Developing professional victim assistance with rights and standards
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Developing Professional Victim Assistance with rights and standards. John P. J. Dussich, Ph. D. Tokiwa International Victimology Institute “Victimology & Victim Assistance” LPSK Bogor, Indonesia March 28, 2013. The Beginnings of Professional Victim Assistance.

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Developing Professional Victim Assistance with rights and standards

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Developing Professional Victim Assistance with rights and standards

John P. J. Dussich, Ph. D.

Tokiwa International

Victimology Institute

“Victimology & Victim Assistance”


Bogor, Indonesia

March 28, 2013

The Beginnings of Professional Victim Assistance

  • Persons victimized by crime often reach out for help to those most like themselves (i.e. other crime victims).

  • In most countries victim assistance groups started out primarily as support services and, along with other similar groups, became an organized voice for social change.

The Importance of Early Public Awareness & Support

  • Public demonstrations.

  • Public education through written and online information and programs.

  • Professionaleducation & training: academies, in-service, conferences & on the job.

  • Community meetings.

The Role of Victims’ Rights as an Early Goal

  • New laws as a rallying activity toward legitimacy.

  • Evolution of specific “victims’ laws” enable starting small.

  • Legislating new laws draws attention and support.

  • Laws mandate needed actions & become “stepping stones” for the future.

The Final Challenge for Victims’ Rights

  • In spite of a large body of new victim laws, many are not being upheld and most nations have still not enacted fundamental participatory reforms such as:

    • Consultation with prosecutors, victim input in pre-trial release, protection of victims from intimidation and harm, and rights for victims of juvenile offenders

    • Victims still need “legal standing” so that judges uphold the prosecution of violators of these rights.

The US Experience Shows How the Synergy of Victims’ Rights, Policies & Programs Led to Success

  • 1965 – A new law created 1st crime victim compensation program in California

  • 1968 – Omnibus Crime & Safe Streets Act

  • 1972 – First 3 victim assistance programs were created

  • 1974 – First law enforcement-based victim assistance programs are established (victim advocate) in Florida

The US Experience continues…

  • 1975 – First “Victims’ Rights Week” is organized by the Philadelphia DA

  • 1976 – National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA)

  • 1979 – Frank Carrington (“father of victims’ rights movement”) founded VALOR

  • 1980 – MADD is founded & changed many laws related to drunk driving

The US Experience continues…

  • 1981 – Ronald Reagan is first President to proclaim “Crime Victims’ Rights Week” in April

  • 1982 – President’sTask Force on Victims of Crime offers 68 recommendations that become the framework for new programs & policies; recommend amending the 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

The US Experience continues…

  • 1982 – California passes Proposition 8 which guarantees restitution to victims

  • 1982 – MADD’s First Victim Impact Panel

  • 1982 – OVC is created in Wash. D.C.

  • 1984 – Passage of VOCA law

  • 1984 – CSUF launches first Victim Services Certificate Program

The US Experience continues…

  • 1985 – National Victim Center is founded in honor of Sunny von Bulow

  • 1985 – UN General Assembly passes the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power

  • 1991 – CSUF approves first Bachelor’s Degree Program in Criminology with a Victimology option in the nation

The US Experience continues…

  • 1992 – Rape in America: A Report to the Nation by the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center (Charleston, SC authored by Dean Kilpatrick, et al.)

  • 1996 – Community Notification Act to register sex offenders (“Megan’s Law”)

Recommendations & Standards

  • Based on the collective wisdom of experts in the field and organizations throughout the USA, comprehensive commendations were made that include the achievement of national standards for professional victim assistance. These were embodied in a publication: New Directions from the Field: Victim Rights and Services for the 21stCentury, May 1998.

Recommendation from the Field for Victims’ Rights

  • Constitution should be amended to:

    • Establish consistent rights for victims in every state and at the federal level

    • Ensure that courts balance the rights of victims and defendants

    • Guarantee victims the right to participate in proceedings

    • Enhance the participation of victims in the criminal justice process

      • An amendment may be the only legal measure strong enough to ensure that the rights of victims are fully enforced

Recommendation from the Field for Victims’ Rights

  • Victims should have the right to be notified about public court proceedings in a timely fashion.

    • Many victims are not informed of plea agreements

    • Notification of victims when defendants are released from custody – this can mean the difference between life and death for some victims and their families

  • Victims should have the right to be present throughout all public court proceedings

    • Issue of sequestering victims because they are potential witnesses

    • This is a fundamental right

Recommendation from the Field for Victims’ Rights

  • Meaningful consultation with prosecutors before major case decisions

    • A lack of communication about proposed plea agreement continues to be the highest source of victim dissatisfaction

  • The right to be heard in major court proceedings

  • The right to reasonable protection

    • Protection from intimidation, harassment, and retaliation by offenders

    • Mandated “no contact” orders as a condition of bail

    • Separate waiting areas for victims in the courthouse

Recommendation from the Field for Victims’ Rights

  • Mandatory full restitution for crime victims

    • 1996 – Mandatory Victim Restitution Act

  • Right to disposition of proceedings free from unreasonable delay

    • Ensures speedy trials for victims too, not just offenders

  • Right to a full range of services and support for recovery

    • Regardless of whether the crime is reported, victim should have emergency and ongoing services

  • Victims should have the same fundamental rights in juvenile justice proceedings

Recommendation from the Field for Victims’ Rights

  • All agencies should help ensure that victims receive information about their rights

  • Victims should receive assistance in exercising their participatory rights

  • States should review victims’ rights statutes and constitutional amendments

  • States should adopt truth in sentencing reforms

    • Victims, as well as the public, are entitled to know how long the offender will actually be incarcerated

Recommendation from the Field for Victims’ Rights

  • Laws should prohibit employers from taking adverse action against victims who must miss work

    • Victims should, at minimum, have the same protection as jury members

  • In relevant situations, victims should have the right to be tested and to have the accused tested for the HIV virus and sexually transmitted diseases

  • Laws should allow agencies to facilitate community impact statements

Recommendation from the Field for Victims’ Rights

  • Victims should be able to enforce their rights, and sanctions should be applied to those who deny those rights

  • Compliance enforcement programs, sometimes called victim ombudsman programs, should be created

  • Federal crime victims’ rights should apply to military proceedings

  • Indian tribes should enhance their

    fundamental rights for Native American victims

Recommendation from the Field for Victims’ Rights

  • Victims should have rights at administrative proceedings, including having someone accompany them, the right to input, and the right to notification of the sanction

  • Criminal justice agencies should monitor their own compliance with victims’ rights law and perform independent audits

  • Offer continued education for professionals regarding victims’ right, needs, and services

  • The development of new funding

Conclusions: Synergy in Action

  • Professional victim assistance has been and should be lead by victims’ rights laws and by recommendations from practices in the field.

  • Although these 25 recommendations were created just over a decade ago, they are still valid and are still being followed today.

  • They represent high national standards in the service to crime victims who also deserve a “seat at the table of justice.”


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