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Systems-Based Advocates

Systems-based advocates differ from systems advocates in that they work specifically for victims seeking help in their organizations (e.g., juvenile court system, military court system). According to the Center for Sex Offender Management, systems-based advocates "are employed by a criminal or juvenile justice agency, typically a prosecutor's office, but sometimes by a law enforcement, probation, or corrections department, or by a paroling authority or state Attorney General's office. System-based advocates generally serve as the primary contact for victims with that particular criminal justice agency."3

Read on for information about—

Roles and Responsibilities

Systems-based advocates—

  • Provide informational and practical support to victims.
  • Collaborate with community agencies to develop integrated systems of assistance.
  • Increase victims' opportunities to participate in the justice process by working to ensure their voices are heard.
  • Assist victims with safety concerns.
  • Assist victims with referrals for emergency financial assistance.
  • Provide information about policies against victim/witness intimidation.
  • Orient victims to the criminal justice system.
  • Notify victims of court hearings and changes in court schedules.
  • Inform victims about the detention status of defendants.
  • Consider the personal needs of victims (e.g., religious holidays, health requirements, family concerns, work-related challenges, ethnic/cultural issues, accessibility needs) when scheduling appointments.4
  • Provide court support by attending interviews, hearings, or trials with victims.
  • Help to ensure that victims' rights are maintained throughout the justice process.
  • Assist victims with the return of property.
  • Assist victims with victim compensation claims and restitution requests.
  • Provide childcare assistance during hearings and trials.
  • Assist victims with pre-sentence investigation reports and victim impact statements.
  • Inform victims about automated victim notification systems (VINE), if applicable.

Ethical Codes of Conduct

According to the Florida Network of Victim Witness Services, ethical codes of conduct for advocates include the following:5

  • Recognize the interests of the victim as a primary responsibility.
  • Respect and protect the client's civil and legal rights.
  • Respect the client's rights to privacy and confidentiality, subject only to laws or regulations requiring disclosure of information to appropriate other sources. [Systems-based advocates should explain to victims any confidentiality issues that may arise due to their governmental positions.]
  • Accept the client's statement of events as it is told, withholding opinion or judgment, whether or not a suspect offender has been identified, arrested, convicted, or acquitted.
  • Make client referrals to other resources or services only in the client's best interest, avoiding any conflict of interest in the process.
  • Seek or provide appropriate supervision or emotional support when you or a colleague is challenged by a difficult client situation or traumatic event.

Systems-based advocates also should never discriminate against any victim based on age, gender, disability, ethnicity, race, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.

Victim Advocates in Juvenile Court

Victim advocates in juvenile court—

  • Explain the juvenile court process, terminology and procedures, and roles of various court staff to victims.
  • Provide crisis intervention and supportive counseling.
  • Notify victims of hearings and proceedings.
  • Establish safe victim waiting rooms.
  • Assist with orders of restitution.
  • Assist with safety planning.
  • Accompany victims to lineups held in detention facilities and to court hearings.
  • Assist with crime victim compensation.
  • Assist with victim impact statements.
  • Notify victims of case dispositions.

Military-Based Advocates

To ensure that victims of sexual assault are protected, treated with dignity and respect, and provided proper medical and psychological care, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) employs sexual assault response coordinators (SARCs) and victim advocates (VAs).

Civilian and Military Collaboration

Collaboration between civilian and military entities is crucial to effective advocacy. For example, VAs at Nellis Air Force Base collaborate with metropolitan police, the district attorney, health department, and SANE programs off base. In addition, VAs attend volunteer training at the Las Vegas Rape Crisis Center in addition to the required Air Force curriculum. As a direct result of this collaboration, the center started a second support group for victims' friends and families based on a recommendation from Nellis Air Force Base. The partnership has influenced and shaped the direction of community programming and is positioned to meet the needs of potentially 60,000 potential Air Force beneficiaries.

Source: Suzanne Moore and Kristina Heick, Innovations for Program Success, Nellis Air Force Base, 2006.

SARCs serve as the single point of contact at military installations for DoD's integrated sexual assault response. They place particular emphasis on victim support and safety and oversee routine management and followup of cases. In particular, SARCs—

  • Track victim services from initial contact until victims no longer request advocacy support.
  • Provide leadership for VAs assigned to respond to sexual assault.
  • Participate on multidisciplinary case management teams to review the response to sexual assault cases.
  • Inform the commander of sexual assault incidents within 24 hours (without identifying information if it is a restricted report).
  • Develop public awareness campaigns on victims' rights and advocacy services.

According to the SAPR (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response) Reference Guide (from the Commander, Navy Installations Command), VAs can be military personnel, DoD civilian employees, DoD contractors, or volunteers. VAs facilitate service provisions for victims and act as a liaison between civilian agencies and organizations and military programs. VAs also serve as companions to victims during medical, legal, and judicial proceedings. They listen, provide empathy, and offer emotional support.