Community Involvement Since the 1982 Task Force Report
The journey from victim to advocate taken by Hubbard, the Long Island Railroad victims, and participants in the Families of Homicide Victims program followed a line of recovery that was largely unrecognized when the 1982 Final Report of the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime was written. The report only indirectly touched on victim involvement in communities, addressing "involvement" primarily in terms of permitting victims to participate in their own court cases. Many of the 1982 recommendations for judicial reform have been enacted, including provisions for victim impact statements and victim allocution. In addition, 29 states have enacted some kind of constitutional amendment to guarantee victims the right to be involved in the prosecution of their cases. Many of these successes were attributable to the efforts of crime victims. For example, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Parents of Murdered Children played a key role in moving the 1988 amendments to the 1984 Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) that expanded the kinds of victims eligible for services supported by the legislation.
Victim leadership and activism can be credited with many of the substantive public policy and legislative achievements that have been won over the past 20 years. Aside from its trauma healing benefits, victim involvement is important because it helps maintain the direction and integrity of the movement.
This paper expands the original focus of the 1982 Final Report of the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime by considering how victim activism can help speed the individual's recovery from trauma, reform the criminal justice system, and promote crime prevention through addressing some of the underlying conditions of violence. Recognizing that community activism is not for all crime victims, it also explores the potential risks of activism and outlines considerations to guide activist efforts.
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