Responding to Victims of Crime
Timothy Woods  -  2008/5/14
Tim, Please speak about best practices regarding follow up contact with victims of crime; what do other agencies provide, what types of contacts are made as follow up to the initial victim contact?
1.  T. Woods
 Try to find a receptive officer to approach other officers with you. Also, let officers know that you are not there to tell them how to do their jobs but to assist them to make their jobs easier.
2.  Becky
 How do you approach law enforcement agencies to suggest this so they don't get defensive about doing their job?
3.  T Woods
 A best practice in providing follow-up contact to crime victims may begin with intra-agency coordination and continuity between the initial and follow-up contacts. A law enforcement agency-based victim services unit is the best way to ensure this (rather than an agencys reliance on the District Attorneys VictimWitness staff, who probably are not the initial responders). During the initial contact with victims, the officer provides information regarding victim rights and specifically addresses follow up contact by staff from the agencys victim services unit, including how the victim would prefer to be contacted. The officer and unit staff thereby not only provide continuity between the initial and follow-up contacts and respect the victims preferred method of follow up but, in addition, from the outset of the crimevictimization, the unit staff is in communication with the officer to keep the victim informed and better served during the officers investigation of the crime.Incidentally, the National Sheriffs Association, in partnership with Justice Solutions, is nearing the completion of a demonstration grant from the Office for Victims of Crime that provided funding and technical assistance for 10 rural law enforcement agencies to establish or enhance a victim services unit within their agencies. Based on lessons learned from the demonstration grant, NSA and JS are now providing free onsite technical assistance to rural Sheriffs Offices and Police Departments interested in establishing or enhancing a victim services unit. For more information, send an email to Also, an OVC Bulletin on the project is in development.
Victims may react differently to one trauma than another (i.e. a sexual assault victim vs a robbery victim). Do you offer suggestions on, or does First Response to Victims of Crime address, how to assist victims of particular crimes or is the information general enough that it may be applied in most situations?
1.  T Woods
 The First Response guidebook has a Basic Guidelines section on responding to crime victims in general. It also has sections on responding to victims of specific types of crimes, such as sexual assault, drunk driving crashes, human trafficking, domestic violence, etc. And, there are sections on responding to crime victims from specific populations, such as children, older persons, immigrants, persons with specific disabilities, etc.
Would you consider First Response to Victims of Crime a good training tool for police officers? Are you aware of any in-person trainings?
1.  T Woods
 The First Response to Victims of Crime video - in content and format - was produced and specifically designed as a roll call training tool for presentation to front-line deputies and officers. The entire video is only about 30 minutes in length and each topical segment is under 5 minutes. Similarly, each section of the reader-friendly companion guidebook is between 3-8 pages in length. Contact the Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center at or 1-866-682-8822 to learn about training opportunities. Also, for conferences and other trainings, see Upcoming Events at or call 1-800-851-3420.
Unfortunately, I'm beginning to see more victimizations of people with mental retardation. What is one of the most important "rules" that I can pass along to other first responders, like myself, who encounter a victim with mental retardation?
1.  T Woods
 A simple rule for first responders is to show the same level of respect to crime victims with mental retardation that they show to all victims. For guidelines, see the subsection on Victims with Mental Retardation in the Victims Who Have a Disability section in First Response to Victims of Crime,
As a Victim advocate,what would your initial approach be to an injured/traumatized Victim in an office setting? This victim was just discharged from the hospital.
1.  Blanca Cornejo
 ask client if the office door can be open or closed it depends client situation of trauma many of victims would like to have the door open. As always having friendly conversation. Trying to gain client confidence so client can open up and to be able to shared her situation or feel free to ask for services. It is important for client to feel comfortable and safe in order to be able to understand the information you are about to provide.
2.  T Woods
 An employer/co-worker should respect a victims rightwish for privacy and try not to unintentionally re-victimize the victim. They will, of course, want to express their concern for the individual and ask how they can help. They should follow the victims lead in their conversations. They can also ask if the victim has received a list of local victim service providers and, if not, assist the victim in obtaining a list of appropriate providers. An employer should be mindful that the victim may have continuing physical and emotional needs that may affect their work performance. Finally, victims may have medical and court appointments that require accommodations in their work schedule.
