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Crime Victims - Increased Professionalism

advocates center criminal organizations

Originally, advocates were simply individuals working out of their own personal interest, sometimes through local community organizations. Many were crime victims at one time themselves. For example, female victims of violence have provided counseling for rape and domestic abuse victims at shelters. Early advocates were not connected in any way to the criminal justice system. Eventually, states were able to hire victim advocates through federal funding.

Becky Comeaux and her son, who were separated for twelve years, talk to reporters at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Arlington, Virginia, in 1997. (AP/Wide World Photos)


Advocates became more widely available and integrated into the criminal justice system. During the 1990s, training programs and increased educational opportunities became available for advocates. NOVA provided training programs and began establishing standards for advocates.

At times victims have preferred advocates not officially connected to law enforcement agencies, to avoid pressure to prosecute or testify against their offenders. In addition, advocates who were not hired by law enforcement agencies were less likely to share a victim's personal information with authorities if the victim was against it.

In addition to individual victim advocates, other advocacy groups formed including the National Victim Center, Victim Assistance Legal Organization, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Many of these organizations were established by past victims of crime. Besides providing assistance directly to victims, these advocacy organizations also try to influence state and federal legislatures to emphasize the rights of victims. They also seek tougher penalties for crimes and provide public education programs to better inform the public on injustices in the criminal justice systems.


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