After a devastating event, the last thing anyone wants is to be alone. That’s where crime victim advocates come into play. Crime victim advocates are professionals who support victims of a crime as they face the emotional, financial, medical, and legal effects of the crime. Advocates work to support the victim as they deal with these challenges by providing them with emotional support, professional advice, helpful resources, and referrals to other professionals. Advocates also ensure that the victim does not feel overwhelmed by the criminal justice system; they help navigate the victim and aid them with any issues that may occur along the way. Advocates often work for law enforcement, lawyers, courts, or private organizations, all of which have the same goal of helping those who were victimized. So, what makes a good crime victim advocate?
A good crime victim advocate is an individual with strong interpersonal skills. They must have a strong sense of empathy and compassion since they deal with people who faced a traumatic event and need emotional support more often than not. The best crime victim advocates will seek to understand what happened from the victim’s point of view, using their perspective to determine the best support method. To do this, advocates must have excellent listening skills and be willing to put all of their biases aside. Individuals who are caring and have a big heart often make the best victim advocates as they readily put themselves in other’s shoes and are willing to do everything in their power to help those who are suffering. If you believe that’s you, you might be well equipped for a career in crime victim advocacy. Lead a fulfilling career path by improving the lives of those who are often at their lowest points.
Are you interested in making a career out of crime victim advocacy? Do you know someone who works as a crime victim advocate and want to learn more about their job? Or maybe you saw a crime victim advocate portrayed on a TV show or in a movie?
Whatever the case is, keep reading to find out what makes a good crime victim advocate.
Why Do We Need Crime Victim Advocates?
The work of victim advocates is essential in ensuring that a victim is supported after the commission of a crime. They work as a support system for the victim by providing them with victims’ rights information, emotional support, assistance in filling out legal forms, and recovery resources. Advocates accompany victims and their families through the criminal justice proceedings, offering their expertise to the most likely overwhelmed and confused victim.
Victim advocacy hasn’t always been a profession in the criminal justice system. In fact, it’s relatively new compared to the other services in the system. The criminology field focused primarily on the criminal: why crimes are committed, where they’re committed, who commits them, how do we stop them, and how we punish those who commit them. Although law enforcement personnel at the time were likely sympathetic for the victim, ensuring that they had the support they needed was not where the police’s focus was.
Sociologists began to take an interest in the study of victims after World War II, and thus a new branch of criminology was born. Victimology, the study of a crime’s impact on victims, seeks to uncover why certain people are targeted by criminals and how being the victim of a crime affects someone. As the study of victimology developed, sociologists discovered that many victims felt law enforcement wasn’t giving them adequate support.
In the 1970s and 1980s, crime victim advocacy programs were created with the hopes of providing victims with the support they needed. Victim advocacy programs had the goal of helping victims cope with the aftermath and trauma following the event of a crime. Today, these programs are a vital sector of the criminal justice system, serving as the liaison between the victim and other criminal justice professionals.
Where Do They Typically Work?
Victim advocates are employed by nearly every sector of the criminal justice system. They can work for law enforcement agencies, attorney offices, and courts. Typically, advocates perform work duties outside of the office. They often travel to victims’ houses, hospitals, courts, police stations, and even crime scenes. They go where ever the victim is most accessible to provide them with the support that they need.
There are also Victim Advocacy Agencies that privately employ victim advocates, such as the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) and the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA). Agencies like NCVC and NOVA aim to help crime victims rebuild the lives they once had before. These agencies provide victims with toll-free support lines, helpful resources, referrals, and advocacy in legal proceedings. Most advocacy agencies are non-profit and run by compassionate individuals who desire to help victims cope with the trauma they went through and guide them through criminal justice proceedings.
How Much Education and Training are Needed?
The educational requirement for a victim advocate varies depending on the state and agency. Typically, aspiring advocates should earn a bachelor’s degree at the minimum. Many crime victim advocates hold degrees in criminal justice, criminology, psychology, and social work. Although many agencies accept individuals with bachelor’s degrees, many agencies and departments prefer a Master’s Degree in a related field.
Many agencies require that advocates have prior experience in counseling, social work, or another advocacy position. Advocates can get this experience from volunteering at shelters or non-profit human services organizations. They can also use previous employment experience in social work, counseling, education, or law enforcement.
If an advocate wants to obtain certification, they can do so through the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA). Although it is not required, it allows advocates to advance their careers. To get certified through NOVA, advocates must complete 40 hours of training and continuing education courses. If an advocate wants to take their credentials a step further, they can pursue advanced credentials and training in three specializations (homicide, sexual assault, or campus advocacy).
What’s the Earning Potential of a Victim Advocate?
An advocate’s salary depends on the agency they work for, their location, years of experience, education level, and certifications. If an advocate hopes to earn a higher than average salary, it’s in their best interest to obtain a master’s degree rather than a bachelor’s as well as NOVA certification.
According to ZipRecruiter, the national average income of crime victim advocates is $40,351. The bottom 10% earn anywhere from $20,000-$27,499 while the top 10% earns anywhere from $50,000-$100,000. The field has a great amount of fluctuation in salaries, making it difficult to predict one’s income. Generally, the professionals with higher education and experience levels will fall into the top 10% of salaries, while those just beginning their careers may fall into the bottom 10%.
Who Would Make a Good Advocate?
Those who strive to have successful careers as crime victim advocates should possess a few important qualities. Most of the qualities that help in this career are skills that guide interpersonal relationships. Building a strong relationship with a victim is the key to an advocate’s success, as it allows them to provide the most effective support.
Qualities Crime Victim Advocates Should Have:
- Good Communicator
- Empathetic and Compassionate
Crime victim advocates often deal with people during the hardest time of their lives. They must be understanding of this and be ready to show their compassion through hard-work. Advocates must thoroughly understand what the victim went through to provide them with the best support possible. The work advocates do is not suited for everyone. They must have a big heart and be ready to give their all to aid the victim.
Victim advocacy is an essential branch of the criminal justice system as it ensures that victims of a crime have someone to turn when dealing with the aftermath of the situation. No one should have to go through seeking justice and rebuilding their lives by themselves, and crime victim advocates are there to make sure that isn’t the case. The support they provide for victims takes some of the weight off the victim’s shoulder by ensuring that they don’t become overwhelmed trying to navigate an unfamiliar process by themselves. If you are a person who is driven to help others, takes in interest in the criminal justice field, and has a strong sense of compassion and justice you should consider going into crime victim advocacy.
- Types of Jobs You Can Get With a Criminal Justice Degree
- Types of Victimology
- Theories of Victimology
- Criminal Psychology vs. Criminology
- What is Criminology All About?
Kaila Ohsowski was born and raised right outside of Detroit, Michigan, as a young adult she decided to move to Chicago to pursue an education. She is now a student at Loyola University Chicago studying Pre-Law and Criminal Justice. She even received the Dean’s Scholarship upon entrance into Loyola for her outstanding academic performance. As an aspiring criminal defense attorney, she hopes to help those who are wrongfully accused within the criminal justice system. Kaila has always been an outstanding writer and has received praise for her writing skills from many of her instructors. In her free time, she loves to unwind with friends and family, and listen to music.