June 9-13, 2014 The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

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United States Law

This focus on the development of law builds upon an almost 4,000-year history of some attention to victims’ rights. American law combined common law, written statutes enacted by a legislative body, and the foundation of the Constitution. From the time of the earliest settlers in this country in the 16th century until early in the 19th century, victims served as police officers and prosecutors (or hired them) and prosecuted crimes done to them in much the same way that they might seek redress in civil courts. The main form of punishment imposed was an order of restitution, just as in common law. The victim often arranged for a posse to capture the thief, paid an attorney to prosecute the case, and may have even paid the expenses for a circuit judge to come to that jurisdiction.
The most significant development in the treatment of crime victims was the establishment of public prosecutors. “The office was first established by statute in Connecticut in 1704, whose example was soon followed by the other colonies. However, it was not until shortly after the Revolution that this office emerged as the predominant method of prosecution” (McDonald, 1976, p. 660). According to one scholar, the “monopoly of criminal prosecution by the district attorney is more the result of a misunderstanding of history than of explicit legislative direction” (Goldstein, 1982, pp. 518-9), in that most statutes at the time authorized the district attorney to prosecute criminal cases but did not explicitly preclude victims or anyone else from prosecuting on their own. Nevertheless, courts subsequently interpreted—or misinterpreted—English precedents, eventually leading to the standard that only district attorneys could conduct criminal prosecutions (Goldstein, 1982).

Between 1850 and the early 1970s, the victim’s central role faded and then was lost. It is difficult to clearly distinguish why this radical change occurred. As with most social processes, it must have been a slow, gradual process. Before the 1850s in America, two major changes may have influenced this decrease in attention to victims’ rights. Government began turning law enforcement and prosecution over to new public servants, in part because the system of private prosecution favored those with means. The general welfare of the community became the focus, breathing new life into the traditional English theory that crime was primarily a wrong against the public and only secondarily against the individual. The fact that the newly created public prosecutors were elected reinforced their self-image as serving the greater good.

In this changeover, restitution was seen as being owed to society, not to the victim, in the form of fines, a principal form of punishment in the years predating the widespread use of prisons. This led to the second major change. In the same period, the mid-19th century Philadelphia Quakers constructed a special kind of jail where convicts were expected to do penance for their wrongs (hence “penitentiaries”). This was the advent of building more and larger penitentiaries as the primary mode of punishing or correcting offenders. If a debt (time more than money) was owed to society, more places were required to pay this debt. Restitution to the victim became an afterthought that was now seen as the purview of the civil court. With fewer stringent guidelines and even fewer resources, victims’ rights languished within the civil court system for almost 125 years.
Starting in the 1970s, the societal view of criminals’ and victims’ rights began changing dramatically and not always on parallel tracks, given the differing kinds of reforms that advocates sought for victims. In 1972, an assistant district attorney in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, published an article in the Notre Dame Law Review that described the “pattern of blindness and neglect” with which witnesses were treated (Ash, 1972, p. 399). The article drew attention to the critical role of crime victims in the criminal justice system and encouraged the development of what was then referred to as “witness appearance-control projects” (Ash, 1972, pp. 411-12).

Victim issues gradually moved back into the mainstream of the criminal justice system and led to the creation of entirely new kinds of social services. The following sections delineate the reasons for these changes and describe the movements that helped precipitate this return to the victims’ rights of the late 1700s and early 1800s.


It was not until the 1800s that women like Susan B. Anthony began to rebel against male domination and abuse. Most known for her zeal in promoting the right for women to vote, Anthony was also creating the first women’s movement in this country by addressing domestic violence, the victimization of prostitutes, and the battle for equal pay for women. She published a newspaper edited by and for women, cautioning workers about sexual harassment while railing against substance abuse and pointing out that women beaten by their intoxicated husbands were its most common victims (Sherr, 1995).

