The need for victim advocates is growing because crime is not going away.
When a person or someone they know becomes a victim, they experience a lot
of emotions -- grief, anger and frustration. Victim advocates are there to
help these people through their darkest hours.
They direct victims to the appropriate resources. For example, if a battered
woman leaves her home, a victim advocate can help her find shelter, financial
help and legal advice. They are there to listen, to provide information and
to find answers to victims' questions.
Advocates meet with victims, often at the crime scene. They also accompany
the victims to court. Lori Florin is a victim advocate in Akron, Ohio. "The
court system is very confusing," she says. "You don't want someone going through
the trauma, emotional or physical, on their own."
"I go on the scene and assist law enforcement with that crime," says victim
advocate Taunya Northup. "Any kind of protective orders or warrants, I do
those. I escort them [victims] to court and follow through the entire process."
Advocates promote legislation that supports victim rights. They often spend
time on community awareness projects.
Closure is an important part of a victim's healing process. The advocate
helps gather evidence and keeps the victim informed about the status of their
Florin says to be successful in this field, you must have patience and
be a good listener. You also need to be aware of your own strengths.
"You have to be willing to admit when you're not the best advocate to work
on something. You have to know when something is too overwhelming for you."
She says this means you must be able to work with a team.
"Usually, law enforcement agencies hire advocates," says Gail McNeal-DeVilling.
She is a victim advocate for the sheriff's office in Ocala, Florida.
"By law enforcement, I mean police, sheriff, highway patrol, FBI. The attorney
general's office also has advocates." She says they are usually liaisons between
the attorney general's office and local agencies.
Steve Sullivan is the head of a resource center for crime victims. He says
most police departments have their own advocates.
"There's also the non-government offices that receive government funding."
Victim advocates who are employed by police departments usually work in
shifts. However, even those with an 8-to-5 schedule are available when needed.
"There is no typical schedule," says McNeal-DeVilling. "Availability has
to be 24 hours. Crime and incidents have no timetable. There are victims at
all times of the day and night, and that is seven days a week."
Many people with physical disabilities could do the work. "They have to
endure long, odd hours and inclement weather conditions. They also have to
be able to keep confidential information confidential," says McNeal-DeVilling.
Help people through tough times