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Curricula for Allied Professionals

The Professional Curriculum Development Committee of the Training and Education Team targeted seminaries, law enforcement academies, and law schools with its curriculum development efforts. As a result, three subcommittees—the Faith Community Committee, Law Enforcement Committee, and Law School Committee—were formed to research and develop a curriculum for each academic setting.

Although each academic discipline and each institution presented different challenges to the introduction of victimization courses into the core curriculum, some basic points were common:

  • Assess needs and conduct research first. Know the facts so others will invest their time and effort in adopting the victimization curriculum.

  • Build a support base and identify partners. Attract support from faculty, students, alumni associations, and other community members interested in including victimization content in the professional school curricula.

  • Understand the internal processes and their impact on a school being targeted for introduction of a victims-of-crime curriculum. Consider the timelines of the school’s various internal processes, including the internal curriculum process, the catalog printing schedule, and the budget process.

  • Develop a curriculum, or at least have a course outline prepared, that can be tailored to the needs of the institution being targeted. Before making a decision, institution officials will want to review the curriculum and understand how the proposed curriculum will serve the school’s needs and whether it can be tailored to fit with existing courses.

  • Build relationships with the people at the institution. Communicate with the people involved in the decision to adopt victimization curricula. Provide them with information and updates as needed.

Faith Communities

The Faith Community Committee found that victimization curricula for faith communities were virtually nonexistent and that faith communities were not actively involved in the victim service system. The committee agreed to make development of a victimization curriculum for the faith community a priority. The challenge was to develop resources in faith communities, then integrate them with the existing system of victim services. By providing curricula, the committee aimed to raise the awareness of the community and instruct clergy and other faith leaders. A major barrier was the tendency for churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith communities to function as isolated entities rather than collaboratively with other community-based agencies and the criminal justice system.

Working within the internal curricula processes in the seminaries was challenging. The committee adopted the following approach for working with faith-based communities:

  • Establish an interfaith support base.Select an inner-city church as the base of operations because of its location in a high-crime area and the pastor’s reputation for building interfaith relationships.

  • Create a forum for faith communities to come together. Send invitations to faith leaders to attend a luncheon with the local district attorney. Pose the question, “What is the role of faith communities in healing victims of crime and in restoring communities?”

  • Identify those persons who are willing to focus on curriculum development and will serve together as a focus group for curriculum development. These may be clergy, laypersons, seminary administrators, faculty, students, chaplains, and other community members interested in victimization and faith issues.

  • Hire an intern research assistant to identify resources specific to victimization and faith communities. Link with other efforts to develop similar curricula and collaborate with the national Neighbors Who Care curriculum project as well as seminary faculty around the country.

  • Develop a curriculum outline and a bibliography. Recruit a student leader to present the curriculum at two local seminaries.

  • Tailor the presentation package to meet the needs of the seminary most receptive to adopting and teaching a victimization curriculum, develop relationships inside the seminary, and make the academic dean and faculty counselor allies of the project.

Pastoral Counseling Curriculum

The seminary curriculum developed by VS2000 was an introductory course that explored the issues of crime and trauma in the context of pastoral counseling. It was written to augment the existing curriculum of the local seminary noted for its pastoral counseling program and community counseling center. The seminary course presumed that pastoral counseling is an integral part of faith-based ministry and was developed for all persons preparing for ministry, not just for those specializing in clinical pastoral counseling.

The seminary curriculum was VS2000’s most successful effort at institutionalizing training within an allied professional school. Denver Seminary adopted the curriculum and now teaches it as a pilot program.

Continuing Education

The continuing education course entitled, “There Are Victims in Our Congregations: A Faith Response,” was offered to clergy and other pastoral caregivers at the Iliff School of Theology during spring 2000. The VS2000 training coordinator, local clergy, and other allied professionals from the victim service community taught the course in workshop format to raise awareness among faith leaders and provide tools for interventions with congregation members who have been victimized. Members of the Iliff School of Theology were interested in offering similar continuing education courses in the future.

