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Hey, crime victims: Sally wants you to know your rights

April 6, 2017

Photo of crime victim 84-year-old Sally.
Photo: Reparations from the Office of Justice Programs paid for Sally’s medical bills when she was hit and knocked to the ground. Now Sally tells everyone she knows about the program.​

Some people may be uncomfortable around the homeless – but not 84-year-old Sally. She worked at St. Paul’s Dorothy Day Center, which provides daytime services for homeless people, for years, and she sometimes goes back to visit old friends and have lunch.

That’s why Sally was unconcerned when, on one of these occasions in November of 2016, she saw a man bypassing a crowd of people outside Dorothy Day to get to her. “I thought, ‘He wants to talk to me,’” she explains. But what happened next was a total shock. “He walked right up to me, looked me right in the eye and hit me in my left eye.” The impact was hard enough that Sally, who was standing on a step, fell onto the sidewalk, hitting the right side of her head.

“I didn’t pass out, but I had a huge lump on my head. Shockingly huge.” Sally knew she would need medical attention, but knowing the cost, she was reluctant to take an ambulance ride. “When the ambulance came, I said no, I’m not gonna go,” she remembers, intending instead to get a ride to the hospital with her daughter. But the first responders on the scene convinced her it was in her best interests to do so, especially considering her head injury. And once she arrived at the hospital, Sally had to have a head scan — another expensive proposition.

Sally was getting concerned about the bill, and rightly so: Her social security wouldn’t pay for it, and Sally herself couldn’t afford to pay it on her fixed income. But the hospital and ambulance bills were over $3,000.

It was at a follow-up appointment at her regular clinic that Sally received some welcome news. The clinic’s patient advocate told her about a Crime Victims Reparations program through the Office of Justice Programs (OJP). When all was said and done, the OJP paid for Sally’s entire hospital bill, as well as for the ambulance ride.

When asked what advice she would give to other crime victims, Sally doesn’t pause: “Take charge of it and stand up for yourself. Talk to patient advocates and ask them what’s available. Ask about everything, really.” Sally herself has been spreading the word any way she can: “I live in a senior citizen high rise, and I’ve been talking to everyone I know.”

“It helped me tremendously. It would’ve taken me years to pay that off.”

Although April 2-9 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, crime victims’ rights are important all year ‘round. You can familiarize yourself with the many services and supports available to crime victims in Minnesota on the OJP’s Help for Crime Victims page.