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Importance of Training

Growth in the victim services field depends on training in victimization issues and the growth and development of the victim service providers’ new skills so they can deal effectively with all types of victimization. Continued training enables the service providers to sustain the systemic changes of the growing victim services field.

As the participants in the Denver VS2000 project discovered, training plays a critical role in a collaborative effort by enhancing trust and increasing the capacity of the collaborative system to develop and adopt common understanding among members regarding goals and approach. The greatest challenge is coordinating and focusing training resources to respond to the collective needs of the community. The implementation of a plan for cross training between victim service agencies and other allied professionals proved to be a major collaborative breakthrough for the Denver participants, increasing their levels of trust and knowledge. As input was received from all sectors of Denver’s victim services, participants found they were comfortable with the process and able to discuss in a nonthreatening way the gaps in victim services and the barriers victims often face in accessing them.

A Denver VS2000 training priority was to develop curricula for allied professionals. A goal of the Training and Education Team was to establish an initiative that developed learning objectives about victim issues, then include those objectives in core curricula for appropriate professional schools.

Training Team Structure

To accomplish a project as large as VS2000, participants were originally organized into four working teams: the Needs Assessment Team, the Model Network Development Team, the Training and Education Team, and the Technology and Automated Systems Team. Teams were further divided into committees and subcommittees and assigned to work on specific components of the model victim services network. As the project matured and the goals were accomplished or revised, this structure changed. Today, teams and committees are composed of Denver community and criminal justice-based service providers, allied professionals, and crime victims. For 5 years, five full-time staff members coordinated and documented the planning, development, and implementation of the VS2000 project, while the teams, steering committee, and Victim Advisory Council provided guidance throughout. For a full description of the Denver VS2000 planning process, refer to the OVC bulletin Making Collaboration Work—The Experiences of Denver Victim Services 2000.

Beginning in 1997, the Denver VS2000 training team met monthly to work on the training and education project goals. Under the first-year grant, the training and education goal was to establish training in all aspects of delivery of services to victims of crime within the curricula of relevant agencies and professional schools—including law enforcement, the judiciary, mental health, social services, medicine, religion, and education. Because creating a truly comprehensive training plan for victim service providers and allied professionals was such a huge task, the training team decided to focus on two distinct areas and divided itself into two committees—the Professional Curriculum Development Committee and the Multidisciplinary Training Committee.

The Professional Curriculum Development Committee developed victimization curricula for use in professional schools, while the Multidisciplinary Training Committee focused on training for victim service providers. In 1998, VS2000 hired a training coordinator to guide and facilitate the rapidly growing initiatives conceived by the training team. Several committees were formed to work on these training initiatives, including training for law students, law enforcement, and the faith community. Later in this bulletin, the efforts of these committees are detailed.

The Professional Curriculum Development Committee was formed to review and assess the content of current training material for victim service providers, advocates, and professionals who will work with or interact with victims of crime at some point in their careers. In addition, the committee investigated the feasibility of developing minimum training standards and core curricula for victim service providers and direct service volunteers. Ultimately, the committee narrowed its focus to develop and establish comprehensive victimization curricula for three allied professional fields.

Committee members conducted a telephone survey to determine whether Denver-area colleges and professional schools offered victimization classes. Each member targeted a specific professional field and interviewed school personnel about victimization curricula at their institution and whether there was a need or interest in the areas of victimization and victim issues. After researching the schools’ curricula, members asked school personnel about their interest in developing a victimization curriculum or in having VS2000 develop one for them. The committee used the interview results to prioritize the schools according to their need and interest in a victims-of-crime curriculum, identifying the top three most interested types of schools—law schools, law enforcement training academies, and seminaries. With this information, committee members focused on establishing a victims-of-crime curriculum for these distinct educational settings.

The goal of the Multidisciplinary Training Committee was to review and assess current cross-training efforts between Denver victim services and criminal justice agencies, including training needs, training provided, and the development of a comprehensive, multidisciplinary training plan to enhance the frequency, accessibility, and quality of cross training in Denver. The committee surveyed 90 victim service agencies, asking each agency what victimization-related training it used; what training, if any, it provided; and what training its staff needed most.

