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Tools for Public Speaking

Talking Points for New Directions:
Five Global Challenges for the Field

Certain key recommendations emerged during compilation of the hundreds of recommendations from the field and from listening to the voices of crime victims, their advocates, and the allied professionals working with crime victims throughout the Nation.

The following five global challenges for responding to crime victims form the core of the hundreds of ideas and recommendations contained in New Directions.

  1. To enact and enforce consistent, fundamental rights for crime victims in Federal, State, juvenile, military, and Tribal justice systems, and administrative proceedings.

  2. To provide crime victims with access to comprehensive, quality services regardless of the nature of their victimization, age, race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, capability, or geographic location.

  3. To integrate crime victims' issues into all levels of the Nation's educational system to ensure that justice and allied professionals and other service providers receive comprehensive training on victims' issues as part of their academic education and continuing training in the field.

  4. To support, improve, and replicate promising practices in victims' rights and services built upon sound research, advanced technology, and multidisciplinary partnerships.

  5. To ensure that the voices of crime victims play a central role in the Nation's response to violence and those victimized by crime.

Global Challenge #1:
To enact and enforce consistent, fundamental rights for crime victims in Federal, State, juvenile, military, and Tribal justice systems, and administrative proceedings.

Consistent, Fundamental Rights That Are Enforced


  • Tremendous strides have been made to enact victims' rights laws and to foster victim assistance services throughout the Nation. Few other movements have succeeded in igniting the kind of legislative response that victims' rights activists have fostered over the past two decades.

  • In the early 1980s, State laws addressing victims rights, services, and financial reparations numbered in the hundreds. Today, there are over 30,000 crime victim-related State statutes, 32 State victims' constitutional amendments, and basic rights and services for victims of Federal crimes.

  • Serious deficiencies nonetheless remain in our Nation's response to crime victims. The rights of crime victims vary among States and at the Federal level. At present, victims face a lack of parallel rights on the Federal, State, and local levels; an absence of rights for victims in some juvenile justice systems; and, all too often, a lack of rights extended to victims of nonviolent crime.

Examples To Underscore Topic

  • While all States have enacted victims' rights statutes, these laws vary considerably State-to-State. Some States provide comprehensive rights for crime victims, while others do not make these rights mandatory. Some States limit the types of crime victims that qualify for certain rights. For example, victims of felony crimes and victims of misdemeanors may qualify for different rights.

  • Less than half of the States have a fairly comprehensive list of rights for victims of juvenile offenses. Yet, offenses committed by juvenile offenders are the fastest growing segment of violent crime in America. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, arrests for violent juvenile offenses increased more than 50 percent between the late 1980s and the mid-1990s.

  • Crime victims potentially face six different sets of rights depending on the following: the type of offense committed (felony or misdemeanor), the age of the offender (criminal or juvenile justice system), and the prosecutorial jurisdiction of the offense (Federal, State, military, or Tribal).

  • Even in States that have enacted constitutional rights for victims, implementation of these rights is still arbitrary. Too often, limitations are based on the individual practices of the criminal justice officials rather than on uniform policies and practices. When this is the case, it is not surprising that victims' rights laws are inconsistently implemented and enforced.

Summary Statements

  • The enactment and vigorous enforcement of consistent, fundamental rights must be one of the priority goals for the 21st century. Victims' rights, especially the right to be informed of and to participate in criminal and juvenile justice proceedings, must be parallel at all levels of government and in all justice systems.

Global Challenge #2:
To provide crime victims with access to comprehensive, quality services regardless of the nature of their victimization, age, race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, capability, or geographic location.

Equal Access to Comprehensive Services


  • In 1982, the United States had only an estimated 1,500 victim assistance programs. Only 37 States had victim compensation programs that helped pay for medical, mental health, lost wages, and funeral expenses resulting from crime. Significant Federal and State funding has resulted in more than 10,000 victim assistance programs today, and every State has a victim compensation program.

