National Crime Victims Rights Week is April 24-30. Most Americans are victimized by crime.
We examine a survey of 711 crime survivors in California; the stories are the same in any state.
The trauma and tears of crime victims stay with me. The images and memories don’t go away.
Welcome to National Victims’ Rights Week.
Every victim of crime remembers their event. It doesn’t matter if it was fraud or graffiti or theft or violent victimization, it stays with them for the rest of their lives. Many incidents produce trauma that does not go away.
Most Americans are victimized by crime, if you include fraud. It’s a shared national concern.
Violence and fear of crime are increasing rapidly.
I was the senior specialist for crime prevention with the US Department of Justice’s clearinghouse, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. I was also the director of information services for the National Crime Prevention Council. Part of my portfolio was victims of crime.
From my time in law enforcement, I understood that criminal victimization was profoundly impactful. We live in a society where we shamefully and routinely dismiss crime victims and their trauma. Victimization is so common that we have lost our ability to understand and process what victims go through.
A woman and her children suffered a burglary. It was my investigation. They were profoundly scared that the offender would return. She asked that I and other officers stop by the house nightly. Walking in one evening, I found them crying from fear. She said that if it wasn’t for my diligence, she could no longer live in her house, and she could not afford to move. Yet others told her that “it’s just a burglary,” and she should move on.
So when we discuss numbers and types of crimes, it’s hard to maintain my composure when people state that “it’s just a property crime” or it’s just a robbery.” The same applies to organizations insisting that violence hasn’t increased or that the rates today are lower than in past decades. It’s like telling a rape victim that she shouldn’t feel so bad, the current stats are lower than in 2005.
I’ve seen bicycle theft victims move after the third time. I witnessed violent crime victims go through immense personal trauma. There may be legal arguments regarding bail reform, but can you imagine the impact of seeing a person’s victimizer hours after the crime walking past your house and staring in your window?
Crime literally destroys lives. Instances of PTSD by seeing interpersonal violence or being victimized affect children forever. They are often accompanied by brain injuries and child abuse. To suggest that crime negatively impacts cities and neighborhoods to the point where employers leave and economic development stalls is an understatement.
Survivor Stories (selected-edited quotes from all sources)
The following comes from “Survivor Stories,” a survey of 711 crime survivors in California:
Countless individuals will become victims of crime and violence in their lifetime. The impact of victimization can last weeks, months, and years after the incident. Those impacts, if untreated, can have implications that extend well beyond the individual themselves, as untreated trauma can be turned inward or outward: hurt people often hurt other people.
As a result, failing to treat trauma in victims of crime isn’t just a failure to help those who deserve our support, it’s a failure that poses a threat to community safety. To inform policy and public spending aimed at prevention and healing, this study of survivors and the work of the Survivor Center at the Prosecutors Alliance aims to highlight critical gaps that exist in the current system.
Traditional approaches to victim services centered in the criminal justice system purport to care about crime victims but continue to fund and fuel a system that is focused on punishment rather than healing. Central to criminal justice reform is modernizing the way victims are served and treated.
If we condemn violence and want to help people recover from experiences of violence, we must dedicate our resources and energy to their healing. This report surveyed 711 survivors who shared their experiences in listening sessions, interviews and by survey of what worked, what didn’t, and what help they needed most to recover from the trauma of victimization. It gives us a blueprint for how to improve support for victims that come directly from survivors.
Summary Of Results
Survivors need more support, not just immediately after the crime, but for a significant time after the crime, outside of business hours, and for the things they need to rebuild their lives. 41% of survivors said they needed emotional support after victimization. 43% of participants said they needed money right away to pay for rent, food, or other necessities.
Most survivors do not know about or are not connected to services and resources that help them recover physically, emotionally, and financially.
Victims’ compensation is underutilized by victims, it is hard to access and has barriers that prevent most crime survivors from using it. • Just 61% of victims are offered victims compensation after victimization. Black, AAPI and Latina participants were offered compensation less often than White participants.
Survivors want advocates to have trauma informed training and have more advocates with lived experience as crime survivors. When survivors were asked if they could provide survivors with anything they needed, emotional support was mentioned in 53% of the comments including someone to talk to, someone to listen to, information, crisis support and counseling.
Survivors want access to needed resources for healing and recovery regardless of who or how they were harmed. 30% of participants discussed barriers for them or family members due to probation, parole status. 50% of participants said they did not have money to pay out of pocket for expenses like mental health or relocation, so they just did not access services or move. Restitution is not working for survivors.
Only 61% of participants had restitution explained to them. 70% of participants did not know why restitution was not ordered in their cases.
Survey Released Showing New Data That State is Failing Victims of Crime
Media article on California crime victims:
“I crumbled under the guilt of surviving and the all consuming PTSD,” she said. “I expected calls from professional or officials with resources or services, but I was never contacted. My family had to be the ones to help find me a therapist because searching for one myself became too overwhelming.”
She explained that she did finally find an in-network therapist, but her needs have constantly changed, and she has had to “work up the courage to walk across the street or attend workout classes with strangers. In the first few months, I had to learn how to navigate flashbacks triggered by fireworks.”
All within society need to understand the trauma of criminal victimization. This is said with the knowledge that most who write about crime or enforcement have never come into contact with crime victims. That simple fact explains much as to people dismissing their plight to advance an ideology. I was in a meeting with ACLU officials who stated that victims have no right to be involved in policy.
I understand that cops are under immense pressure to complete a 911 call and move on to the next issue. I get it that services to victims take time, sometimes immensely so. When your shift supervisor complains that you have multiple calls waiting, it gets dicey.
We within the justice system must figure out a way to make sure that victims are treated with dignity and respect and that they get the services they need. Police and prosecutors officers offer most victim services. They need to be referred. Victims need to be encouraged to contact them.
Yea, I understand that victim service agencies are overworked and understaffed. Cities and states need to fund more services.
There needs to be an amendment to the US Constitution for a victim’s bill of rights emulating those that exist in many states.
And yes, victimization happens to people caught up in the justice system. Maybe if we were more vigilant and better resourced we could prevent retribution shootings and assaults.
Victims stated that they did not get restitution which isn’t surprising when considering that those on parole and probation rarely pay or complete their obligations. Parole and probation agencies are reluctant to revoke offenders for non-compliance.
The trauma and tears of victims stay with me. The images and memories won’t go away. That experience guided me throughout my jobs within the justice system and influence my writings today which is why I have so little patience with people who deny or downplay our current violence. Fear of crime is at an all-time high.
With a system filled with problems and challenges, comprehensive victim services should not be one of them.
See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.
Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.
US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.
National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.
An Overview Of Data On Mental Health at Mental Health And Crime.
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