Friends, when we come before you to advocate the Cause popularly termed “Women’s Rights,” we simply ask that woman not be wronged. We ask for her justice and equality—not favor and superiority—the rights and privileges her humanity charters to her equally with man, not arbitrary power and selfish domination. (Sherr, 1995, p. 50)

In 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was formed, followed by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1975, both predating any formal organization to prevent cruelty to women in the United States. In spite of the noble efforts of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and, one generation later, Jane Addams, who founded Hull House in Chicago, not much changed for women in the United States until the first protective shelters for battered women were established 100 years later.

Beginning in the early 1960s and preceding renewed focus on crime victims, four social/political movements set the stage for the crime victims’ movement as it exists today. The first two—the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement—created a cultural environment that, along with the inspiration of President John F. Kennedy’s “New Frontier” idealism, greatly influenced the philosophical, legal, and tactical background of many pioneers of the crime victims’ movement. Two other movements—the women’s movement and the law and order movement—had more direct bearing on the evolution of the crime victims’ movement.

The Civil Rights Movement

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other leaders of the civil rights movement changed this country’s view of civil disobedience, clarifying that all Americans have rights under the U.S. Constitution, and focusing on nonviolent change. Even though this country has had a long history of civil disobedience dating back to the Boston Tea Party and 19th century literary figures like Thoreau and Whitman, this approach diminished as a result of 20th century patriotism engendered by two world wars. Civil disobedience was, therefore, not new in 1963 but reemerged and was applied to a new group: American minorities. The civil rights movement enabled society’s disenfranchised minorities to exert power over American governmental and private institutions and demand equal rights and equal access to society’s opportunities and institutions. This movement helped establish the principles that constitutional rights should apply to all citizens, and that nonviolent methods of advocacy can be productive in changing American society (Karmen, 2004).

The Antiwar Movement

This movement organized to oppose American participation in the war in Vietnam. It pointed to America’s propensity for violence and the influence of the military-industrial complex, as President Dwight D. Eisenhower called it. A key component of this movement was distrust of authority, which continues today. Through its well-orchestrated marches in cities across America, the antiwar movement showed that grassroots politics could influence and even overpower conventional politics. More importantly, the movement raised questions not only about governmental decisionmaking but also about the moral implications of these decisions.

Even more than proponents of the civil rights movement, antiwar proponents used the media, especially television, to publicize their issues and concerns. The women’s movement later used this tool efficiently in publicizing the plight of rape and domestic violence victims. Both of these populist political movements empowered citizens, especially young people, to speak out publicly for what they believed was right. Both served as incubators of grassroots organizations that would awaken groups and organizations concerned with sexual assault, domestic violence, and homicide.

The Women's Movement

A focus on child abuse and neglect led to attention to women as well. This child protection concern initially focused on physicians, social workers, and public-sector personnel. The attention of child advocates and Congress to the work of Dr. C. Henry Kempe, who made his first presentation about the “battered child syndrome” in 1961, led to the creation of the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1974.

Attention to women as a group had diminished after they were given the right to vote by the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Not until the early 1970s did the women’s movement reexamine American family values and traditional male/female roles by spotlighting sexism in bureaucracy (including, very importantly, the criminal justice system) and economic discrepancies between men and women. This perspective and insight have been considered the most significant precursor (“the mother”) of the crime victims’ movement. “The idea that women should organize to combat rape (and domestic violence) was an invention of the women’s movement” (Burgess, 2004, p. 4). The victimization of women and the bureaucratic facilitation of this violence in all areas of society were clarified and politicized. The long overdue recognition that women were entitled to equal social, political, and economic opportunity and power became a national focus.

Susan Brownmiller’s book Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape gave credence to the sexual assault movement. It broadened the understanding of “rape” from a crime against “sexual morality” to one of “physical assault” and called attention to society’s and, in particular, the criminal justice system’s maltreatment of sexual assault victims (Brownmiller, 1975).

