Chapter Four


The Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) authorizes the Director of OVC to use a small percentage of the Crime Victims Fund "to make grants for training and technical assistance" (VOCA, Section 1404(c)). Although the funds available for training and technical assistance amounts to little more than one percent of the entire Fund, OVC has provided considerable assistance to state and local jurisdictions and to a broad variety of professionals who interact with crime victims.

Training and technical assistance to the field is essential for two important reasons. Though VOCA-funded victim assistance services are making a difference for the millions of innocent people victimized by crime in our country, the pursuit of justice still depends heavily on a criminal justice system that is aware of, and responsive to, the needs and rights of crime victims. Victims may come into contact with various personnel representing the criminal justice system -- law enforcement officers, prosecutors, corrections officials, and probation and parole officers -- as well as individuals from medical, mental health, social service, and religious and local community organizations. Since there are often severe physical, financial, and psychological consequences of crime, victims require informed, sensitive treatment by these personnel. OVC aggressively pursues opportunities to provide multidisciplinary training and technical assistance to help ensure the provision of high-quality assistance and the development of professional competence.

Second, pervasive fiscal restraints at the state level have resulted in diminished state and local resources for the training of criminal justice personnel and victim service providers. Increasingly, these professionals have looked to OVC for leadership and funding of training opportunities.

Since VOCA funding to the states for training and technical assistance is limited, OVC has sought alternative funding sources to support the provision of training and technical assistance. OVC has joint-funded projects with related agencies, such as the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This funding strategy has enabled OVC to expand the types of training and technical assistance available to criminal justice personnel, victim service providers, and allied professionals throughout the country.

A sampling of key training and technical assistance efforts of criminal justice practitioners and allied professionals is described below. Also described are OVC efforts to respond to the training and technical assistance needs of communities and governmental agencies.

Training Criminal Justice and Allied Professionals

Criminal justice practitioners, such as police executives and officers, judges and court personnel, district attorneys, and parole and probation officials, must work closely with professionals in other fields, such as medicine, mental health, and religious and social service organizations. These professionals often are not accustomed to working with one another, nor have they necessarily shared the same goals in the past. OVC training and technical assistance, however, has fostered recognition that in order to ensure justice and healing, these professionals must cooperate and understand each others' functions when responding to the aftermath of crime and victimization. Training programs have been aimed in part at integrating the wisdom of these disparate fields, for example, law enforcement with mental health, as these relate to domestic violence and elder abuse. As a result, policies and procedures have been established within the operations of both professions to better deal with victims of these crimes.

Law Enforcement Training for Response to Domestic Violence

Between 1986 and 1994, OVC received $3.5 million from HHS to administer the Law Enforcement Training and Technical Assistance portion of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act. This training program resulted in more than 100,000 law enforcement officers from 25 states being trained in domestic violence issues.

From 1986 to 1992, OVC funded 23 projects to train law enforcement officers on domestic violence policies and response procedures under the authorization of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act of 1984. OVC first competitively funded the Victim Services Agency of New York City to develop model operating procedures, training manuals, and a training videotape that could be used by police departments across the country. The materials were then introduced through regional training events that engaged key decision-makers, such as police chiefs and sheriffs. Subsequent grants were awarded to police departments and state and local law enforcement training academies to build on and adapt the basic materials so that effective policies and procedures and training programs could be institutionalized within a single department, or across a city or state. The ability to make detailed, complete, and up-to-date training packages available quickly had a lasting impact on policy and practice. By the end of the grant program, pocket-sized officers' reference books were available that contained condensed legal definitions, arrest statutes, guidelines for handling various crisis situations, victims' rights, and listings of community services. Other products included training manuals, model policies, and training videos.

This initiative was successful in bringing about systemic changes in how law enforcement responds to cases of domestic violence. Some projects produced particularly notable results. For example, in Texas, all 109 police training academies received model protocols and training materials for handling sexual assault, child abuse, and family violence. In New York, the grantee not only trained 1,100 police officers, but also 170 prosecutors. After the training was completed the demand for all judges and prosecutors to be trained was so great that the state legislators authorized over $600,000 for training judges and prosecutors. In Alabama, a judge who was on the project advisory panel trained over 100 judges concerning the role of the court in handling family violence cases. All of the police training academies in Florida use the model policies and training materials. The Detroit Police Department designed a computer self-help training package which any officer may use at his/her own pace. In Massachusetts, the trainers' sessions were opened to victim advocates in an effort to develop a pool of trained officers and advocates to serve as training teams in the future. In Tennessee, two 3-hour training sessions for law enforcement personnel were broadcast by the Law Enforcement Satellite Training Network, reaching about 3,000 officers. In Kentucky, the project held seven one-day sessions attended by nearly 400 professionals, primarily law enforcement executives and city and county attorneys.