My question is specific to victims of crime with disabilities. I would like to know why there cannot be a demographic added to Incident Crime Reports that officers complete in the field to indicate a victim of a crime has a disability? This data is essential to meet the needs of crime victims that have disabilities, especially since it is known that they are mostly likely to be more vulnerable.
1.  Laana
 you can access the FBI's Uniform Crime Report at:
2.  Laana
 Much of the information collected in incident reports is not only for investigative purposes but sometimes includes information needed for other reporting i.e., to funding sources or state and federal data. When a department has STOPVAWA funding, for instance, a victim's disability is reported, but that would apply to crimes of sexual or domestic voilence. A victim's disability status can in some crimes be an aggravating factor in the charging and sentencing of the crime. I'm not sure if it is a statistical aspect of the Uniform Crime Report. I like the suggestion Mr. Woods made, approaching the matter at a state (or even municipal) level. Often times a promising practice in one location, inspires others to follow suit.
3.  Peggy Owens
 I am interested in this, too. It is difficult to get actual data. Mostly what I have been able to find is the probability of being the victim of a crime, but not the actual statistics.
4.  T. Woods
 I am not sure who determines what data is included in the Incident Crime Reports. You may want to contact your State agency that compiles the ICR and recommend that this agency request data on disabilities be collected.
I apologize if this is too specific of a question, but I was reviewing the Guidebook, and in the section about sexual assault, you mention SANE programs. Is there an electronic list, or an organization we can call, to obtain a list of hospitals where these SANE programs exist?
1.  T. Woods
 You may want to try your State Domestic and Sexual Violence Coalition. Also, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center at, and the International Association of Forensic Nurses at Finally, visit this Web site, http:www.sane-sart.comstaticpagesindex.php?page20031023141144274
How do we identify if a victim has a mental illness so that an officer can respond appropriately?
1.  T. Woods
 In the First Response guidebook, p. 22, there is a list of symptoms indicataive that a victim may have a mental illness.
As a first responder, our job is sometimes made more difficult by media arriving on the scene at the same time. Are there other tips we can use to best serve the victim who may have already been approached by the media?
1.  T. Woods
 In the immediate aftermath of a crime, victims may feel that they have to speak to the media at that time. You can let the victims know that they can take their time in deciding if and when they want to speak to the media. Many victim service agencies will be able to assist crime victims in preparaing to speak to the media, especially in high profile cases. Furthermore, limit intrusions into victim's privacy by the news media but facilitate communication and provide security for those victims who want to speak with the media. Advise victims that they are free to end an interview with the media representatives at any any time and for any reason, and provide for their quick and safe escort away from the interview site.
Besides Parents of Murdered Children and Compassionate Friends are there any other organizations in the US specifically for families of victims of domestic violence homicides. If so, where are they. I am the coordinator for the Living On program in ND and would like to visit with other programs.
1.  T. Woods
 I don't know of any support groups specifically for domestic violence homicides. I would suggest contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE or the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence at 800-537-2238 or for referrals.
Tim, Do you have any experience working with Military installations. I am a victim advocate at a military base and find it hard to speak with victims of domestic violence and sexual assaults when responding and following up with them.
1.  T. Woods
 I have no experience working with military installations. However, the Navy created the Sexual Assault Victim Intervention (SAVI) program which offers prevention education, victim intervention services, and comprehensive victim advocate and command point of contact training. The intervention portion of the program is designed to support victims and their families as they deal with the many issues following sexual assault trauma.
2.  forensicnurse
 The difficulty with the military is that they do not follow the established protocal for SART, they have advocates (Social Workers) in charge of SART and examinations. Not only is this a conflict of interest for advocates but it does not follow the model established nationally for SART. Typically, military use NP (Nurse Practitioners) for examinations - again a deviance from the SART model or standards.
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