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Help For Victims Of Violent Crime

Susan Stephens

Victims of violent crime in Illinois can get up to $27,000 to help them deal with the aftermath. But few know they’re eligible for assistance under the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Act.

As if it’s not bad enough being the victim of violent crime…it often comes with an unexpected pricetag. Hospital bills, loss of work, counseling, crime scene clean-up…even funerals. Cynthia Horton of Rockford knows that too well. Her daughter, Natasha Cleary, and two young grandsons were murdered in 2011.

Horton says she didn’t know about the state’s victim assistance program until she heard about Monday’s meeting in Rockford with a representative of the Illinois Attorney General’s office. Now she says she may be able to get more counseling as she continues to struggle with the terrible unsolved crime.

Winnebago County coroner Sue Fiduccia says she doesn’t tell families about the victims’ services the first time she meets them: there’s too much going on as they try to deal with the immediate effects of the crime.  She’ll wait until the coroner’s inquest to give them the brochure and offer to help with the paperwork. She finds they usually need help paying for the funeral and burial.

I talked to a woman tonight who actually had to go to one of those cash advance stores to borrow money to pay for a funeral. Now you know what kind of percentage rate she’s gonna have to pay back on that. Let’s get her into this program and see if something can be done.

Cindy Hora is chief of the Attorney General’s Crime Victims Services Division. She says by far, the program’s biggest expense is helping with medical bills, followed closely by funerals. But she’s trying to get the word out that there are other ways her office can help, such as relocating or recovering lost wages.

Hora says other victim services her office can provide include automated notifications about prisoners and training for nurses who specialize in dealing sensitively with people who have been sexually assaulted. 

Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.