OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Integrating Crime Victims' Issues into College and University Curricula
Alison Cares, Mario Gaboury, Linda Williams  -  2013/10/30
How can the crime victim community encourage attorney's to become more knowledgeable of crime victim rights & develop rapid responses to violations of those rights in our law schools?
1.  Alison Cares
 Try finding law school faculty and administrators who see the importance of including crime victims’ issues in law school training. Targeting faculty who teach required courses in the early years. I like to have an informal conversation, such as over lunch, about what they cover and what they see as concepts students need to learn. Then I might work with an attorney to tailor my pitch so I am “speaking the language” of law school as to why and how to include crime victims’ issues. Look for laws or cases that include crime victims’ issues that address other more general concepts in required law classes – if professors can “double dip” they are more likely to incorporate new materials.
2.  Mario Gaboury
 It may be possible to encourage more attorney participation by working through state, county and local bar associations. Some bar associations have established crime victim committees and bar associations often have good relations with law schools in their area. Also finding at least one law faculty member who will champion the cause is extremely important. A good source for other information on this may be the National Crime Victim’s Legal Institute: www.NCVLI.org
3.  Linda Williams
 While I applaud the efforts to go right to the top here it may be that small steps are needed to move this kind of agenda forward... If we include materials on crime victims and victims’ rights in the early stages of an individual's education (in undergraduate classes for example) this may translate later over to their work in law school.
I arrange for Victim Impact Panels and individual victim speakers for my university Criminal Justice classes to help illustrate the reality of crime victimization. However, in recent years, the students don't seem to be affected emotionally when these stories of tragedy are told; the discussions that follow tend to sound clinical and analytic. It's as if they've been desensitized to traumatic injury and sudden death (video games?). Do you have any suggestions for breaking through their insulation so that they can feel at least some of the speaker's pain?
1.  Alison Cares
 I weave in crime victims’ issues in all the courses I teach to help raise awareness among all students. For example in an introduction to criminal justice course, when I talk about the system, we discuss how the actions of the various actors in the system (e.g., law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, probation officers) communicate messages to others that can impact future behavior. I include victims to underscore that if victims feel they are not being listened to or treated well, they may be less likely to report crimes in the future and/or take part in the criminal justice process, which compromises the system’s ability to control crime and mete out appropriate justice.
2.  Linda Williams
 Alison wrote in The UMassLowell guidelines for faculty ---From the start, faculty need to create a classroom environment that is supportive of victims of crime. This involves being respectful, using care in talking about victims of crime, and specifically addressing some of the concerns and issues of crime victims. This approach may be helpful and supportive not just for students who are victims of crime, but also for students who have suffered other trauma, such as returning veterans of war.
3.  Ashley Wellman
 I attempt to relate the issue directly to them. For instance, if I have a sexual assault survivor, I might count off 1 in 3 females and 1 and 5 males and ask them to stand. Then I show them how representative this survivor's story is. I remind them that this could be their brother, their mother, their child, etc. as most of our crimes do not discriminate. Sometimes this helps break through, but unfortunately some students will not understand or connect.
4.  Susan Bragg
 Aside from victim speakers/panels, what other techniques do you use in the classroom to build student awareness of victim issues?
5.  Alison Cares
 For example, we piloted an exercise where students wrote their own victim impact statements, following a structure that is similar to what victims of crime would do. Students were told ahead of time how the assignment would be used in the class and that they did not have to share anything they did not want to – they could write on something that happened to them or a hypothetical situation. The assignment included support resources for those who felt they needed them. The assignments from the students seemed to reflect an increased understanding of how victims feel and the instructors were impressed with the level of discussion the assignment led to.
6.  Alison Cares
 One strategy may be to engage in an empathy building exercise in class sometime before when you have speakers. I would suggest not titling it an empathy building exercise, but that would be its aim. I will also post an example.
7.  Linda Williams
 Indeed we see this often.. on the other hand we also know that some of our students have themselves been traumatized and so this response may be a way of avoiding the pain of their own experiences.
8.  Mario Gaboury
 I have no research to base this suggestion on, but my hope is that identifying victims or survivors who are more like the students (e.g., similar in age or potentially types of circumstances/victimization, such as date rape at college parties) may help them to be more empathetic toward the impact panel. This is just a guess, but it would be an excellent area for future research to improve our effectiveness here?