  • In spite of this progress, only a fraction of the Nation's 31 million crime victims each year has access to services such as emergency financial assistance, crisis and mental health counseling, shelter, victim compensation, and information and advocacy within the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

Examples To Underscore Topic

  • Many rural areas have no services for crime victims who must travel hundreds of miles to find a safe shelter, effective counseling, or other specialized victim assistance services.

  • A substantial number of crime victims, particularly victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse, do not report the crime. As a result, countless victims never access victim assistance and compensation programs.

  • Victims of what is often referred to as white-collar or nonviolent crime, including various forms of fraud such as identity theft and telemarketing, often do not receive needed assistance such as counseling services. This is because most services are focused on victims of violent crime. For example, despite the fact that thousands of elderly crime victims lose their life savings due to telemarketing fraud, few programs have been developed to help these victims.

  • Crime victims with disabilities are victimized at an unusually high rate and have great difficulty accessing services to meet their needs. Many victim assistance programs are unable to communicate effectively with deaf victims or provide resources and referrals in braille.

  • Victim service providers are often not equipped to meet the needs of victims from diverse cultures and victims who speak different languages. As a result, these victims are not adequately informed of the services available to them or of their rights in the justice system.

  • While tremendous progress has been made in responding to victims of domestic violence, there are still parts of our Nation where domestic violence victims must travel great distances to seek safety and shelter away from their abusers.

  • Even when services are available, many victims are afraid to access them because they fear retaliation by the offender or revictimization by the system. This includes many victims of domestic violence and child abuse, and victims of gang violence who must continue to live in neighborhoods with ongoing gang activity.

Summary Statements

  • As we prepare for this new century and beyond, it is especially important that all programs and agencies work to reduce barriers to accessibility, including those related to physical and mental disabilities, language and communication, age, competence, and geographic location.

  • As a field, the victims' rights discipline must define what a comprehensive system of victim services entails. It should include immediate trauma and emergency response, short- and long-term psychological counseling, shelter, and advocacy throughout the criminal, Tribal, military, and juvenile justice systems. Crime victims should also have access to diverse sources of financial recovery including emergency financial assistance, crime victim compensation, restitution, and civil legal remedies.

  • A system of comprehensive services requires dedicated resources. A step toward that goal was the enactment of the Victims of Crime Act of 1984, which established a creative, nontraditional funding mechanism that relies on the collection of fines and penalties from convicted Federal offenders, rather than Federal tax-based appropriations. However, many criminal and juvenile justice officials and victim advocates continue to assert that the lack of comprehensive services in every community for victims of crime is primarily due to inadequate funding. New, creative, and consistent sources of funding must be found to ensure quality services to all crime victims.

Global Challenge #3:
To integrate crime victims' issues into all levels of the Nation's educational system to ensure that justice and allied professionals and other service providers receive comprehensive training on victims' issues as part of their academic education and continuing training in the field.

Education and Training


  • Enhanced education and training are critical for providing quality victim services and must be addressed on three fronts—require education about crime prevention and victims' rights and services in the Nation's schools; improve educational curricula in colleges and in graduate schools for professionals who interact with crime victims; and expand opportunities for training professionals and volunteers in the field.

  • The places that provide the best opportunity to reach the most children about crime prevention strategies and victims' services are our Nation's schools. Schools should take better advantage of this important responsibility. For example, children often do not learn in school about how to protect themselves, where to turn for help, and what services are available to them if they become a victim of crime.

  • Even on many college campuses, where sexual assault and other crimes affect a significant number of students, information about these crimes and prevention strategies is rarely incorporated into classes or student activities beyond student orientation.

  • Because many victims turn first to their friends for assistance, it is critical to educate those most likely to provide advice about what to do. Education about crime prevention and victims' rights and services must begin in grade school and continue through college and graduate school.

