Victim Advocacy -- National Center for Victims of Crime
The National Center for Victims of Crime is one of the most respected, most influential national organizations that offer information, services, advocacy and references for victims of crime. This paper covers many of the services that they provide and delves into the ways in which victims can recover from the trauma of having been a victim of a crime. Moreover, this paper goes deeper into the victim issue by referencing the shocking increases recently reported regarding crimes against women -- and the reticence of some elected officials to pass legislation that provides harsh measures against those who attack, rape, and otherwise victimize women.
Why is there a need for victim advocacy groups?
Throughout history there have always been crimes and criminals at one level or another; no data is available to note how far back unkind and vicious acts have been committed against innocent individuals, but it is a given that wrongful behaviors have been part of even the earliest societies -- dating back before recorded history.
But today there are facts, there are data bases, and there is a plethora of evidence that criminals are active and searching for draconian acts to commit against others, notably women. To wit, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that recently there have been "…huge increases in the incidences of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault…" in the United States (HRW).
The crimes against women included an "…alarmingly high rate of sexual violence," HRW reports. And while "…domestic violence is often a hidden crime," the rise in the incidences of domestic violence indicates that more victims are coming forward and asking for help (HRW). This is a perfect example of why organizations like the NCVC are vitally important, because while law enforcement and government agencies do what they can to respond to violence in the home, private, nonprofit groups like NCVC are there to fill in the gaps and to provide additional services beyond the reach of traditional police and government services.
Why do so many crimes go unreported?
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported (in 2012) that about 52% of all violent crimes are not reported each year. In other words, about 3.38 million incidents in which there is a victim (or victims) are not reported to police; of those 3.38 million criminal acts an estimated 211,000 were sexual assaults and aggravated assaults (allgov.com). Why do so many crimes go unreported? Clearly, there are personal issues and situations involved in this dynamic, but when victims are asked why they did not report a criminal act against them, they often say they did not believe law enforcement could help them, and some believed they would get bogged down in a bureaucracy and that would make them feel helpless (allgov.com).
The fact that so many people either do not trust the criminal justice system or believe that the system won't (or can't) help them leads to the logical conclusion: there is a pivotal need for organizations like the National Center for Victims of Crime. The best arguments for the existence of the NCVC is two-fold: there is a need for advocacy and support for victims; and two, many citizens do not turn to law enforcement for the reasons mentioned above. In other words there is a gap that needs to be filled, and the NCVC is one well-respected organization that strives to fill that gap in services.
National Center for Victims of Crime
The Nation Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) is not the only nationally-recognized victim assistance and advocacy group, but it is well-known and provides an astonishingly wide range of services for crimes that vary from real-world stalking to online harassment of teens. The NCVC holds conferences and uses what it calls a "multidisciplinary approach" to sharing practices that have promise for other organizations; it uses conferences as a forum for those in the criminal justice field, for victim service organizations, and for policymakers. In other words, the NCVC wishes to be known as not just a place where a crime victim can obtain information and referrals.
Rather, it actually wishes to be recognized as an organization fully engaged in DNA issues; it offers training, technical assistance, and conducts forums within its "DNA Resource Center" -- to provide support for law enforcement and criminal justice professionals when it comes to rape and other crimes specific to women. The NCVC also has a "Stalking Resource Center," which again provides technical assistance and training for professionals in law enforcement and social service organizations in this area of criminal activity. One key aspect of the NCVC is to help individuals as they respond to the frightening emotions that are present when a person knows someone is stalking them.
When the NCVC offers services such as training forums and hands-on help for victims, it is not providing those services using only volunteers or lay persons trained in counseling. Indeed, the NCVC has attorneys at the ready to step in and provide legal support and advice for victims. The National Crime Victim Bar Association in fact is an affiliate of the NCVC, and after it was founded in 1999 it became the "…nation's first professional association of attorneys and expert witnesses dedicated to helping victims seek justice through the civil system" (NCVC). A crime victim in a small town in Arkansas, for example, with no financial means, can call the NCVC Bar Association and be referred to an attorney who will guide that person through the maze of bureaucratic systems -- and represent that victim during all legal proceedings.
Another program within the NCVC is its "Youth Initiative" -- which provides services protecting the rights of young victims of crime. The Youth Initiative program partners with local, state, and Tribal organizations -- and federal agencies -- to "...increase young victim's access to critical services," according to the NCVC website.
How did the NCVC get started -- who are its leaders?
The NCVC was originally launched as the Sunny Von Bulow National Victim Advocacy Center; Ala Isham and Alexander Auersperg were motivated when their mother became a victim, and by the family's "…traumatic experience with the criminal justice system" (NCVC). It seemed terribly wrong to the family that after becoming a victim of a crime, that person often experiences being "revictimized" by the system that was designed to help them.
Today, the Executive Director of the NCVC is Mai Fernandez, who has held that position since 2010. She has tallied 25 years of work within the criminal justice system -- including work in the nonprofit policy and advocacy areas -- and has specialized in advocacy work with victims of child abuse, sex trafficking, and gang violence. Fernandez has also served as Assistant District Attorney for New York County, during which she has also developed policy within the U.S. Department of Justice, the Office of Justice Programs, and has been a Congressional aide to U.S. Representative Mickey Leland and Jim Florio.
What specific services does the NCVC provide for young people?
One area that the NCVC emphasizes is advocacy and support for victims of bullying and stalking. The NCVC website asserts that many criminals who stalk others use technology to carry out their evil deeds. The NCVC lays out the specific ways in which a stalker can zero in on a potential victim, including through the use of "spyware software."
The stalker sends an email that looks legitimate enough so that the victim opens the email; once the spyware is lodged into the victim's computer, it is able to steal passwords, it is able to locate all the websites that the victim has visited, and can access the emails sent and received by the victim. Hence, part of the training that NCVC offers to local law enforcement and advocacy groups is to teach young people about the danger of opening an email that is in any way suspicious. The stalker attack mode is to harass and threaten the victim through emails, phone calls, and since the stalker knows where the victim goes to school and where the victim hangs out with friends, the follow up to spyware can be terrifying for the victim.
As for bullying, it can occur online or in person, and when it reaches the point of physical and psychological harassment, it moves into the criminal arena. The NCVC is an ideal answer for a teenage girl, for example, who doesn't feel comfortable telling her parents or the school that she is being harassed and bullied. She can contact the NCVC hotline and get help.
The NCVC isn't the only victim advocacy group
Certainly there are a number of existing advocacy groups in the United States, including the federal government's Office for Victims of Crime (OVC). The new director of the OVC is Susan Carbon, who, when interviewed by a journalist with Forbes, said the lives of "…too many women" have been negatively impacted by "…crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking" (Kanani, 2012).…