For more than 35 years, October has been recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), shedding light on an important issue that affects people around the globe. During this month and throughout the year, Equifax is proud to raise awareness of a groundbreaking service, VINE, or Victim Information and Notification Everyday. VINE is the most reliable and confidential source of information for custody status and criminal case information in the United States, where available. With more than 10 million women and men reporting as victims of domestic and family violence each year in the United States, VINE helps victims stay quickly informed and create a safer space.
VINE was launched in 1994 after the devastating murder of Mary Byron on her 21st birthday by her ex-boyfriend, who had been released from jail without her knowledge. Mary and her parents had asked to be notified of his release, but the lack of an effective notification system meant they were unaware of his bail posting. It became abundantly clear that victims needed to get more immediate notification of an offender's status, helping ensure that victims, families, and concerned citizens have the information they need to stay safe.
VINE has come a long way since its inception. Today, it operates in 47 states and the District of Columbia, and partners with approximately 3,000 incarceration facilities. It offers not only custody status notifications but also a range of additional services through platforms like VINE Courts and VINE Protective Order (VPO) in certain jurisdictions.
Survivors of domestic abuse are three times as likely to meet the criteria for PTSD, as well as a higher chance to experience depression and anxiety. VINE can help give victims peace of mind, empowering them to find freedom. It prioritizes victim confidentiality and security, allowing individuals to receive notifications without disclosing their own location or personal details to the offender.
Once registered, victims of crime, their families, advocates, and others can receive automated notifications about changes in an offender's custody status, including releases, transfers, or any other relevant updates. VINE offers flexibility with notification options, including text, email, phone calls, or in-app alerts, ensuring near real-time updates year-round and is available in multiple languages.
In 2022 alone, VINE sent out more than 24 million notifications, a testament to its invaluable role in keeping victims informed and safe. Beyond notifications, VINE also provides a Service Provider Directory, connecting victims with essential resources, from basic needs to legal assistance, counseling, and healthcare. Last year, more than 136,000 searches for victim service provider resources were conducted through VINE.
For those who prefer direct communication, the CustomerFirst call center is available with live U.S.-based representatives 24/7. In 2022, this call center received almost 713,000 calls, showcasing its importance as a resource for those seeking information and support.
With access to timely and reliable information about offenders or criminal cases from in-network U.S. jails and prisons, victims can use this no-cost tool to regain control of their lives and lessen the grip of the fear and pain of domestic violence.
As we observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we invite you to join us in supporting victims and working toward a world free from the scourge of domestic violence. To learn more about the history of VINE and how to use it, please visit our website.