A direct result of this increase in women’s power and attention to women’s issues was the formation of rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters in the early 1970s (Burgess, 2004). These community-based grassroots programs were started by rape and domestic violence victims in their own living rooms and basements. The common agenda was to right the wrongs for other victims, but the programs met strong resistance. In one community after another, rape crisis counselors faced countless negative encounters with the criminal justice system and other bureaucracies. Meanwhile, they developed descriptions of “crisis counselors,” as they called themselves. “They began with no role models and became role models for themselves and for other crime victims” (Burgess, 2004). This important manifestation of the women’s movement led to some of its earliest, most publicized political events, such as Take Back the Night and numerous candlelight vigils for women’s rights to facilitate consciousness-raising.

The Law and Order Movement

The law and order movement in 1968 slightly predated the beginning of the crime victims’ movement (often marked at 1972, when the first three official crime victim service agencies were formed), and its alliance with the women’s movement did not develop until 1974. The law and order movement focused on increasing the rights of the common citizen to achieve parity with the rights of the criminal. However, many supporters felt that common citizens could manage their own protection and believed that justice should be accomplished without expanding governmental assistance and monetary support (Karmen, 2004). Law and order supporters believed that criminals should be punished more rigorously; potential victims should be more careful; and victims, once victimized, should be selfsufficient and not dependent on the government for assistance.

The mid-1970s brought the development of victim/witness assistance programs located in prosecutors’ offices. The earliest programs were designed to help victims who were witnesses in criminal cases navigate the criminal court system and to encourage them to cooperate and thereby improve conviction rates. The emotional distress of many victims led some members of the victim/witness staff to offer counseling as part of their job. As they tried to make the road through the justice system smoother, some of them began to see themselves as advocating on behalf of victims as well.

By the early 1980s, a shift developed placing more emphasis on victims’ needs. Programs emerged to respond to the crises of all victims of violence—some in grassroots settings and some in law enforcement agencies. The support for increased offender accountability and a back-to-the-basics constitutional approach produced a new emphasis on restitution and individual rights. The law and order movement has been particularly influential in the later stages of the crime victims’ movement. Its call for participation by victims as a way to protect their own interests was hastened along by new victim activists—including some within the system who were allied to this cause, as were an increasing number of veterans of the law and order movement who broadened their focus from the offender to the victim.

Sometimes in unison, more often in parallel ways, the women’s movement and the law and order movement greatly accelerated the pace and success of the victims’ movement in the 1980s.

The following section outlines and describes six stages of the crime victims’ movement, detailing critical events in its history. This description denotes changes concerning victim involvement and services, service providers’ attitudes, new theoretical concepts, and ongoing legal changes. The changes associated with these stages did not always occur in neat, discrete epochs but evolved out of earlier developments and continued through subsequent stages.

The identification and role of broad movements should not overlook or diminish the contributions of individuals, not necessarily acting in concert with others, to the development of the crime victims’ movement. For example, Margery Fry originated the concept of government-run crime victim compensation programs and invented domestic violence shelters. Also important, was the power of personal stories, such as those of Candy Lightner, John Walsh, and Roberta Roper, in fostering a broader appreciation and support for crime victims’ rights and services.


Stage 1: Response to Crime

In the early 1960s, crime rose steadily in the United States, reaching its highest point in 1981 (Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], 1981). Its effect on American life was evident. In response, the crime victims’ movement mobilized on multiple fronts (Young, 1988).

In 1965, the first crime victims’ compensation program was established by the California legislature. However, the major strides of this period were accomplished not by legislatures but by the energy of volunteers, many of whom were crime victims themselves. In many cases, they had been victimized again due to less-than-adequate assistance and services within the criminal justice system.

In 1972, volunteers founded the first three official victim assistance programs that still exist today:

  • Aid for Victims of Crime, St. Louis, Missouri (now the Crime Victim Advocacy Center of St. Louis).

  • Bay Area Women Against Rape, San Francisco, California.