Seventy-eight percent of departments responding to a survey by the Urban Institute indicated that they changed their domestic violence policies after completing the training. Policy changes adopted by these agencies include development and implementation of pro-arrest or mandatory arrest policies, expansion of victim assistance services, mandated reporting of all domestic violence incidents, increased community coordination, enhanced on-scene investigation, review and refinement of definitions related to domestic violence, and development of written policies.

In each state where training was offered, police academies and police departments incorporated the family violence materials into their regular functions. In Texas, the 109 police academies added domestic violence training to their curricula and made it an official part of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education's mandatory subjects. In Alabama, the Task Force on Law Enforcement Training estimated that at the beginning of the project, perhaps 5 percent of the 420 police agencies in the state had written domestic violence policies. Following the training, more than 60 percent did.

Improving the Police Response to Domestic Elder Abuse

Through a grant from OVC, the Police Executive Research Forum developed an extensive law enforcement curriculum on elder abuse. The curriculum contains a review of current police policies and practices for responding to older Americans who have been victimized by crime; model procedures; model response and investigative protocol; model roll call training bulletins; and two training manuals, one for participants, one for trainers.

These products have been disseminated at training conferences involving local policy makers and law enforcement officials responsible for state and local training programs.

National Bias Crimes Training for Law Enforcement and Victim Assistance Professionals

This project sought to improve the response of law enforcement and victim assistance professionals to victims of bias crimes. With OVC funding, the Education Development Center, Inc., developed a curriculum to train law enforcement professionals about these issues. The curriculum, "National Bias Crimes Training for Law Enforcement and Victim Assistance Professionals," was designed to develop model policies, procedures, and practices for responding to victims of bias crimes; create a training and technical assistance package to improve the quality of the response by law enforcement and victim service providers to victims of bias crimes; and disseminate information about effective strategies for responding to victims of bias crimes to professionals in the field.

The curriculum has been presented at several state and national conferences and training seminars. More than 1,000 copies have been distributed in at least 28 states and territories by OVC at the request of professionals in the field.

National-Scope Training on Implementation of Victim Services Within Community Policing

OVC has supplemented ongoing Department of Justice (DOJ) community policing projects with training and technical assistance funds in an effort to institutionalize victim services as an essential component of community policing. OVC and BJA funding enabled the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) to develop a victim services protocol for law enforcement agencies embracing a community policing philosophy. This protocol identifies critical victim services within the context of community policing, as well as alternate strategies for addressing the needs of various types of crime.

"Looking Back, Moving Forward": A Program for Communities Responding to Sexual Assault

This project, first awarded in 1991, provided training and technical assistance on sexual assault issues to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and victim service professionals to promote more sensitive treatment of these crime victims. This treatment, in turn, would encourage victim participation in criminal justice proceedings -- a motivation often lacking in victims of sexual assault. In its grant application, the National Victim Center (NVC) added the medical profession as a necessary discipline to be included in the training.

During the first phase of the project, NVC conducted a national survey to identify available protocols for first responders to sexual assault. On the basis of this search and the input provided by members of the project's National Advisory Council, NVC developed Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Guidebook for Communities Responding to Sexual Assault. The Guidebook provides specific information on how to establish a community sexual assault response team and describes a victim-centered approach to advocating for and assisting sexual assault victims.

During the second phase of the project, beginning in 1993, NVC developed and conducted a three-day technical assistance program curriculum based on the Guidebook in a rural and an urban community: Pine Bluff, Arkansas and Denver, Colorado. NVC also wrote and published both a community self-assessment instrument and a training guide for instructing relevant professionals in the concepts described in the Guidebook.

Crime Victims and Corrections: Agenda for the 90's

OVC funded the development of two large, nationwide training and technical assistance projects to assist crime victims within the corrections system. The first project focused on institutional corrections and paroling authorities, while the second addressed probation and parole supervision. Each project, undertaken by the NVC, developed a comprehensive training curriculum. Training topics offered by these projects to correctional agencies included:

Integration of victim issues into agency goals and practices;

Appreciation of the victim experience and assessment of crime's impact;

Restitution -- orders, collection, and management;

Victim services, such as notification, victim impact statements, protection from intimidation and harassment;

Staff victimization;

Offender education on impact of crime;

Victim/Offender mediation;

Development of partnerships with victim service agencies; and

Legal rights of crime victims.

Together, these projects provided training in 35 states. Intensive training was provided in 15 of these states, while the 20 additional states received focused training and technical assistance. Because of the success of this program, OVC expanded its scope to provide similar training for all military correctional facilities through the Department of Defense (DOD), and to the Bureau of Prisons' boot camp in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. As news of the training spread, many new jurisdictions requested training while experienced jurisdictions sought additional training.