Law Enforcement

The greatest challenge to Denver VS2000 institutionalizing a victimization curriculum in the law enforcement arena was that training standards for police academies are determined at the state level by Colorado’s Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board. Another challenge was to balance the need for victim sensitivity training with many other types of instruction that police officers must receive to do their jobs. The other training areas may seem far more compelling than victimization training because they often include training in skills that make the difference between life and death for a police officer. The Denver Police Training Academy already offered a curriculum that exceeded the state minimum standard for training in victimization issues. Nevertheless, Denver’s victim service community indicated that Denver police officers were in critical need of additional training in victims’ issues.

The strategy of the Law Enforcement Committee was to find creative ways to challenge this field to incorporate victimization training into its existing curriculum, despite the constraints. VS2000 proposed including victimization training as an integral part of police officer job proficiency and identified gaps in the existing curriculum. To be effective in getting victimization training included in Denver’s police training, VS2000 developed relationships with key individuals at the administrative level. The implementation of the cross-training plan aided efforts toward collaboration. For example, it was beneficial to have the staff sergeant of the Denver Police Academy serve as chair of the Law Enforcement Committee of the VS2000 Training Institute Team.

VS2000’s collaboration with local victim service providers and the Denver Police Department Training Academy produced “Black and Blue,” a course designed to present the basics of a comprehensive response to the needs of crime victims. Topics covered included legal obligations to victims, working with the difficult victim, and assessment versus assumption. The goals of this course are for police officers both to understand their responsibilities and obligations when working with victims of crime and to develop the awareness, knowledge, and skills they need to work with the most difficult victims of crime.

VS2000 also drafted a proposal to the POST Board that proposed expanding the curriculum by identifying additional gaps in the existing basic training curriculum and demonstrating where victimization would fit into it.

Legal Profession

Law Schools

The training team did not have enough members with the desired expertise to work on this subcommittee, and identifying other legal professionals who had time to take on the extracurricular task of working on this committee was a challenge. Also, the curriculum process within the law schools presented a major barrier to the committee’s efforts to insert victimization content into the curriculum. Another challenge for VS2000 was to synchronize its timelines with those of the law schools’ internal curriculum development and approval process. This was very difficult because the schools set their curricula far in advance and generally resisted making changes, particularly to core curricula.

Existing relationships among the Denver District Attorney’s Office, other key persons in the judicial arena, and the law schools were crucial to keeping the lines of communication open. Luncheons, workshops, and an adjunct class on the Colorado Victim Rights Amendment kept the discussion about a core victimization curriculum alive. Professor Doug Beloof, author of the textbook Victims in Criminal Procedure, was invited to present his curriculum to the Denver University (DU) Law School, and now DU currently pilots an adjunct course using this curriculum. Course topics include the victim’s role in the criminal justice system from charge to remedies, criminal procedure and the victim, ethical treatment of victims by the criminal justice system, compare and contrast the experiences of victims in states with victims’ rights statutes and those without, and the prosecutor’s role in relation to victims.

Training at the District Attorney’s Office

Parallel to the efforts in the law schools, an innovative, online training curriculum for prosecutors in the Denver District Attorney’s Office was under development. The Prosecutor Training Committee began meeting in late 1998, prompted by two factors. First, the VS2000 training objectives were originally written only for law schools, and VS2000 staff wanted the project to provide a more direct training benefit to the Denver District Attorney’s Office. At the same time, there was discussion within the Denver District Attorney’s Office about several efforts to create a more standardized approach to training prosecutors about victim issues. The goal of the Prosecutor Training Committee was to develop a curriculum and training program designed specifically for the needs of prosecutors in the Denver District Attorney’s Office. Using existing curricula, protocols, and best practices, the committee’s intent was to develop and provide training on the practical elements used in daily interactions with victims of crime.

To learn all they could, the committee surveyed prosecutors, advocates, and investigators in the office about their training needs. Members then reviewed existing curricula and office protocol, discussing at length the best practices for working with victims of crime. As a result, recommendations were made about both curriculum content and training format within the office. The goal was to offer the curriculum as online, face-to-face, and written training for district attorney deputies in county, juvenile, and district courts.

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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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