  • Rape Crisis Center, Washington, DC.

Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, many state and federal commissions were established to study crime and urban riots and their consequences. Following these efforts, the federal government took two significant steps to address the problem: the creation of the first national victimization survey, National Crime Survey, in 1972 (renamed the National Crime Victimization Survey in 1990) and the formation of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) (Young, 1988).

The National Crime Survey gathered crime data from randomly selected individuals and households all across America, an approach that was very different from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR), which compiles only crime statistics reported to law enforcement agencies. The new information made it devastatingly clear that the rates of rape and other violent crimes were much higher than those reported to law enforcement. The National Crime Survey showed that actual crime rates were three or four times higher than the UCR’s published official rates (Bureau of Justice Statistics [BJS], 1998).

LEAA monies were intended to combat victimization by increasing law enforcement funding and establishing the first victim/witness programs across the United States in 1974. Funds were also used to help educate and increase the sensitivity of police officers in dealing with victims.

In 1974, the first battered women’s shelter was established in Denver, Colorado. It was operated by volunteers who used their own funds and a few donations. Their major focus, as in the women’s movement, was to provide victim support using the approach of selfhelp groups. Their goals quickly expanded to target insensitive and unfair treatment of victims by the criminal justice system (Young, 1988), an evolution from helping to advocacy and activism that was occurring in other sectors of the movement.

  • LEAA called together leading victim activists to discuss methods of increasing victim assistance and created some pilot victim/witness programs in 1974.

  • James Rowland, chief probation officer in Fresno, California, developed the first victim impact statement used by the criminal justice system to clearly ascertain and specify a victim’s losses.

  • In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Indianapolis, Indiana, the first law enforcementbased victim assistance programs were established.

In 1975, Frank Carrington’s book The Victims promoted “the proposition that the victim’s current sorry status in the criminal justice system need not be so [italics added] and that something can and must be done to enhance the rights of the victim” (Carrington, 1975). The National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) was founded in 1975.

In 1976, about 100 leaders met at the Second National Victim Assistance Conference in Fresno, California.

During this first stage, mental health providers had limited involvement at the grassroots level. However, practitioners working with victims of sexual assault recognized characteristics common to many victims. In 1974, Ann Burgess coined the term rape trauma syndrome (Burgess and Holstrom, 1974). Although not universally accepted until years later, its initial use during this time would later facilitate better services for victims in both the mental health and criminal justice systems.

By the late 1970s, mental health providers became more aware of victim trauma. Research began to show the efficacy of peer support groups; some research indicated that these groups were often much more helpful than mental health professionals, partly because the professionals had little training in the grieving process and crisis therapy. The Crime Victim’s Book, written by Morton Bard and Dawn Sangrey and first published in 1979, was an early, influential primer on understanding and recognizing victims’ emotional responses to crime victimization.

As specialized service providers gained new insights into victimization, mental health practitioners began to acknowledge their lack of expertise and began to listen to advocates and victims. For example, the description of the “battered woman syndrome,” formulated by Lenore Walker in 1979, provided a theoretical framework for working with victims of domestic violence.

During this period, a number of the pioneers in understanding and treating the mental health problems of crime victims began comparing notes with colleagues treating Vietnam veterans suffering from what seemed to be related aftereffects of trauma.

By the end of this stage, the groundwork was laid from two sources for the development of a full-fledged movement. The women’s movement created grassroots rape counseling and domestic violence programs, and within the criminal justice system through LEAA funding, victim assistance programs were emerging.

Stage 2: Conflict and Unstable Funding

At the outset of this second stage, it appeared that many of the gains of the fledgling victims’ movement might be lost. In 1979, LEAA was defunded by Congress, and thus the first stream of federal support abruptly ended. As is often the case when limited funding is paired with too many needs, communitybased and governmentbased programs began to compete for limited resources (Young, 1988).