Using information from the survey, the committee developed a comprehensive plan for interagency and interdisciplinary training. Initially, the group discussed the difficulty of visualizing this plan because of its inherent complexity and decentralized nature. However, the committee agreed that the following points would impact the plan positively and were worth consideration.

  • Establish a centralized victim assistance academy (VAA) as an ideal way to offer free or very low-cost training on all topics, particularly if a building could be acquired.

  • Offer training through a local university, either collaboratively or by simply using its space, to be most efficient.

  • Designate a training coordinator to oversee volunteer trainers from service agencies to run an organized, centralized, comprehensive, and easily accessible program.

  • Keep an updated schedule of training sessions available on the VS2000 Web site or as part of the online resource directory developed by the VS2000 Technology Team.

Further discussions revealed that it would be too costly to provide training at a centralized VAA both financially and in the time required to coordinate and oversee such a project. The committee determined that a more feasible approach would be to expand and standardize the cross training already being offered by victim service agencies and post its availability on the VS2000 Web site.

VS2000 Training Initiative

Cross Training

The initial needs assessment revealed the need to provide training across agencies and systems. Because most agencies knew little about the internal workings of other agencies, cross training would increase knowledge, awareness, and the effectiveness of referrals among service agencies and allied professionals.

Implementing a complex, multidisciplinary cross-training plan posed a major challenge because the plan had to organize and accommodate the many agencies and allied professionals that were participating in Denver VS2000. Difficult questions included how to best allocate resources such as personnel, skills, knowledge, time, materials, finances, and facilities, as well as the logistical problems of communicating with and gathering so many for meetings.

During the cross-training planning process, Denver VS2000 benefited by bringing several teams together for brainstorming and problem solving. The case management and technology teams together designed the cross training and its implementation for delivery to various agencies. To ensure that everyone worked from the same concept, the following definition was adopted:

Cross training is a continuous process of interagency training in diverse styles on delivery of services, procedures, values, philosophies, and specific types of victimization to ensure that meaningful, cooperative, collaborative, and trusting relationships are developed and maintained between agencies and improve our ability to provide services.

Onsite training at participating agencies and an online training center to manage logistics were key to formulating the cross-training plan and ensuring the flow of information citywide. Next, the plan’s success depended on shared commitment and approach by the VS2000 network participants. The result was the implementation of a quite successful Denver VS2000 cross-training plan citywide. Further, in its second year, the plan sustained itself after OVC funding was discontinued, and the victim service model became institutionalized within the victim service community.

VS2000 Cross-Training Plan

The Denver VS2000 cross-training plan had four developmental phases:

Phase One: Commitment. Participants and agency executive directors signed a memorandum of understanding that stated a commitment to the cross-training plan and the cultural competency training. Participants determined timelines and selected staff members to receive cross training.

Phase Two: Process Development. Participants determined the roles and responsibilities of agency staff, such as who will train and who will coordinate; developed assessment tools to determine the skill levels of staff members; ensured that each training orientation covered required topics; and developed the evaluation and tracking processes.

Phase Three: Implementation. Trainers coordinated the schedules and locations of training orientations using the online training center, assessed individual employee training needs and provided onsite training, and provided cultural competency training.

Phase Four: Evaluation. Trainers and participants evaluated onsite training, analyzed the evaluation, and recommended plan changes after review of the analysis.


The VS2000 online training center was the technological component of VS2000’s training initiative. The online training center was developed as part of VS2000’s broader, technology-based effort that included the online case management system and the online resource directory. The online training center made successful implementation of the cross-training plan possible.

The idea of an online training center grew out of the need for a centralized source of regularly updated information that could be easily accessed by field personnel. The online training center allowed agencies that were hosting trainings to post information about the events, such as content, location, maximum class size, and deadlines for registration. The center even provided online registration. The training center, accessible through the VS2000 Web site at www.vs2000.org, included access for the general public and offered information on events and training open to community members.

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Learning About Victims of Crime: A Training Model for Victim Service Providers and Allied Professionals
September 2003
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