In your opinion, how would you rank where to start incorporating victims issues into majors?
1.  Alison Cares
 The new materials that will be available via a learning tool on OVC TTAC's website in early 2014 will be helpful here. Many schools now have a first year seminar, which is a good place to try and incorporate a model on crime victims' issues and make students aware that all of them, in their personal and professional lives, encounter victims of crime. And that all of them then have the opportunity to make a difference to help.
2.  Lou
 Dr. Williams you bring up a good point about business,etc and encountering crime victim issues. Along those same lines do you have recommendations for trainings/resources that could be used to help bring awareness to students and possibly employer/employees.
3.  Linda Williams
 Just one additional comment here-- even when a course is not directly about a crime victim issue, victimization issues can come up in class and can also impact student work... so I think everyone should be exposed to this issue (of course including faculty)... because whether students go on to run a business, work as a teacher, even as an engineer or whatever everyone will confront crime victim issues at work, home or in their communities.
4.  Mario Gaboury
 I am not sure if I am understanding the question, but I would look at two factors: (1) the overlap of the major or disciplinary area with the issue of crime victimization or crime victim rights, and (2) where are there faculty members who are interested, or better yet, passionate, about the issue. In general, if you are thinking about majors or disciplines, areas such as criminal justice, justice studies, legal studies, psychology, sociology and human services come up at a high-end of the list. However, if you have interested faculty members in business, political science or history, etc., they may be a great source of inertia to move these notion of incorporating these topics in their courses.
5.  Alison Cares
 This is difficult, as I feel all majors would benefit from some linkage to crime victims’ issues. I would prioritize those majors that produce a high percentage of graduates who will encounter victims in their careers – so criminal justice, victim services, human services, and allied professions. For majors, that would translate to social work, psychology, criminal justice, human services, family studies, public health, and nursing and medicine.
Do you have a plan that should be followed to implement? Also, are there any budgetary concerns that we should be aware of.
1.  Alison Cares
 I do not think there is a particular plan or blueprint. While top level buy in is very helpful, much of this tends to be on the initiative of a few dedicated faculty, often in conjunction with a local agency or a campus women's center. One important piece it to take care that faculty teaching on crime victims' issues are properly equipped to do so. A training is ideal. However, there are also faculty guidelines for this that are available. (See www.uml.edu/vic and select faculty guidelines at the right)
2.  Mario Gaboury
 My experience over twenty years of teaching similar courses is that there are no unusual or very significant budgetary issues other than those that are common to any other curriculum development or course revision project. The only one that comes to mind is the need to sometimes pay for travel expenses or honoraria for some guest speakers, but most often this is not necessary. These are courses where field trips can be useful as well, so those can incur costs. Generally speaking, these are classroom based courses or field work experiences / internships like all others.
3.  Mario Gaboury
 I believe that the Office for Victims of Crime has plans to distribute a comprehensive guide to incorporating crime victims’ issues in college curricula sometime in the foreseeable future. Perhaps you could check back with OVC-TTAC (https://www.ovcttac.gov/) in the near future to inquire about this?
Many universities allow students to choose a variety of "elective" courses to fulfill their requirements. Has tehre been thought on how to pursuade or encourage students to select those classes with a victim focus? Any suggestions?
1.  Alison Cares
 One thing that is encouraging is I think there is a lot of demand for these courses. I've taught courses in family violence, intimate partner violence, and victimology. At the undergraduate level, I have never had a section that did not fill, even in semesters where two sections were offered. Last year our victimology course was so popular that it filled with seniors - there were some seniors who were not able to get in.
2.  Alison Cares
 Some schools require community service or a community service learning component to a class for graduation. In the past, I have had students work with outside community agencies to have an event on campus (for example, last spring we hosted a screening of the documentary Invisible War, which deals with the issues of sexual assault in the U.S. military). This filled a requirement for students and gave them some background in crime victims' issues.
3.  Linda Williams
 I like Alison's suggestion. At UMassLowell our undergraduate child maltreatment class satisfies several gen-ed requirements. It is listed as a cj course but many other majors enroll. And yes, offering it before the sports team students have to leave campus is also a plus. I had 1/2 of the women's softball team and a bunch of basketball players in different years.