Professionalism and training emerged as competing themes, partly to define differing approaches to victim services and partly to propose that their own perspective was most worthy of the dwindling dollars. Despite their common purpose of assisting victims, the contrasting perspectives, purposes, structure, and operation of grassroots victim programs versus criminal justicebased programs increasingly became issues. This was exacerbated by the frequent complaint of grassroots victim advocates that the criminal justice system did not adequately support victims of rape and domestic violence. Even today, some of the residual tension from this grassroots-versus-system perspective remains, as do critiques of both perspectives from those without ties to either camp.

In 1978, sexual assault programs and domestic violence programs created their own national organizations to pursue their specific agendas (Young, 1986). These organizations include the following:

  • National Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCASA).

  • National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).

Believing that change in rape and domestic violence law was not happening quickly enough, these organizations decided not to work within the criminal justice system, which, they felt. was not listening. At the same time, however, they fought successfully for the first round of victims’ rights reforms, namely rape shield laws and a ban on the exemption for marital rape.

During this period, program leaders and administrators debated the strengths and weaknesses of the various programs.

Many movements fail (including some of the precursors of the victims’ movement) because no “second generation” is trained to continue with the original fervor and energy. Fortunately, this was not true for the victims’ movement. In spite of the dissension among the established programs, the system-based programs were proving their worth, and important new grassroots organizations arose. Often led by victims, these new groups directly challenged the indifference of the criminal justice system and the stigmatizing approaches of the mental health system.

Two new grassroots programs grew in response to a void in services to family members of those killed. The cumulative effect was a new infusion of energy into the movement. These two programs were:

  • Parents of Murdered Children (POMC), founded by Robert and Charlotte Hullinger in 1978.

  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), founded by Candy Lightner and Cindi Lamb in 1980.

In 1979, Frank Carrington founded the Crime Victims’ Legal Advocacy Institute, which was renamed the Victims’ Assistance Legal Organization (VALOR) in 1981, to advocate for the legal rights of crime victims. While his main contribution was getting the civil courts to make it easier for victims to get monetary redress, Carrington was also among those seeking reform in the criminal justice system.

On the legislative front, crime victim advocates pressed for reforms, and state legislators enacted laws that increasingly supported victims (NCVC, 1994a), such as the following:

  • In 1977, Oregon passed the first law mandating arrest in domestic violence cases.

  • In 1978, Minnesota enacted legislation to allow warrantless arrest in domestic violence cases, regardless of whether there was a prior protection order.

  • In 1980, Wisconsin enacted the first statutory bill of rights for victims and witnesses of crime, including state funding for county victim/witness assistance programs.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan became the first president to proclaim National Victims’ Rights Week. Later that year, the Attorney General’s Task Force on Violent Crime issued its report. The task force, which included Frank Carrington, recommended that a separate task force be created to consider victims’ issues.

Stage 3: Public Awareness

As the revitalized crime victims’ movement learned better ways to access the news media, public awareness of victims’ issues increased. The 1981 Uniform Crime Reports had clearly shown the increase in victimization, and the movement actively used these new statistics for its cause (FBI, 1981).

In response to the Attorney General’s Task Force recommendation, President Reagan appointed a Task Force on Victims of Crime in 1982. Chaired by Lois Haight Herrington, this task force made 68 recommendations to improve the treatment of crime victims. The recommendations were directed at all segments of the public and private sectors, including the criminal justice system. The report included, for the first time, a recommendation for a constitutional amendment for crime victims’ rights and federal funding for state crime victim compensation and victim/witness assistance programs.

Later that year, Congress passed the Victim and Witness Protection Act. Borrowing from new victims’ rights precepts in state laws, this act provided for witness protection, restitution, and fair treatment for federal victims and witnesses of violent crimes (NCVC, 1994a).

