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Crime Victims - Victim Advocates

criminal justice help assist

As support for victim rights grew, the role of victim advocates rose in criminal justice systems. Use of victim advocates first began in the 1970s in rape and domestic abuse cases. Advocates are trained to assist with the physical, emotional, and psychological trauma of victims and their families. An advocate advises victims of their rights in the criminal justice process, counsels them during the investigation, prepares them for trial, refers them to social services if needed, acts as a contact for state and local agencies, and provides personal support.

Police will often call an advocate to the scene of a crime, particularly in cases involving sexual assault and domestic abuse. How much a victim participates in the criminal justice process is often influenced by the speed and responsiveness of the police and the amount of sensitivity shown. With advocates assisting the victims and their families, law enforcement and prosecutors can focus on catching criminals and putting them on trial. Advocates establish a relationship of trust with victims and eventually help them return to normal lives.

Advocates assist victims in completing application forms for state compensation programs or to obtain restraining orders to keep abusers away. Advocates can also help victims replace lost documents, provide emergency food, clothing, and cash, temporary housing when needed, and improve security of a home or assist in relocating to another area. The advocate can also help with landlords, doctors, and bosses, as well as retrieve personal property from authorities when it is no longer needed for evidence.


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