the Victim Advocate
At a Glance
MICHELLE S. CRUZ, J.D., State Victim Advocate
Established - 1999
Statutory authority - CGS Sec. 46a-13b et seq.
Central office - 505 Hudson Street, 5th Floor,
Hartford, CT 06106
Website address - www.ova.state.ct.us
Number of employees - 3.5
Recurring operating expenses - $363,282
Organizational structure - Independent State Agency, under the Department of
Administrative Services, for administrative purposes only.
The Office of the Victim
Advocate (OVA), an independent state agency, advocates for the protection and
promotion of the State Constitutional rights of crime victims throughout the
state of Connecticut. The OVA monitors
and evaluates the delivery of services to crime victims and works to advance
policies throughout the state that promote the fair and just treatment of crime
victims throughout the criminal justice system.
The existence of the OVA provides oversight
and advocacy when the criminal justice system fails crime victims. The OVA remains committed to ensuring that
the voices of crime victims play a central role in Connecticut’s response to
violence and to those victimized by crime. Further, the OVA has a firm
dedication to promoting awareness to Connecticut citizens as to the services
available to crime victims through outreach, education and public service
The OVA provides services to crime victims
who believe their State Constitutional rights as crime victims have been or are
being violated or crime victims who believe that the services available to
crime victims in the state are being unfairly denied or inadequately
provided. The State Victim Advocate and
her staff receive complaints from crime victims, or others on behalf of crime
victims, and can initiate an inquiry into such complaints. As an attorney, the State Victim Advocate can
file her appearance in any court proceeding throughout the state to advocate
for crime victims’ rights to make certain that crime victims’ rights are being
honored and respected by the criminal justice system. The State Victim Advocate monitors and
evaluates the delivery of services to crime victims by state agencies and
not-for-profit organizations that make up the victim service delivery system in
the state. The State Victim Advocate
advocates at the state legislature for legislative initiatives and policies to
better serve crime victims and to improve Connecticut’s victim services
The State Victim Advocate and her staff
constantly strive to appropriately address the concerns brought to the
attention of the OVA by crime victims and those on behalf of crime
victims. The State Victim Advocate and her
staff have frequently meet with crime victims, state agencies who provide
services to crime victims and non-profit organization to discuss the handling
of particular matters that may require action by the OVA. The OVA engages in regular contact with these
individuals to obtain feedback regarding the effectiveness of the OVA’s
assistance on behalf of crime victims throughout the state. This feedback is invaluable in guiding the
OVA to the best manner in which the OVA can continue to carry out its statutory
mandates, always with an eye toward improving the quality of service provided
to crime victims and providing a voice to crime victims.
During its tenth year of operation, the
Office of the Victim Advocate (OVA) continued to operate as a fully functional
state agency committed to effectively and efficiently carrying out its
statutory mandates. The following
specific achievements in this regard are noted:
- The OVA regularly receives complaints from crime
victims throughout the state alleging one or more violations of their
legal rights as crime victims and/or some problem in the provision of
services and the OVA continues to take appropriate action to effectively
resolve the complaint or problem.
- The Victim Advocate has intervened in numerous
criminal and civil court proceedings to effectively advocate for the
enforcement of crime victim rights.
- The OVA sponsored the first ever “Victims’ Voice
Day”; a day dedicated to mobilizing crime victims and supporters to learn
about the legislative process as well as services, both statewide and
locally, available to them as crime victims. The event had twenty-eight host sites
and produced over three hundred and fifty (350) letters to legislators in
support of legislation. The event
was a huge success and will be replicated in the coming years.
- The Victim Advocate co-sponsored the 13th Annual Melanie Rieger
Conference Against Violence. The
Victim Advocate presented a Crime Victim Assistant Award to Kitt Tierney
an advocate in the New Britain J.D. Court for her nearly two decades of assistance
to crime victims and continued support for victims as they journey through
the criminal justice system. The
Office of the Victim Advocate conducted a breakout session at the
conference geared towards educating key players’ in the criminal justice
system as to how the Office of the Victim Advocate can better serve them
in reaching their goals to help crime victims. The breakout session as titled, “The OVA
– Connecticut’s Best Kept Secret”.
- The Victim Advocate initiated a Habeas Restructuring
Working Group to gather information regarding the habeas structure to
determine whether to recommend a legislative proposal.