Likewise, changes at the federal level encouraged legislative changes at state levels, including victims’ bills of rights, proposals for training and education, and expansion of existing victim/witness programs. The single greatest legislative event in the victims’ movement to date was the 1984 Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). This act established the Crime Victims Fund to provide funds for local victim assistance programs and state victim compensation as well as services for victims of federal crimes. The fund was made up of money from federal criminal fines, penalties, and bond forfeitures.

The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), created in the Department of Justice in 1983 to implement the 68 recommendations of the President’s Task Force, was designated to administer VOCA, including the distribution of VOCA funds to states for existing victim programs (NCVC, 1994a).

With increased public awareness and high-level political support for victims’ issues, numerous programs were started and laws passed during the 1980s. The greatest increase in victim/witness programs occurred in this third stage. Some highlights of this stage were:

  • National Conference of the Judiciary on Victims of Crime (1983).

  • Missing Children’s Assistance Act, which included the establishment of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by Congress (1984).

  • Attorney General’s Task Force on Family Violence (1984).

  • Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (1984).

  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and NOVA national colloquium, “Aftermath of Crime: A Mental Health Crisis” (1985).

  • National Center for Victims of Crime (formerly Sunny von Bulow National Victim Center) (1985).

  • NOVA Constitutional Amendment Meeting (1986).

  • President’s Child Safety Partnership (1987).

Changes in rape and domestic violence laws during this period helped to influence attitudes in the criminal justice system and local communities. However, grassroots rape counseling and domestic violence advocates felt that citizens were still inclined to view these crimes in morality terms rather than criminal terms (Burgess, 2004).

As the movement spread to bring services to other victims as well as victims of domestic and sexual violence, second-generation grassroots organizations—including the newer ones—feared that increased governmental involvement and new competition for funding of victim programs would lead to dissension as in previous years. These fears were not realized, however. A floor amendment to VOCA in 1984 had mandated that priority be given to victims of child abuse, but this led to complaints from groups representing victims of spousal abuse, sexual assault, and other crimes. And so a fourth priority, for “previously underserved victims of violent crimes,” was later added. In 1988, VOCA was reauthorized, and the OVC was established permanently. Crime victim compensation was expanded to include victims of both domestic violence and drunk driving.

In addition, during this stage, theoretical concepts were put to more practical use in both the criminal justice and mental health systems. The concept of second victimization as originally enunciated by psychiatrist and former New York City police officer Martin Symonds—that victims were often harmed as much by the system’s response as by the crime itself—became generally recognized and accepted. Even dealings with friendly justice professionals could generate acute stress in victims, leading many in prosecutors’ offices to learn the same crisis intervention techniques as were used by colleagues who saw victims much closer to the original trauma.

The various syndromes identified earlier were being discussed within the context of a new diagnosis—posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With the identification of PTSD, a general diagnosis was now developed that did not stigmatize the victim but, rather, clarified and legitimized the victim’s normal response to an abnormal situation. In 1980, this diagnosis was recognized when the description of PTSD was placed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (third edition) of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the authoritative diagnostic tool of mental health professionals.

In addition, better training in trauma and crisis intervention enabled mental health professionals to learn about victims’ issues. Mental health professionals also began to provide better supportive services. Peer support groups began to be seen as a useful adjunct to successful individual therapy.

A major development occurred in 1986 when NOVA was asked to send a team of experienced crisis counselors to help the community of Edmond, Oklahoma, immediately after a mass murder. Tens of thousands of caregivers have been trained in the NOVA model that emerged under the rubric of Community Crisis Response Teams. A similar set of short-term services, called Critical Incident Stress Debriefings, emerged at about the same time, which focused principally on the stresses of first responders in cases of mass violence. Volunteers from both disciplines became the victims’ movement’s special contribution to disaster services.

During this period, the crime victims’ movement came of age, becoming more focused and sophisticated (Andrews, 1992). The first 10 years had been initiated and perpetuated by strong leaders with forthright personalities; however, in this period, an important paradigm shift was taking place. The movement expanded beyond the dynamics of individuallevel politics to grouplevel national politics, resulting in the change into a more formalized profession.

