Victims’ Advocates: Job Profile

Characteristics of a Strong and Effective Victims’ Advocate

The National Center for Victims of Crime (n.d.) describes victim advocacy as the process of supporting victims that consists of diverse elements. Based on this information, an advocate needs to have well-developed interpersonal skills to ensure effective and positive interactions with victims. Furthermore, problem-solving skills would help in determining the best ways to satisfy the needs of victims, and managerial skills should assist in developing and implementing plans for that. When government-level advocacy is concerned, an advocate needs to be engaged and informed; the latter also implies the need for research skills. Finally, an advocate would benefit from being resilient because the job is stressful. All these skills and knowledge can be developed if a person is dedicated to the task. Thus, an advocate is a human rights champion who wants to help victims and is sufficiently knowledgeable and skilled to be able to work with individual victims and push society to address broader systemic problems.

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Types of Services and Supports that Are Available to Victim Witnesses

A victim’s rights advocate needs to be aware of the methods of addressing the needs of victim-witnesses. In many countries of the world, there exists a wide variety of relevant resources, services, and supports (Bouffard et al., 2017; Mawby, 2016; National Center for Victims of Crime, 2008). They may be concerned with providing information, safety, shelter, as well as direct emotional support.

Nowadays, victims and witnesses can receive various types of protection, but many people remain unaware of them. Moreover, criminal justice systems and their instructions are sometimes difficult to navigate and understand (Bouffard et al., 2017; Taylor, 2018). As a result, multiple information-focused resources are available. As an example of a source that is focused on this task, the website of the National Center for Victims of Crime (2008) can be named. Furthermore, many governmental bodies have similar information-focused web pages, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (n.d.). The State of Alaska Department of Law (n.d.) can be used as an illustration of a state-level information-focused resource. The Office for Victims of Crime (2015) also holds annual Victims’ Rights Week, which functions in the same way as a method of promoting awareness and knowledge of victim’s rights and options. Finally, individual victim-witnesses receive consultations upon their contact with the criminal justice system (National Center for Victims of Crime, 2008). All the named resources offer free brochures and other downloads that can be used to help a victim or witness learn about existing services.

Upon informing victim-witnesses, it is necessary to satisfy their needs. Such needs include certain basics and solutions to the problems that emerge from the effects of victimization (Bouffard et al., 2017; National Center for Victims of Crime, 2008). The criminal justice system can address such gaps directly; an example is protective orders, which can improve the safety of a victim-witness (National Center for Victims of Crime, 2008). Other crucial resources include the programs that focus on compensation and sheltering, which should assist the victims and witnesses with a crime- and criminal justice-related expenses and temporary housing. Counseling can be received in support groups and from mental health professionals. Such resources offer emotional support and treatment when the trauma of victimization (or witnessing victimization) makes it necessary (Office for Victims of Crime, 2015). Finally, victim rights advocates offer the crucial services of navigating all these supports and aligning them with a victim’s needs. The Office for Victims of Crime (2015) points out that most crisis centers and criminal justice agencies offer a wide range of such resources or refer victims and witnesses to other institutions that can provide them.

The described resources may be represented differently in different regions and countries. Their funding is of utmost importance; insufficient funding is a major problem that prevents victim-witnesses from getting help (Mawby, 2016). In addition, victims and witnesses may be reluctant to use such services, but most often, they are simply unaware of their options (Bouffard et al., 2017). An advocate needs to rectify this situation and promote the use of services when a need for them is determined.

References

Bouffard, L., Nobles, M., Goodson, A., Brinser, K., Koeppel, M., Marchbanks, M., & Chaudhuri, N. (2017). Service providers’ knowledge and perceptions of the legal service needs of crime victims. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 42(3), 589-609. Web.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.). Victim services. Web.

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Mawby, R. (2016). Victim support in England and Wales. International Review of Victimology, 22(3), 203-221. Web.

National Center for Victims of Crime. (2008). Options for victims. Web.

National Center for Victims of Crime. (n.d.). Our work. Web.

Office for Victims of Crime. (2015). National crime victims’ rights week. Web.

State of Alaska Department of Law. (n.d.). Victim-witness assistance program. Web.

Taylor, Z. (2018). Unreadable and underreported: Can college students comprehend how to report sexual assault? Journal OF College Student Development, 59(2), 248-253. Web.

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