- The Victim Advocate initiated a Privacy Exception
Focus Group to determine whether there should be a legislative proposal
suggesting an exception to the Freedom of Information Act.
- The Victim Advocate proposed the following piece
legislation during the 2009 “An Act
Concerning the Rights of Crime Victims and the Duties of the Office of the
Victim Advocate.” Additionally,
the Victim Advocate testified in support of several other legislative
initiatives, including but not limited to: Public Act 09-239, An Act Concerning Consumer Privacy and
Identity Theft; Raised House Bill No. 6563, An Act Concerning the Investigation of Missing Persons Reports;
Raised House Bill No. 6494, An Act
Concerning Teen Dating Violence Education and Raised House Bill No.
6361, An Act Concerning the
Establishment of a Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners Program.
- The OVA currently has three full-time positions and
one part-time position which include the State Victim Advocate, a
Complaint Officer, a Staff Attorney and an Office Assistant. Additionally, the OVA utilized four
interns, two legal interns, one Master candidate intern and one Bachelors
Degree intern to assist in several projects at the agency.
- The Victim Advocate has been consistently adding
information to the OVA website.
- The Victim Advocate and OVA staff made numerous
public appearances throughout the state to publicize the existence and
function of the OVA, in addition to informing citizens about victim rights
- The Victim Advocate participated in a training
session with the sexual assault advocates to clarify restraining orders
and protective orders.
Additionally, the Victim Advocate created an Orders of Protection
Quick Reference Guide, which is available on the OVA website.
- The Victim Advocate and OVA staff participate on
numerous committees and commissions for the improvement of services to
- The Victim Advocate held a “Best Practices of
Advocating for Crime Victims” seminar on June 19, 2009; a free training
for statewide victim advocates including advocates from the Office of
Victim Service, MADD, CONNSACs, CCADV, Survivors of Homicide, and
local/state police departments.
After reviewing the feedback from the participants, the training
was determined to be a success and will be replicated in the years to come.
- The Victim Advocate and OVA Complaint Officer
attended the National Organization for Victim Assistance Annual Conference
and maintained an agency table at the conference. The conference was well-attended and
offered over 100 different workshops.
- The Victim Advocate contacted University of
Connecticut, School of Law and will be conducting a course on the
“Evolution of Victims Rights.”
- The Victim Advocate revised the Office of the Victim
Advocate Agency Brochure and in addition developed an Identity Theft Quick
Reference Guide, both of which are available on the OVA website.
- The Victim Advocate developed and has distributed a
quarterly newsletter titled “The Victims’ Voice.” The OVA has distributed electronically
two newsletters to date to various agencies, crime victims and towns
throughout the state, the first in February 2009 and the second in June
2009. The next newsletter will be
ready for distribution in September 2009.
The Victims’ Voice includes but is not limited to articles,
resources for crime victims and cold case information.
- The Victim Advocate initiated a formal investigation
into facts and circumstances of the murder/suicide of Jennifer Gauthier
Magnano and Scott Magnano. A
detailed investigative report will be distributed in September 2009.
- The Victim Advocate initiated an inquiry regarding
College and University Student Grievance Procedures.
- The Victim Advocate initiated an inquiry into the
space available to Domestic Violence Advocates and victims in courthouses
throughout the state of Connecticut.
- The Victim Advocate has initiated an inquiry into
violations of no contact while incarcerated. The OVA has identified two components of
the issue and has been working in a collaborative effort with DOC to
understand the system and how it can be improved.
- The Victim Advocate addressed the practice of
prosecutors charging domestic violence victims with violating their own
restraining or protective orders with the Chief State’s Attorney and the
State Attorney where the majority of these offenses were generated
from. The practice has been halted
and the pending cases are being reviewed.
- The Victim Advocate filed a Motion for No Contact and
Timely Disposition in the Petit case.
The motion was heard, the defense agreed to cease further contact
unless related to investigation of the case, and if so, would agree to
clearly identify the investigator and his or her purpose of contacting the
Petit or Hawke family. The Court
delineated the timeline for the Petit Trial(s).
Information Reported as Required by State
The OVA has complied with all of the requirements
of all federal and state requirements regarding affirmative action and equal