4.  Linda Williams
 One possibility is to make students aware (through some of the school programs that Mario mentions in another response) that there are many career opportunities that involve working with crime victims. These include: a victim advocate in a District Attorney’s Office; a victim assistant in a police department; a counselor or advocate in a rape crisis center or domestic violence shelter; a staff member of a state victim assistance program or domestic violence coalition; and, a victim advocate coordinator for a local victim assistance program. We need to make students aware of these career opportunities.
5.  Mario Gaboury
 Also, students who have a positive experience in the course will encourage their peers. Other techniques for promoting the course can be reaching out to student groups to make presentations to them and/or having interesting guest speakers and using these events to announce the course.
6.  Mario Gaboury
 In the first instance, depending on the major, we really need to advocate for at least a basic course in Victimology becoming a requirement whenever possible. I don’t believe that a well rounded program in criminal justice, justice studies, psychology, sociology, human services, legal studies, etc., can occur without this given the importance of the issue. That having been said, this comes down to advising and marketing. If you can convince faculty advisors about the usefulness of the course they will steer students towards it.
7.  Alison Cares
 My dream is for students to take these course because the recognized the importance of crime victims' issues. Many students do, but not all will, so I have some more practical methods to boost enrollment (and therefore, exposure of students to these issues). One strategy is to get an elective course qualified to fill a core general education requirement. A second is to offer the course at times that are attractive to students. For example, on my campus, offering a course on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 is a boost compared to an 8 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday class.
I will be teaching a new course in the Spring called victimization and justice (not too far from you all - at Framingham State in MA). In your experiences teaching victimization and these types of courses, do you have any readings/text suggestions that resonate with students?
1.  Ashley Wellman
 Depending on how you structure your course, victim impact statements and/or supplemental victim impact videos are great, but if you want a novel/biography that touches on direct experiences a few I have found that students really enjoy (while there are a ton of great options) are: *"A stolen life"- The Jaycee Dugard Story (kidnapping, sexual assault, coercion, torture, etc) *"A child called it"- child abuse/neglect *"If I am missing or dead"- A sister's account of the murder of her sister at the hands of her abuser *"Taken"- A sister's account of her missing sister *"Our Guys"- Rape at the hands of popular male athletes
2.  Alison Cares
 Victimology is my favorite course to teach and I have lots of suggestions! I and others have used the memoir Lucky by Alice Sebold to teach about victim issues and sexual assault. It chronicles her experience with sexual assault as a first year college student, so students can somewhat identify with her. I also always include a sampling of victim impact statements, and I make sure to vary what type of victimization the authors experienced. For example, I include some victim impact statements from the trial of Bernie Madoff. Feel free to email me for more details and suggestions.
3.  Linda Williams
 That sounds great! I am sure we can post some suggestions during this hour. I also want to make you aware that you can look for a learning tool for integrating crime victims issues into the university and college curriculum on OVC TTAC's website early in 2014. Of course that is going to be late for your class so standby....
For a university without a criminal justice major, could you offer some guidance or reference material on options for incorporating victims issues into other disciplines (e.g. nursing, psychology, etc.)? Might you start with incorporating one class into an existing course or is it preferable to propose a new course offering? Judy
1.  Mario Gaboury
 You may also find some useful information from the Forensic Nurses Association: http://www.iafn.org/
2.  Linda Williams
 Here is an example of one faculty member who integrated victimization materials into an already existing course on human development. Using a social psychological perspective, she (Janel Leone) illustrated to students how perpetration and victimization of crime, particularly violent crime, differs for men and women. She focused on socialization forces that shape roles as men and women, and the nature of male violence against women.
3.  Linda Williams
 well it is agreed... There are many disciplines that could integrate information on crime victims into the curriculum-- Business; Education; Human Services; Journalism; Law; Management; Military Science; Medicine; Nursing; Physical Therapy; Public Health; Public Policy; Psychology; Social Work; Sociology
4.  Alison Cares
 There are a lot of options and I do not think one is “right” – it depends on the context of your institution and the resources you have available (such as the faculty interested in doing this). One possibility is an elective course in Victimology cross-listed in a number of majors – such as Psychology, Sociology, Social Work, Human Services, Nursing and so on. Another is to create a Victimology 101 type module that would work across multiple disciplines or could be easily tailored by faculty to their discipline. I also want to make you aware that you can look for a learning tool for integrating crime victims’ issues into the university and college curriculum on OVC TTAC's website early in 2014.