Examples To Underscore Topic

  • On the national level, OVC has supported the training of thousands of victim service providers over the past decade. Through its funding of national, regional, Tribal, and State conferences, approximately 40,000 individuals have been trained in the area of victims' rights and services. Many of OVCs training initiatives for criminal justice and allied professionals, as well as topic specific trainings, are cited throughout New Directions.

  • In order to make comprehensive, academic-based training available to a diverse group of victim service providers, including Federal, Tribal, State and local justice and allied professionals, OVC funded the development of the first National Victim Assistance Academy (NVAA) in 1995. Now in its sixth year, the Academy is coordinated by the Victims' Assistance Legal Organization and a consortium of universities, including California State University-Fresno, the Medical University of South Carolina, the University of New Haven, and Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.

  • In 1997, the Program Against Sexual Violence and the School of Dentistry at the University of Minnesota received funding from the Office for Victims of Crime to develop a comprehensive education model for dentists and dental auxiliaries regarding family violence.

Summary Statements

  • Many professionals who deal with crime victims are never taught in school about the impact of victimization or the best practices to use in the field. The educational curricula in colleges and in graduate schools for doctors, lawyers, nurses, social workers, law enforcement, mental health professionals, the clergy, and others should include specialized training about victim trauma and related crime victims' issues.

  • Where appropriate, these courses should be interdisciplinary and inform students about effective team approaches to address crime. To provide high quality, state-of-the-art services, initial and continuing education must be provided for every allied professional and service provider who regularly interacts with crime victims. This training should include multicultural sensitivity and training about the needs of victims from other cultures whose primary language may not be English.

Global Challenge #4:
To support, improve, and replicate promising practices in victims' rights and services built upon sound research, advanced technology, and multidisciplinary partnerships.

Promising Practices


  • In the last two decades, many communities have developed "promising practices" in victim services. These practices are intended to serve as models for the Nation. These innovative programs offer services for a variety of crime victims and generally use a multidisciplinary or team approach to respond to victims' needs.

Examples To Underscore Topic

  • Children's Advocacy Centers. In 1984, the first Center was initiated in Huntsville, Alabama, by the District Attorney who was tired of seeing sexually abused children re-victimized by the system. One example was how the children were being interviewed many different times by numerous agency officials in frightening settings. He developed an Advocacy Center especially designed for kids, where governmental agencies work together to reduce the number of interviews and coordinate case management. This vision led to a national movement, and today there are more than 300 Children's Advocacy Centers in 48 States. This kind of interagency model should exist in every community.

  • Comprehensive Victim Service Centers. Jacksonville, Florida, is the site of the Nation's first comprehensive victim service center. It provides a wide range of services in one location for all crime victims, expanding on the model used by Children's Advocacy Centers. Center staff operate an emergency fund for victims; counselors provide therapy to victims and accompany police to all homicides; and self-help groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Parents of Murdered Children, are co-located in this facility especially designed for crime victims.

  • Community Criminal Justice Partnerships. In 1989, the Sheriff of St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, began a program to ensure that his department responded to the needs of elderly crime victims. Called TRIAD, this collaborative program between law enforcement and senior citizens has been duplicated in many communities and is co-sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Sheriffs' Association. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, for example, after meeting with seniors and hearing their concerns, the Chief of Police provided a bus and officers who assist seniors who live in a high crime area to go to the market and safely conduct their banking. Today there are more than 500 of these cooperative programs in 46 States, plus Canada and England. Additional services offered by TRIAD programs include crime prevention classes, repairs to damaged residences, transportation to medical services and criminal justice proceedings, and courtroom escorts.

  • Crisis Response Teams. In 1986, the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) sponsored the victim assistance field's first crisis response team comprised of diverse professionals following the Edmond, Oklahoma, Post Office shooting in which more than a dozen employees were killed. With NOVA's leadership and training, many States have organized crisis response teams made up of many different professionals, including psychologists, law enforcement, doctors, social workers, victim advocates, and religious leaders. These teams provide assistance to communities in the aftermath of major crimes and acts of terrorism such as mass murders and bombings. For example, South Carolina's crisis response team includes more than 100 specially trained professional volunteers.

