Crime victims are remarkably vulnerable members of society. Many of these victims will be children who have been assaulted or young adults under 18 who have been abused.
A victim’s advocate supports crime victims and helps them as they work to rebuild their lives. Advocates help people understand criminal justice processes, assist in navigation, provide emotional support and assist with coping skills.
The day-to-day life of a victim’s advocate is complicated and often overwhelming. Victim’s advocates must work around balancing their professional and personal lives, which can be challenging, due to all the stress and time demands placed on them daily.
What does a victim’s advocate do?
Victim’s advocates help individuals cope after a crime. Crime impacts people medically, financially, legally and mentally.
These experts guide victims through the criminal justice system and assist them in managing stress. They work with investigators, attorneys and other criminal justice experts to implement the law in a way that benefits and protects the people.
This job includes counseling, social work, one-on-one services and practical help for victims and witnesses. The advocates may promote state legislation that supports victims’ rights.
Victim advocates may sometimes face difficulties in their job. For instance, learning about violent crimes could frighten the advocates and splinter their emotions. As such, victim’s advocates must be able to set aside their feelings and prejudices to empathize with their clients.
To assist their clients in meeting practical needs, victim advocates must also locate and gain access to necessary resources. They can participate in online criminology programs, such as that offered by Wilfrid Laurier University, to learn about criminology, public safety, the court system, youth advocacy and forensics.
Daily life of a victim’s advocate
A victim’s advocate will have specific standards they must complete daily. Although the tasks a victim’s advocate completes can seem insignificant, the little things make all the difference in a victim’s life.
Victim’s advocates can be assigned goals to accomplish daily. Some of these tasks can include:
Assisting eligible crime victims in applying for public assistance
The role of the victim’s advocate is to assist eligible crime victims in applying for federal, state and local public assistance. They must be able to assist applicants with the proper forms, organization of information needed on those forms and completing those applications.
Crime victims may apply for financial or medical assistance from the Directory of Crime Victim Services with the aid of an advocate. Victim’s advocates are also responsible for answering client questions that may arise while applying for public assistance.
Victim’s advocates guide the client in filling out the forms and provide information about the status of their application to the victims. They also ensure the department appropriately reviews public assistance applications.
Providing hotline support for emergencies
Victim’s advocates are responsible for answering victim hotline telephone calls and assisting victims and witnesses in their time of need. Advocates should develop effective response protocols while answering calls as they typically address diverse issues and questions.
Victim’s advocates provide 24-hour hotline support for emotional emergencies, including victims’ questions, concerns and guidance. The advocates give clients comfort and understanding throughout the process.
When advocates remain empathetic toward their clients while maintaining professionalism in handling consumer data, clients receive better services.
Supply the necessary information to outside counsel
After receiving detailed information about the victim and their case, victim advocates provide that information to the defendant’s attorney. They ensure that victims give the most accurate and up-to-date information to outside counsel.
Victim’s advocates meet with the defendant’s attorneys and communicate information that may benefit the defendant’s case to prepare for trials, mediation and depositions. They can provide information, such as victims’ thoughts on whether they want to attend trial hearings. The victim’s advocates must keep all the information private to respect the victim’s privacy rights.
Victim advocates prepare help in documentation to ensure the measurable goals, special design instructions and services are appropriate. They also ensure proper implementation of those services and that they adequately meet the victim’s needs.
Publicize seminars, workshops and programs available to the community
Victim’s advocates use their knowledge and expertise to inform the community on important issues, such as new laws, seminars, workshops and other programs. Advocates create these programs to promote community service and awareness.
Advocates use local and social media to spread the information. They use visual aids, such as pamphlets, presentations and videos to educate the community on important issues. This approach makes learning about the program easier, increasing their likelihood of attending.
After publicizing the information, victim’s advocates then create and coordinate these programs. They must also monitor attendance and effectiveness to see if there are any needed changes. This stage can be stressful because these programs depend on volunteers or governmental agencies whose support might be inconsistent.
Providing transportation to victims for appointments
Victims may have various appointments throughout the court process, from speaking to the prosecutor about their case to talking to a probation and parole department representative. This can be difficult for victims who do not have transportation.
These appointments are crucial, however, and can help them build a case against their offender and keep themselves out of trouble through parole or probation.
Victim’s advocates work with victims to organize transportation schedules so they can make appointments. They also help victims get to appointments or help them arrange for alternative transportation (such as public transit or taxi).
Visiting hospitalized victims
Victim’s advocates visit hospitalized individuals to maintain their emotional and physical support. They communicate with the hospitals and victims’ families to coordinate this service.
They may also provide support and information at the hospital and assist in victim notification procedures. Victim advocates may remain with the clients until they are released from the hospital or provide referrals for long-term care or other services once they get discharged.