5.  Mario Gaboury
 As noted for another question, I believe that the Office for Victims of Crime has plans to distribute a comprehensive guide to incorporating crime victims’ issues in college curricula sometime in the foreseeable future. Perhaps you could check back with OVC-TTAC (https://www.ovcttac.gov/) in the near future to inquire about this? I believe the curriculum guide is designed to be useable by a broad array of majors.
6.  Ashley Wellman
 Nursing could include sensitivity to victim examinations and long-term care of survivors, psychology can examine the psychological impact and therapies that are used with victims, communication majors can explore the portrayal of victims in the media and in news stories, etc. Hope this helps!
My students are often very engaged regardless of gender in my victimology courses, until I approach the intimate partner violence and sexual assault section. Despite presenting this as a gender neutral issue that impacts both males and females as victims, the male students visibly shut off to some extent. I have introduced male survivors who speak, made a point to detail female abusers, male victimization, etc., but I feel socially males feel instantly accused and defensive when this topic comes up. Any ideas? I just served on a panel where I defended male victims, while several other panelists harped on male responsibility to end SA/DV. A tough hurdle to get past so students get the most out of the lesson.
1.  Alison Cares
 There is an extensive literature on bystander intervention for intimate partner violence and sexual assault on college campuses, as well as a lot of good programs out there. You might want to look at the work of Victoria Bayard and colleagues at the University of New Hampshire (their program is Bringing in the Bystander), Sarah McMahon at Rutgers University, Jackson Katz and MVP (Mentors in Violence Prevention) out of Northeastern University, Ann Coker's evaluation of Green Dot at the University of Kentucky, Christine Gidycz at Ohio University, and many more. Feel free to email me if I can help.
2.  Ashley Wellman
 This is so encouraging! I just put in for a grant to create a bystander intervention group of male student popular opinion leaders around campus (fraternities, athletics, etc). Instead of say "men are the problem" like many have heard in their past, a program like this encourages them to respect themselves, their friends and those around them in all situations. I am excited to hear you all say this is a good approach!!!
3.  Alison Cares
 I often talk a lot about relationships in our culture and the norms we have about dating and relationships. Inevitably, the students turn the conversation to the gendered nature of these norms, which is a great way to transition to talking about intimate partner violence and sexual assault. The dating conversation tends to be very lively and gets them talking and usually I find we can keep that momentum up as we talk about violence in intimate relationships.
4.  Alison Cares
 This is indeed an issue that many faculty encounter. It is often complicated by the fact that many victimology courses are not gendered balanced – female students often far outnumber male students, and male students often express that they do not feel uncomfortable speaking about these issues in such an environment. I agree with Mario that offering the topic in a way that highlights what everyone (male or female) can contribute to stopping the problem (often referred to as a bystander approach) engages males more effectively than some other approaches.
5.  Linda Williams
 Alison and I just worked on another project together that took the bystander approach to preventing sexual violence on campus... it is based on the notion that everyone has a role to play in prevention and recognizes that men and women are sensitive to being cast in the role of either victims or offenders. This might be an approach to use here... Thinking and talking about what prosocial bystanders can do and have done in response to sv and dv.
6.  Mario Gaboury
 For example, on our campus we are developing programs with our criminal justice club, which is predominantly male, as well as another initiative organized by male athletes, to address these issues of victimization as well as other issues such as bullying and intolerance. By having real world examples from their own campus with which they can become involved, you can bring concrete examples of how important it is for male students to be part of the solution.
7.  Mario Gaboury
 While I have not noticed this dynamic much in my teaching, perhaps because I am a man speaking about my own gender in these situations, it is certainly a significant concern. One approach that I believe is important is to not only integrate victims’ issues in the classroom, but to incorporate victims’ issues into the college campus community at large. This also provides an opportunity to develop programs where male students can see themselves as part of the solution, rather than focusing on their relative contribution to the problem.
We have received a number of great suggestions and discussion questions and I hope others will post suggestions here after the "live" portion of this webinar is over. So very helpful to all of us working on this issue. I know I want to hear more from you and others.
Return to Discussion