The Victim Advocate works with the victim and family from the initial charge through sentencing. This includes meeting with them prior to any interviews, hearings and court proceedings. The Victim Advocate provides emotional support, assists in gathering information, and answers questions about the legal process.
Local Victim Advocacy offices have the responsibility of providing integrated and coordinated services to victims of violent crimes. They are often a service of the District Attorney's office. Victim Advocates provide free and confidential services to victims and inform them of their rights according to the laws in the state of residence. See Victim Rights page. Victim Advocates recognize the impact that the crime has on the victims. They offer information, advocacy, and support, especially in the criminal justice system processes. Victim Advocacy services include:
- Acting as liaisons between victims and justice system departments and personnel.
- Advocating for victims' needs and preferences within the system.
- Helping victims choose among options available to them.
- Helping victims locate resources and assistance.
- Seeking to remove all potential barriers to victims receiving services.
- Supporting victims in their role in the criminal justice process.
- Working to be sure that victims are treated fairly and respectfully.
Specific ways that Victim Advocates help you:
- Listen to you.
- Provide crisis counseling, emotional support, and guidance.
- Inform you of your rights.
- Explain how the court process works.
- Find information for you about what is happening in your court case.
- Act as a legal advocate.
- Tell you about Crime Victim Compensation and help you fill out forms.
- Inform you of community services available to you.
- Help you recover your property or receive restitution.
- Help you inform your employer if you have to miss work during a trial.
- Provide a secure place for you to wait during court proceedings.
- Assist you with an application for an Order of Protection if you are the victim of domestic violence , sexual assault (including child sexual abuse and incest), or stalking.
- Information and resources.
Victim Advocates may become involved with victims at different stages of the judicial process. Victims may contact Victim Advocates at any time after the police report has been made, including immediately after the crime and prior to or after the charging decision. As Victim Advocates offer victims valuable services, the sooner victims access them, the sooner victims can utilize services and resources and gain additional information about process and rights.
Crime Victims Compensations funds were created to assist innocent victims of crimes with costs incurred as a result of criminal injury. Applicants are eligible for reimbursement of costs related to mental or physical injury sustained as a result of a crime. States differ on creation, management, and limits of these funds. However, Crime Victims Compensations funds can be authorized to pay up to $44,000 per claim in certain states (example: Oregon) for compensable expenses. These may be limited by law to reimbursement of medical and mental health treatment, rehabilitation costs, time loss, funeral expenses, transportation for treatment, and loss of support.
Applications for Victims Compensation funds begin with gathering documentation, investigating, and determining the applicant's eligibility. The Victim Advocate will help with the application process. This process requires time, and funds are not usually available immediately. After claims are approved, the status can remain active until the time limit set by state law has been reached or the maximum award has been utilized. These funds are usually a last pay resource and are not available for medical needs until medical insurance has been utilized. Funds are often available for counseling of parents (mothers) and siblings in cases involving domestic violence and child abuse.
Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) is a network of volunteers serving children in local courts. These are trained community volunteers that speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. Originally begun by a Seattle judge in 1977, the program was so successful that judges across the country began utilizing citizen advocates. In 1990, the U.S. Congress encouraged the expansion of CASA programs with passage of the Victims of Child Abuse Act. CASA volunteers are also known as volunteer guardians ad litem in some jurisdictions and are appointed members of the court. Judges rely on the information these trusted advocates present. Go to National Casa website: CASA.