This Virginia program eases the financial burden for violent crime victims

Posted at 6:56 PM, May 21, 2019

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Over the weekend, a fundraiser was held to help the family of Kemiyah Edwards, a five-year-old girl who was shot in the head in Henrico. She was recently released from the hospital and is now recovering.

Close family friend and coach James Benson, who organized a weekend fundraiser, know those donations will only go so far.

“Those surgeries she has to through, a lot of rehab... It’s going to be a lot of time missed from school. She still has an uphill battle,” he said.

That’s why he was glad to learn about the Virginia Victim’s Fund, a state program created to help innocent victims of violent crimes with expenses like medical bills, counseling, funeral expenses and more.

Kemiyah Edwards

The program is funded by fines and fees collected from offenders.

“If it's coming from the criminals who committed the crimes themselves, and they're paying for the victim, that’s a good thing, I think that's what the money needs to be used for,” explained Benson.

“The victims of any felonies or violent misdemeanors, that's who the fund is created to help because crime isn't something people ask for and when it happens to you, there needs to be a fund that can help,” said Shelly Shuman, who runs the Henrico County Victim/Witness Assistance Program.

While she cannot speak to specific cases, Shuman explained that her office contacts victims of violent crimes and walks them through the application process.

The money is not intended to erase the painful memories of the crime but may ease some of the financial burdens for families and help them figure out how to move on with their lives.

“When you become a victim, your life becomes before the crime and after the crime,” said Shuman. “So, you should be able to get counseling and help pick up those pieces. It helps a lot.”

Eligible families can get connected to the Virginia Victims Fund by going through the Victim/Witness Assistance Program and their locality. Officials with Virginia Victims Fund make the determination about the money and distributes it to eligible families.

For more information about the Virginia Victims Fund, click here or contact 1-800-552-4007.

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