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Free Online Portal Empowers Crime Victims with Comprehensive Legal Help

Crime victims now have access to a free, 24/7 online resource designed to empower them with information that helps them address their legal needs.

Illinois Legal Aid Online, in partnership with the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services, have launched the “Victims of Crime” online portal, www.IllinoisLegalAid.org/VOC. The portal provides a reliable resource for people to access a wide range of legal information and services.

“Anger, fear, shame, isolation – these are only a few of the emotions that can impact crime victims, and navigating the legal system to address their situation can feel overwhelming,” says Teri Ross, Program Director of Illinois Legal Aid Online. “The Victims of Crime” online portal seeks to engage survivors of crime and those who help them in getting the comprehensive help survivors and their families need, wherever they may be in their journey.”

Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime, the Portal provides a wealth of information in Spanish and English. Customized for easy use from any internet-connected device, it provides emergency referrals to local, state and national hotlines, chat lines and texting services. For free legal help, the Portal guides victims to the best available legal programs based on their legal problem and zip code. For many problems, victims can apply online for legal help.

“Crime victims often grapple with multiple challenges, and their legal concerns can be complex,” says Karina Ayala-Bermejo, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services.

“It is our sincere hope that the Portal will equip people to effectively advocate for themselves so they can secure effective legal solutions.”

The Victims of Crime Online Portal features four personas, designed to represent different scenarios that illustrate how someone who has experienced similar situations can chart a successful course to recovery. Scenarios include those who have survived gun violence, domestic abuse or sexual assault, elder abuse and neglect, and human trafficking.

In addition to improving access to information and services to Cook County crime victims, the Victims of Crime Online Portal is designed to improve coordination among service providers, along with helping providers be better informed.

As background, the Portal is part of a larger initiative called the Victims Legal Assistance Network (VLAN), a coalition of Chicago-area organizations including legal providers, law firms, law enforcement agencies and social services agencies working together to provide coordinated, holistic legal and social services to victims of crime. Both Illinois Legal Aid Online and the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services are part of VLAN.

About Illinois Legal Aid Online
ILAO is an award-winning nonprofit that uses technology to lower barriers to the law so that people can understand their legal options, make informed decisions, and represent themselves in court when they can’t afford a lawyer. ILAO puts the law within reach for all Illinois residents, regardless of their location, income and education, by simplifying our complex legal system and connecting people to legal information and assistance. www.illinoislegalaid.org

About the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services
The Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services (LAS) pioneered the concept of equal access to justice more than 130 years ago. LAS provides critical legal services to low-income families in the Chicago area, protecting them in cases of domestic violence, elder abuse, housing and consumer issues, and human trafficking. Today LAS serves more than 8,200 families and individuals each year.

LAS is part of Metropolitan Family Services, which has been “Mpowering” Chicago-area families to reach their greatest potential and positively impact their communities since 1857. metrofamily.org/las

This media release was produced by Metropolitan Family Services under 362167940 (2012-VF-GX-k022), awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings and the conclusions or recommendations expressed in this media release are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.