These projects also accomplished a great deal of work through their collaborative efforts with affiliated professional associations. Through the efforts of project staff and faculty members, the American Probation and Parole Association and the Association of Paroling Authorities International established standing victims committees. In addition, the American Correctional Association developed new standards for its member agencies regarding essential victim services, as well as recommendations regarding the victims of juvenile offenders. In states that received this training and through collaborative work with these influential professional associations, OVC has ensured improved treatment of crime victims throughout the nation's corrections systems.

The Spiritual Dimension in Victim Services

Crime victims commonly seek assistance from clergy in the wake of crime. These professionals often are not trained on how to effectively respond to the needs of these victims. Through the development of curricula and training sessions by an organization called Spiritual Dimensions in Victim Services, this OVC-funded program has trained clergy, as well as police and hospital chaplains, in victim services, including guidance on death notification.

Civil Justice for Crime Victims

Through an OVC grant, NVC developed training materials and provided training and technical assistance at regional conferences to apprise non-lawyer victim service providers on how to best assist crime victims in understanding their civil legal rights and remedies against perpetrators, and in determining how and when to attain qualified legal assistance in appropriate cases. Civil judgments can help crime victims recover expensive, long-term costs associated with their victimization. This project, which addresses a rapidly emerging issue in the crime victims field, received additional OVC funding in 1994 to update training materials and to present more training events.

Support for Grieving and Bereaved Children

It is critical for victim service providers to understand how to respond sensitively and effectively to the needs of grieving child victims of crime. Through this FY 1994 grant, NOVA is developing a videotape series for use by victim service providers, including school counselors and youth program personnel, when responding to grieving children who have survived or witnessed homicide or other violent crimes, including domestic and spousal abuse. A guidebook also is being developed to assist victim assistance professionals in guiding discussions following the videotape viewings.

Training and Technical Assistance on Media Issues Impacting Crime Victims

The media and their coverage of incidents of crime greatly affect crime victims' responses to their victimization. This project, funded in FY 1994, is developing resource materials for victim service providers to provide effective strategies for encouraging sensitive media reporting and visual depictions involving victims and survivors of violent crime, as well as to minimize victim suffering commonly experienced as a result of press coverage of the crime. The materials, which are being developed by NOVA, will be presented by victim service providers before gatherings of media professionals.

Training Mental Health Providers to Assist Crime Victims

In an effort to bridge the professional gap between mental health practitioners and victim assistance professionals, OVC awarded a training and technical assistance grant in FY 1994 to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape to enhance the provision of appropriate mental health services to crime victims. Training materials and curricula on mental health issues related to crime victimization are being developed and will be pilot-tested at an appropriate training forum.

Many of the training curricula from the training and technical assistance programs described in this chapter have been made available through the OVC Resource Center, 1-800-627-6872.

Victim Assistance Academy

OVC also has an interest in the professionalization of the victim services field. Through a grant to the Victim Assistance Legal Organization (VALOR), a Victim Assistance Academy was developed. This Academy featured one week, 40-hour intensive advance skills training concentrating on victimology and victim services. The 300-page curriculum is geared for victim service providers with two to four years of experience in the field. The Academy, which was housed on the campus of The George Washington University, also provided academic credit from California State University - Fresno. Plans for expanding the Academy are described in Chapter 6.

Community Responsiveness

In addition to responding directly to the training and technical assistance needs of professionals who interact with crime victims, OVC has developed a capacity to help communities, states, and governmental entities to respond to broad crime victimization issues. State- or regional-specific training has been requested of OVC, as has crisis response services following large scale victimizations that affect entire communities.

Trainers Bureau

In 1993, OVC began building a cadre of trainers capable of providing services and expertise at training conferences and other training and technical assistance opportunities around the country. The Trainers Bureau now makes their expertise available to federal, state, and local agencies through effective, high-quality training and short-term technical assistance.

Functioning much like a speakers bureau, the Trainers Bureau includes a broad range of experts, many of whom have worked on OVC-funded projects, as well as other skilled trainers. These consultants can conduct workshops at conferences, seminars, and other training events and provide effective on-site technical assistance to address significant operational problems and needs.

These trainers offer expertise on a wide range of victim-related topics, including the trauma of victimization, crisis response team training, advocacy for victims in the criminal justice system, legal rights of victims, crime victim compensation, program standards for victim services, and stress management for care givers. The trainers also are available to train victim service providers and allied professionals on specific victim-related subjects, including the criminal justice system, domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse, and underserved victims.

Agencies interested in using Trainers Bureau services should contact OVC directly. OVC then seeks the consultants with experience appropriate to the request, and contracts with that consultant.

Immediate Responses to Emerging Problems (IREP)

This program seeks to improve services to victims of violent crime in communities that have experienced crimes resulting in multiple victimizations. IREP is designed to respond to communities and federal, state, and local agencies that have unique multiple victim needs. This program, a joint effort with BJA, provides a rapid response victim assistance training and technical assistance mechanism previously unavailable to communities.