Attending bond hearings
Victim’s advocates assist victims in attending the bond hearing or initial appearance. They explain the process and laws to them, if needed, and help them understand their rights. When necessary, they represent the victim at bond hearings.
Advocates support victims who do not want to attend their bond hearings and can pressure the court for the victim’s needs by filing motions or other legal actions on their behalf.
Victim’s advocates attend bond hearings to provide support and assistance to victims. They also attend bond hearings to inform the court about the bail conditions.
Through bond hearings, victim advocates learn more about the case and the prosecutor’s decisions, which helps them work closely with the victim’s attorney. Advocates discuss any victim services needed in the defendant’s sentence. They also maintain accurate information for victims if they’re eligible for benefits.
Victim advocates may also provide court interpreters for their clients in the criminal justice system. Criminology online classes can help them know courtroom factors that may affect the victim’s ability to understand or participate in these proceedings, such as the defendant’s demeanor.
Contacting victims with updates on their cases
Victim’s advocates contact their clients for updates on their cases. The victim advocates may attend court hearings on behalf of the victims and communicate the results to clients.
They contact victims about the status of their cases, pleadings and court dates. Victim’s advocates are often part of the victim’s support team, which keeps victims and their families updated on their issues.
Advocates also communicate with family members to maintain and secure the victim’s safety and well-being. They ensure that victims receive all necessary information from public assistance offices or social service agencies.
For instance, they might let the victims know if the criminals involved in their cases get released or are up for parole. They also inform victims about the offenders’ criminal history and risk factors, such as prior criminal records and familial relationships.
In addition, they notify victims about judicial outcomes for their cases, such as verdicts or parole hearing results. They do all of this without violating victims’ privacy rights.
Providing counseling, education and support to victims
Victim’s advocates provide counseling and education to victims. They often meet with their clients during the investigation stage to document information they may not be able to remember or communicate when they are traumatized.
The advocates are clear about boundaries for victim involvement in investigations and provide support to victims who request information or participate in the investigation process.
Victim’s advocates listen to their clients openly and validate their feelings and experiences. They may take the victim aside to discuss their case privately or ask the client’s permission for others to join them during this critical discussion.
The advocates encourage victims to participate in the criminal justice process and help them understand the consequences of crime, the punishment sought by law and the process involved in seeking justice for them.
Victim’s advocates also offer victim support when filing applications for compensation or other services related to their injuries, such as disability payments, vocational rehabilitation or home-modification plans.
Investigating, interviewing and collaborating with DHS and social services
Victim’s advocates may be assigned to investigate child sexual abuse and domestic violence cases. They collaborate with DHS workers and social service providers to serve their client’s needs in the criminal justice system.
Victim’s advocates help children who get victimized through sexual assault or rape. They provide the child with help and support when they have to testify in court. The advocate also helps the child access counseling and other resources to help them heal from the trauma of abuse.
Victim’s advocates collaborate with DHS workers and social service providers when needed. They help victims understand their rights and answer questions they may have about services they might be able to receive or obtain while awaiting trial.
The advocates work hand in hand with child victims and their families or guardians in applying for vouchers for baby formula and diapers if the crime significantly impacts them financially.
What skills do victim advocates need to have?
At a minimum, a victim’s advocate must be a people person. Advocates often face difficult situations with their clients as they try to help them through the criminal justice process.
Here are the essential skills a victim advocate should have:
Victim’s advocates must identify a victim’s specific problem and understand the importance of addressing the issue with the crime. They must find resources to solve the legal situations in their victim’s case or refer the victim to resources that can help.
Victim advocates must demonstrate empathy with their clients to encourage them to open up about their experiences. Empathy is a powerful tool that advocates utilize to build rapport with their clients and make them feel valued and heard by the justice system. With empathy, the specialists can respond to victims’ experiences more properly and resist manipulation.
Victim’s advocates must be able to explain a crime’s impact on victims and guide their clients toward the proper help. They must listen and fully understand the victim’s situation. They must also keep their clients updated as they progress with the case.
Victim’s advocates work in teams of criminal justice professionals, such as police, detectives, attorneys, judges, corrections officials and probation officers. Advocates must work well with other professionals and create a cooperative environment. They must be able to cooperate while being professional and ethical.
On these teams, other members may have conflicting agendas or goals. Victim’s advocates must thus have proper negotiation skills and assist coworkers in coming up with a solution.
Victim’s advocates assist with meeting basic needs, obtaining information about the criminal justice process and monitoring the outcomes of cases. They offer mental health counseling and support and provide necessary services for victims.
Becoming a victim’s advocate is a rewarding career. The advocate is the voice for victims and their needs within the criminal justice system. You can work as part of a network that can communicate with each other and work together to help victims through their struggles.
Becoming a victim’s advocate is a rewarding career. When you graduate from an online criminology program, you can make a difference in someone’s life.