Stage 4: Expanding Legislative Agenda

In the 1900s, three major legislative issues emerged:

  • Victim service funding.

  • Victims’ rights.

  • Law and order concerns.

The growing sophistication of the victims’ movement enabled advocates to exert power and influence on several fronts. Thanks to state networks and coalitions, political efforts during this time became much more organized and presented clearer and more cohesive agendas, such as:

  • Removing the limit on deposits into the Crime Victims Fund for VOCA to provide expanded and more stable funding for state crime victim compensation and victim assistance programs.

  • Expanding victims’ rights through more extensive and effective state legislation.

  • Adopting crime victims’ rights amendments in state constitutions.

Successful results of this agenda at the federal level included the following:

  • As of 1995, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three territories had enacted crime victim compensation programs.

  • As of 1998, 33 states had passed constitutional amendments.

  • The U.S. Congress passed major legislation that addressed hate crimes, campus security, child protection, violence against women, sexual assault, kidnapping, and gun control.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of victim impact statements in capital cases.

  • Currently, all states have passed victims’ rights legislation in the form of a victims’ bill of rights or a series of statutory protections.

This legislative agenda has continued to grow and expand. The recent serious congressional consideration to a federal constitutional victim rights’ amendment exemplifies this. The women’s movement’s rape and domestic law reform agenda has been embraced by both women and men in the lawmaking professions (Burgess, 2004). Activities and issues in this stage continue into the sixth stage.

Stage 5: Emerging Professionalism

One of the most salient issues in recent years has been the emerging professionalism in the field of victim services. As with other grassroots movements, there is some apprehension about professionalizing a communitybased service system that originated and developed its strength through the dedication of volunteers who extended themselves personally to victims in need. Most victim service programs, however, have not diluted their passion and are led by dedicated professionals who have years of experience working with victims in specialized settings while still relying heavily on trained, committed volunteers.

The historical distrust of other professionals who have no specialized training or experience in victim treatment issues has persisted in many areas. Experience has made some of these concerns both legitimate and urgent. However, salary issues, increased availability of training, and a growing interest in program evaluation and quality services have led to significant professionalism in the field.

Victim service providers work in very diverse settings. Advocates typically perform a variety of tasks that require an understanding of social, psychological, and legal principles. In addition:

  • The areas of expertise and the training needed are multidisciplinary in nature.

  • There is a growing recognition that to be accepted by other professionals, certification or some other form of credentialing is necessary.

  • Increased professionalization of this field will potentially create professionallevel salaries for experienced victim advocates and administrative staff.

  • Credentialing by victim groups, with help from allied government agencies to support training called for in the credentialing program, is seen by many as a way to overcome the fear of traditional degree-centered credentials that might be imposed on the field by one of the licensed professions. The trend toward credentialing by advocates’ groups and their allies in government has been hastened by (unsuccessful) proposals in a few states that only members of a licensed mental health profession should be allowed to perform certain counseling services.

The changes in this area have often been small but significant and growing. By the early 21st century, a dozen or more states have established their own credentialing systems, with the required educational units designed and taught mostly by peers. (States with such systems include Ohio, Florida, California, Connecticut, Kansas, and South Carolina.)

In 1987, the NOVA Board of Directors adopted a Code of Professional Ethics for Victim Service Providers, which covers practitioners’ relationship with clients, colleagues, other professionals, and the public. Using NOVA’s Code as a template, MADD developed a Code of Ethics for its victim advocates in 1988.

Academic programs were offered in increasing numbers during the 1990s. California State University (CSU), Fresno developed the first academic program in victim services/victimology in the United States. By the summer of 1989, CSU, Fresno had started the first Victim Services Summer Institute to make its certificate program available to professionals in other states. By 1990, the number of graduates from this program had more than tripled. Finally, by 1991, CSU, Fresno developed the first victimology major in the nation and then began developing the first doctorate in 1996 (NCVC, 1994a).

