n 1996, the Denver Victim Assistance and Law Enforcement (VALE) Board convened a planning committee of more than 50 community and criminal justice-based victim service providers and allied professionals. The purpose of the meeting was to plan the components and structure of a Victim Services 2000 model for the city of Denver. The creation of a seamless, integrated victim service delivery system seemed a logical next step for Denver's victim service community. Its past efforts on behalf of crime victims includes one of the first prosecution-based victim advocates in the United States, passage of a Victims' Rights Constitutional Amendment and enabling legislation, numerous interdisciplinary victim-centered protocols, and the establishment of a centralized victim service center.
An extensive network of more than 50 nonprofit and government agencies plays a critical role in the delivery of services to crime victims in Denver. Representatives of these agencies were on the planning committee and the steering committee, which were formed after Denver was selected as a VS2000 site. Services are available for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, robbery, and assault, as well as survivors of victims of violent death. Also available are services specifically designed for traditionally underserved victims, including African-American, Latino, and Asian victims; victims of hate crimes; victims with disabilities; and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered victims. Many agencies are involved in public education and awareness and conduct client satisfaction surveys, which help them determine strategies for refinement and expansion of services.
The VS2000 Planning Committee documented Denver's gaps and areas of greatest need in its existing services using data from a 1990 victim services assessment by the Denver Victims Service Center and a 1992 assessment by the Denver Children's Network. These efforts surveyed both service providers and clients, focusing on identifying underserved client populations that have experienced obstacles in obtaining victim assistance in Denver. The areas identified for possible enhancement were services for child sexual assault victims; long-term services, including case management; services for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered clients; services for disabled clients; services for ethnic minorities; resources for victims of unreported crimes; victim sensitivity training for professionals in the justice, medical, social services, legal, and religious systems; and public education about victims of crime. In addition, anecdotal sources within the victim services community indicated a significant under-reporting of sexual assault, domestic violence, and crimes against the elderly, especially within ethnic and new immigrant communities.
Data from 1990 and 1992 provided the underpinnings of the 5-year VS2000 project. However, the planning committee felt that sole reliance on "old" data, anecdotal information, and conventional wisdom would prove insufficient for building an effective victim service network. The committee believed that this concerted effort to enhance coordination, accessibility, and service delivery needed to be driven by a thorough assessment of current services to reveal weaknesses and gaps. Thus, the Needs Assessment Team was formed to accomplish this task.
OVC Bulletin, October 2000
Denver Victim Services 2000 Needs Assessment