Victim Services

V. Diversity of Services for the Diverse Population of Violent Crime Victims

Social services, victim programs, and crisis centers were largely devised to deal with female victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault and as such may not reflect the needs of all crime victims nor accommodate the types of coping strategies typical of male victims (see Wallace, 1998). Yet, over the last 40 years there has been increased public attention to the diversity of victims of crime, and this has translated into a number of services to attend to the needs of this population.

In the early part of 2000, the federal and state governments directed an initiative to attend to previously underserved victims of crime. Victim assistance programs received increased funding and began to direct resources to victims of elder abuse, child exploitation, child witnesses to domestic violence, cybercrime, hate crime, and stalking. Attention has also been directed to tailoring programs to previously underserved populations including immigrants, visible minorities, and rural and disabled victims. This includes improving programs to be more culturally relevant to the populations they serve, physically accessible, and in close geographic proximity to the victims of crime.

An example of the recognition of the diversity of victimization includes the legislation, advocacy, and services for the victims of hate/bias crimes, which have been important milestones within the evolution of victim services. The Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 and the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act are notable in that they laid out the definition of bias crimes and extended federal law to allow state and local authorities to take advantage of federal investigative resources and personnel in bringing cases based on state law. Yet, it has been the advocacy of local service agencies that has most often assisted victims of crime motivated by bias, which less often comes to the attention of law enforcement. Since the late 1980s, local community organizations have run 24-hour crisis lines and have offered victims referrals to attorneys, counselors, and therapists. These agencies have also served as court advocates for victims who press criminal charges. Prevention and education are also at the forefront of victim services within the hate crime arena. Some of these projects include training residents how to protect themselves from the risk of violence and providing training for local law enforcement on how to respond to hate crime incidents.

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