allows permanent accessibility to victim case information. VWAP, with the help of volunteers, maintains the office closed files. A color code filing system and a workstation for laminating, cutting and binding was established by VWAP. Integration of victim file with attorney files ensures victim information and input is available for post-conviction events. VWAP digitally registers victim information with SCDC and SCDPPS.
VWAP’s Children’s Corner provides a safe, colorful and comforting environment for children who visit the Solicitor’s office. With donations from volunteers and charitable organizations, VWAP maintains a “pantry” that provides snacks and diapers, personal care kits, gas cards, emergency cards, cell phones and journals. The journals are especially helpful for victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse. The cell phones provide victims with access to 911 emergency services.
VWAP’s Volunteer Program has grown through partnerships with USC-Aiken, Aiken County Senior Tax Work-Off Program and community volunteers. The Volunteer Program is instrumental in keeping data entry current and assisting the advocates in administrative duties.
The Solicitor’s Office Domestic Violence Unit, Aiken County Victim Services and VWAP created a Domestic Violence Victim Service Directory Card to assist domestic violent victims.
This resource is shared with circuit advocates, Aiken County LEVA personnel and the Juvenile Arbitration Program.
VWAP was instrumental in the design and implementation of the South Carolina Mother Against Drunk Driving license plate. The proceeds from the plate are a source of financial support for Mother Against Drunk Driving SC.
VWAP is very involved with the Prosecution Commission Solicitor’s Victim Advocate Forum serving on several committees and holding various administrative positions. During this report period VWAP designed and presented the Forums display at Victims’ Rights Week and hosted the Advocate Spring Retreat.
With a donation of time and talents from the Aiken Chapter of the American Sewing Guild, VWAP’s Sew Love Project provides carry bags for victims in transition. The carry bags are also distributed to persons who are in shelters and to juveniles in the care of the Department of Juvenile Justice. During this reporting period The Guild sponsored a “Sew In” to replenish the carry bags.
Journey of Joy, a local walking group, donated purses filled with necessities and goodies for distribution to domestic violence victims.
In 2020 the Victim Witness Assistance Program was awarded the St. Paul Lutheran Church “Growing In God’s Mission Community Engagement Grant” which provided emergency resources, gas cards, hygiene supplies and upgrades to the office for the care and comfort of our victims.
We continuously assess the needs of our victims and update our policies and procedures to identify innovative ways to provide an effective service and improve the efficiency of the program.