Ohio Victim Witness Association (OVWA), is a statewide non-profit that began in 1978 as Ohio Association of Victim Witness Divisions. Members consisted of crime victim advocates based out of county prosecutor offices. Shortly after their development, they incorporated all types of crime victim advocates to form the Ohio Victim Witness Association. These advocates realized they could have a more powerful and influential voice together and made it their mission to improve the rights and services of Ohio crime victims.
These members promoted funding for victim advocacy programs, provided a source of networking for Ohio's crime victim advocates, professionalized the field of advocacy, established best practices for consistent services, and addressed public policies relevant to victims and witnesses of all crimes.
OVWA held annual events during National Crime Victim Rights Week, honoring victims, witnesses and legislators who had worked on important legislation affecting victims and advocates. It was during this time that OVWA analyzed Ohio's Victim Compensation program expenses. This led to faster administrative-based processes and created the nation's first law permitting property tax levies for victim services. OVWA's successful advocacy and analysis led to the identification of $2.5 million dollars from "excess" compensation funds to start rape crisis centers.
OVWA's dedicated efforts also led to Ohio crime victim agencies having access to State Victim Assistance Act (SVAA) funds and now they have a permanent seat on the Ohio Attorney General's SVAA Advisory Board. Through collaboration with the Ohio Attorney General's Office, OVWA developed the annual statewide victim advocacy conference, Two Days In May, now viewed as essential for advocates. During the 2000's, OVWA led an initiative with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) to elevate victim services. This initiative led to the Office of Victim Services within ODRC to be independent from the Parole Board.
OVWA members also testified on the national level to endorse a U.S. constitutional amendment for victims' rights. OVWA has a long history of public policy work. Its members have worked tirelessly and volunteers countless hours to improve systems to be victim-focused. The most notable of these successes was in 1994 when OVWA's President and Public Policy Committee Chair led the passage of Ohio's first victim rights constitutional amendment. This passed by a 78% margin! This amendment laid the groundwork for recently expanded victim rights and gave victims and witnesses a much needed voice in the criminal justice process.
Because of the efforts of our founders and deducated members, OVWA is Ohio's recognized leader in victim advocacy, education, and credentialing of victim advocates. OVWA members now include county prosecutor-based advocates, community advocates, and other allied professionals. In 2017, OVWA opened its first state office that frequently works alongside state agencies and other statewide victim advocacy groups. This coalition works to keep its members informed, provides a network of opportunities and builds partnerships to strengthen Ohio's victim services. Together, we all have a more powerful and influential voice!