In 1994, this program was used to bring a crisis response team to the Chicago Housing Authority's Robert Taylor Homes following a weekend in which 13 people were murdered. A similar crisis team was sent to assist the Ramah branch of the Navajo Nation following an eight-fatality drunk driving crash. A noted psychologist was brought in to work with survivors and community members of a quadruple homicide on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

OVC and BJA arrange technical assistance services within 48 hours of a request for assistance from eligible agencies. Eligible agencies include victim service agencies, federal, state, and local criminal justice system agencies, U.S. Attorney's Offices, Native American tribes, and other agencies that regularly assist victims of violent crime.

State Conference Initiative

In FY 1993 and FY 1994, OVC provided nearly $300,000 to support state and regional training conferences. Nineteen states received funding to support victim assistance training conferences tailored to address each state's or region's unique needs. The goal of the initiative was to provide support to multidisciplinary, statewide victim conferences and to enhance the quality and scope of training that the conferences have to offer.

To be eligible for this on-going initiative, applicants must be designated by the state VOCA victim compensation and victim assistance administrators as the appropriate organization to sponsor a statewide conference. The state VOCA victim compensation or victim assistance agency, with the concurrence of the other, also may function as the conference sponsor.

Under the grant program, states select workshop topics from a list of OVC-sponsored special training and technical assistance projects. Grant funds are allotted primarily for the purchase of workshop presentations from the list or other sources, with OVC approval.

District Specific Training

In 1994, OVC initiated the District Specific Training Program to assist U.S. Attorneys in their responsibility to comply with federal crime victims' legislation and to improve the response of federal criminal justice, tribal, military, and other personnel within their jurisdictions to the needs of federal crime victims. This translated into an offering of funds for skills-building training to U.S. Attorneys, through a reimbursable agreement with the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys.

The training provides discipline-specific, day-long workshops as well as full conference support for regional, multidisciplinary programs. The funds are also used to support scholarships for conference participants from remote land areas who could not otherwise afford to attend.

Beyond providing intensive skills training to the various disciplines, the District Specific Training Program provides a forum for networking and for identifying and solving problems. Several Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) between federal and tribal agencies on handling family violence cases have been initiated and are now in place in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah as a result of alliances begun at the Four Corners Indian Country Conference -- one of the first District Specific Training conferences initiated by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices for the districts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.

OVC approved five District Specific Training Program requests in 1994 -- representing multidisciplinary collaboration and co-sponsorships from 16 U.S. Attorneys Offices. These conferences and training programs brought together more than 1,000 participants, including 116 Native Americans from 42 different tribes or pueblos who applied and received scholarships to attend.

This multidisciplinary and multicultural participation has caused a variety of positive systemic changes in the way agencies handle victim cases. For example, the Northern and Eastern Districts of Oklahoma held a District Specific Training Conference entitled "Government to Government Relations Utilizing Disciplinary Teams," in August 1994 in Afton, Oklahoma. As a result, the FBI Special Agents in Charge, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Area Directors, the State Department of Human Services Director, and the U.S. Attorneys for the Districts of Northern and Eastern Oklahoma signed an MOU with 23 tribal leaders that defines federal, tribal and state responsibilities for investigating, prosecuting, and protecting children who are victims of child abuse and neglect. This historic signing was incorporated into the three-day conference and stands as a testament to the cooperation and determination put forth by state, tribal and federal law enforcement, as well as child protective services community, to respond to the unique needs of Native American children who are victims of abuse or neglect. The District Specific Training Program also has served to further enhance the multidisciplinary team concept.

Victim Assistance in Indian Country Training and Technical Assistance

OVC's commitment to the success and longevity of the Victim Assistance in Indian Country (VAIC) programs extends beyond the award of state grants to local programs, as described in Chapter 3. In order to ensure that high-quality victim assistance services for Native Americans become a permanent part of community life, OVC has funded training and technical assistance to bolster local VAIC programs.

As noted in Chapter 3, OVC awarded a grant to the National Indian Justice Center, Inc. (NIJC), an Indian-owned and controlled nonprofit corporation, to address the VAIC subgrantee program needs through the development of a comprehensive training and technical assistance plan. Through this plan, training and technical assistance and consultation services were provided to more than 35 tribal-based victim assistance programs.


The broad training and technical assistance effort initiated by VOCA has greatly furthered the kind of inter- and intra-agency cooperation, collaboration, and coordination at the federal, state, and local levels. Using a small amount of VOCA funding, training and technical assistance provided by OVC has enhanced the effective delivery of victim services, secured victims' rights, and brought about systemic changes within disciplines serving the needs of crime victims.

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