Victim Activism Recommendations

Recommendations for Victim Service Programs

Working directly with crime victims, victim service programs are in an excellent position to educate them about the larger political and social context of crime and violence and to create opportunities for activism. Victim service programs should:

  1. Train staff to understand the benefits of community activism for
  2. victims and to be aware of opportunities for victims both within and outside victim assistance organizations.
  3. Engage crime victims in the leadership and guidance of the
  4. organization through serving on boards and developing new services and programs.
  5. Create speakers' bureaus which recruit and prepare victims to
  6. speak at conferences and with legislators, criminal justice officials, police, medical personnel, and others about the needs and rights of victims and the causes of violence.
  7. Include battered women as presenters in domestic violence train-
  8. ing programs for police, service providers and others.
  9. Actively engage victims in paid and volunteer positions throughout
  10. programs.
  11. Prepare victim activists to work with the media.
  12. Promote and disseminate information about the value of
  13. victim activism through local and national associations of victim assistance programs. For example, the National Organization for Victim Assistance and the National Victim Center have provided training and technical assistance to foster victim involvement.

Recommendations for Government

As new legislation and criminal justice reforms have increased the involvement of victims in their own cases, the public sector has gained the ability to expand victims' involvement in their communities, even with current financial constraints. Many of the following recommendations require little or no new resources; instead, they focus on shifting priorities for decision making or program funding. Public-sector agencies and organizations should:

  1. Actively engage crime victims in the policy decisions that affect
  2. them. Public hearings on legislation and public policies that affect victim services, victims' rights, and violence prevention should always include testimony from victims themselves.
  3. Require victim involvement as part of professional curricula in
  4. all disciplines that work with victims (e.g., criminal justice, social work, medicine, and law enforcement).
  5. Incorporate community involvement as a funding guideline. This
  6. will encourage the creation of programs that engage crime victims in service, advocacy and violence prevention roles. Requests for proposals should require victim participation on advisory boards, as designers of services and projects, and as paid or voluntary staff.
  7. Launch demonstration programs to develop the most effective
  8. program models for victim involvement. One possible route might be AmeriCorps, where youth could work in their communities to engage crime victims in social action.
  9. Create opportunities for battered women to become more openly
  10. and actively involved in their communities. Services to empower battered women and increase their sense of self-determination- including education, job training, and placement-would provide them with the skills and confidence they need to reach out to others. Public education programs that debunk the myth of battered women as helpless would increase society's acceptance of women who do speak out.
  11. Engage crime victims through community policing programs.
  12. Designed to create partnerships between police and the com- munities they serve, these efforts are ideal situations for victims to work with police to reduce crime and help others in need.
  13. Encourage the involvement of all citizens, along with crime
  14. victims, on issues of victim assistance and violence prevention, through public education (public service announcements, news and entertainment media). When victims initiate or join community-based efforts, they often do so with the understanding that the injustice they experienced affects all of society. A more widespread recognition that crime affects everyone would create a more supportive atmosphere for victim involvement, and could reduce some of the social barriers to community activism, such as the common tendency to blame the victim.
  15. Support research to document more clearly the benefits of com-
  16. munity involvement for victims' recovery. This would provide the rationale and motivation necessary for victim assistance programs to create opportunities for victim activism and establish links with victims' organizations.

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