Eight states have established clinics to offer free legal services for victims seeking to enforce their rights. Nurturing this development is the National Crime Victims Law Institute, founded in 2000 at Lewis and Clark Law School in Oregon, which also fosters teaching courses on victims’ rights in law schools around the country.

Academic credit and the development of more degree programs will continue to be important for the next phases of the crime victims’ movement. Some victimology programs have developed legal advocacy components in addition to their training, technical assistance, and educational activities, such as the Center for the Study of Crime Victims’ Rights, Remedies, and Resources of the University of New Haven in Connecticut. This program, part of the School of Public Safety and Professional Studies, provides amicus briefs in selected appellate cases dealing with victims’ rights issues.

Based on the template for performance ethnics and standards developed by the National Victim Assistance Standards Consortium, the next potential step could be the development of curriculum standards for education at the national and state levels. The National Victim Assistance Academy (NVAA) curriculum was created to offer this opportunity. The original NVAA began in 1995 by offering a 45hour core course of work in victim services that could be taken for academic credit. It formed the basis for the first statelevel academy in Michigan in 1998. Then, OVC initiated a multiyear funding strategy for the development of state victim assistance academies in 1999. As of 2006, state victim assistance academies have been offered or are in the process of development in 30 states, most which have received OVC financial support and technical assistance.

A sign of the growing recognition of the need to enhance the professional status of victim service providers was the creation in 2003 of the National Advocate Credentialing Program (NACP) by a consortium of national victim organizations. By 2006, more than 500 victim service providers have received NACP credentials based on their experience and training.

In 1996, the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1800799SAFE) was established to provide crisis intervention information and assistance to victims of domestic violence.

OVC launched a number of international crime victim initiatives in 1996, including working to foster worldwide implementation of a United Nations declaration on victims’ rights and initiatives to better assist Americans victimized abroad.

In 1997, OVC representatives joined the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations Commission on Criminal Justice and Crime Prevention. OVC played a leadership role in the development of an International Victim Assistance Training Manual to implement the United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power.

In 1997, the National Center for Victims of Crime (formerly National Victim Center) used its extensive legislative database to create the Legislative Sourcebook, a comprehensive compendium of victims’ rights laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In 1998, New Directions from the Field: Victims’ Rights and Services for the 21st Century was released to the field by OVC. The report was developed with support from OVC and input from more than 1,000 individuals across the nation. It assessed the nation’s progress in meeting the recommendations set forth in the Final Report of the 1982 President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime and issued more than 250 new recommendations from the field for the next millennium. OVC disseminated the 1998 report widely to many programs across the nation.

Stage 6: Advancing Advocacy

During this stage, additional significant developments have occurred on the national and state levels with respect to victims’ rights constitutional amendments, legislation, expanded VOCA funding, and creation of national programs affecting crime victims.

U.S. Victims’ Rights Constitutional Amendments

In the spring of 1996, bipartisan federal victims’ rights constitutional amendments were introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. The amendment was reintroduced in the Senate in January 1997, but no formal action was taken. Hearings on the amendment were then held in Congress in 1996, 1997, and 1998. In 2004, after being unable to break a potential filibuster on their proposal, Senators Jon Kyl and Dianne Feinstein crafted—and Congress passed—a federal statute modeled on their proposed amendment that allowed the general rights of restitution, notification, allocution, and protection with specific measures to enforce its provisions. Additionally, by 1998, a total of 33 states had adopted crime victims’ rights constitutional amendments. Currently, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Exhibit II-1

States’ Passage of Victims’ Rights Constitutional Amendments


Year Passed

Electoral Support

AllddtA Alaska l

Alaba Alaska ma

























































New Mexico



New Jersey



North Carolina










1996 (overturned 1998)


Rhode Island


passed by Const. Convention

South Carolina





















33 States


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