Victims of crime often experience varying degrees of emotional trauma, which can be magnified throughout litigation and court proceedings. A victim advocate works closely with victims of crime by providing support in a number of ways. Victim advocates may serve as volunteers within the court system or with social service agencies. Their services are kept confidential, particularly as they pertain to the legal process.
Victim Advocate Definition
Services provided by victim advocates may include making referrals to agencies and support groups, providing assistance with filing claims, communicating the legal process and accompanying the victim to court. Beyond court proceedings, the victim advocate may also maintain contact with the victim, particularly when the inmate is eligible for parole or release or when the inmate has been moved to another facility.
Victim Advocate's Role
A victim advocate's primary role is to serve as a liaison between the victim and the numerous personnel within the court system. The victim's interests are a priority for the victim advocate, who also helps the victim make appropriate decisions. A victim advocate who works for a State's Attorney, for example, may help obtain victims' statements and documentation such as medical releases to help prepare for prosecution. The victim advocate who works for the State's Attorney may also recruit and manage a list of expert witnesses for future trials.
Communication Skills for Victim Advocate
As the link between the victim and the court system, the victim advocate plays a vital role in communicating the types of services that may benefit the victim and how to seek restitution. Throughout the proceedings, the advocate also helps ensure the victim is made comfortable and safe.
Specialized Services by Victim Advocate
In some jurisdictions, the local or county government may provide a special division dedicated to assisting victims of crime. Within these departments, advocates may serve particular populations, such as victims of rape or domestic violence, or crime witnesses.
Victim Advocate Education
Organizations may require specific qualifications, but generally a victim advocate holds a bachelor's degree in either social work or another field related to criminal justice or the behavioral sciences. Relevant experience, such as volunteering with crime victims or providing counseling services, is often also required.
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