  • Technologies To Benefit Crime Victims. Emerging technologies hold great promise for improving services to crime victims. For example, after a woman was murdered by a former boyfriend just a few days after he posted bail on a charge of raping her, Kentucky enacted an automated victim notification system to inform victims when their offenders are released. Although she had requested notification, no one had informed her of his release. In addition, computers can be used to link victim services and allied justice agencies together to share information. Some communities have linked domestic violence shelters through computers so that if a shelter is full, staff will know where available space exists to make appropriate referrals.

Summary Statements

  • A priority for the victims' rights discipline in the 21st century should be to support and replicate promising practices, such as "team approaches" and the use of technology, with the goal of improving the quality of programs and services nationwide.

  • Similar innovative and creative approaches to meeting the needs of crime victims are highlighted throughout New Directions.

Global Challenge #5:
To ensure that the voices of crime victims play a central role in the Nation's response to violence and those victimized by crime.

Promising Practices

I discovered long ago that among the most effective advocates
I have seen are the survivors, those who have channeled their
pain and anger into activism to achieve lasting reforms.

Attorney General Janet Reno, August 15, 1996


  • The victims' rights discipline owes its many accomplishments to the activism of crime victims themselves, their families, and supporters. Many crime victims have struggled to survive their own victimization and also to bring much needed legal reforms, financial relief, and services to other victims.

  • In implementing New Directions from the Field: Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century, it is important to never forget the needs, desires, and potential contributions of crime victims. The input of victims—"victims' voices"—must remain a powerful guiding force as the crime victims' discipline and allied professions begin the tremendous task of bringing words on paper to action in communities across the Nation.

  • Since 1982, a substantial number of the 68 recommendations in the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime have been implemented. From the passage of the Victims of Crime Act in 1984 to the current 32 State constitutional amendments, these successes are in large part due to the efforts of crime victims.

  • In an increasing number of communities, victims are requesting opportunities to meet and have a dialogue with their offenders. Such opportunities allow victims to define the harm that was caused by the crime; to receive answers to questions about the crime; and to hold offenders accountable for the devastation committed against the victims. When offenders listen to victims, they can learn the true impact that their criminal actions caused.

Examples To Underscore Topic

Victims' Voices
Victims have spoken in countless letters to the President, the Attorney General, the Office for Victims of Crime, at public hearings, and through Congressional testimony. Victims of crime have told those who help them that they need:

  • A voice that is listened to throughout the justice process.

  • Full enforcement of fundamental rights, including the rights to be informed, present, and heard.

  • Financial support, including victim compensation, emergency funds, and restitution.

  • Access to services such as mental health counseling, emergency shelter, and legal advocacy.

  • Protection from intimidation, harassment, and harm.

Summary Statements

  • Crime victims play an important role in guiding public policy. They are an equally valuable resource in developing and participating in crime prevention programs such as school-based gang violence and drunk driving prevention programs.

  • In addition, victims have a significant role in training programs for service providers and allied professionals. Basic training for law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, corrections personnel, and allied professionals should include victim impact panels, such as those initiated by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, where crime victims sensitize the participants by discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the system, and how crime affects their lives and those of their loved ones. Many offenders benefit from educational programs that feature crime victims discussing the impact of their victimization.

Conclusion to Talking Points on Global Challenges

  • These five important global challenges have helped guide the development of the 250 recommendations set forth in New Directions.

  • The recommendations contained in New Directions include proposals to improve the response to crime victims from virtually every professional with whom they interact; proposals to improve reforms to justice systems that respond to crime victims; and proposals to improve critical areas that need to be addressed to respond to specific victim populations.

  • The global challenges are integrated into every section of this landmark plan for our Nation's future treatment of victims of crime.

New Directions from the Field: Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century
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