When a person is the victim of a crime, that individual may experience a myriad of different types of emotions. The reality is that every particular victim of a crime will have his or her own response to the incident itself and evolving aftermath. With that in mind, some crime victims are eager to connect with and seek the assistance of a victim advocate. On the other hand, there are a good many crime victims that are reluctant to work with crime victim advocates. Indeed, some victims will have significant reservations about working with a victim advocate, even when it is their best interests to do so. There are some specific strategies that may prove helpful in assisting a victim in overcoming reluctance to work with an advocate.
Give a Victim Space to Contemplate Working With an Advocate
If at all possible, a crime victim should be given time and space to contemplate working with an advocate. Giving a victim some time to contemplate the benefits associated with taking advantage of the assistance of an advocate will ensure that a victim feels a sense of ownership in the decision to work with an advocate. When a person feels a greater sense of ownership with a process, particularly when an individual is in an emotionally vulnerable state, that person will be more positive about matter. In this type of situation, a crime victim will be more apt to take full advantage of the services, resources, and support that can be accessed through an advocate.
Schedule a No-Obligation Initial Meeting Between a Victim and Advocate
Another tactic that can be employed to assist a crime victim in overcoming reluctance to working with an advocate is to schedule a no-obligation initial meeting between the victim and advocate. The fact that this is a no-obligation session needs to be stressed in advance of the session.
Ideally, the initial session is held at a location that is comfortable to the crime victim. On first blush, a person might conclude that an ideal location is the victim’s home. As noted a moment ago, a crime victim is likely to be experiencing some intense emotions. A crime victim is likely to feel vulnerable, perhaps highly vulnerable. As a consequence, a victim may not feel particularly comfortable (for one reason of another) having this session in his or her home. An example of a suitable location for a preliminary meeting is a trusted family member or friend’s residence.
Give a Victim an Opportunity to Talk to Other Crime Victims
A victim is more apt to be more willing to work with an advocate if able to talk to other crime victims about their own experiences working with advocates. Having the opportunity to converse with other people who’ve similar experiences can be a major element in easing a crime victim’s concerns associated with working with an advocate.
Special Considerations for Victims of Sex Crimes
Some special considerations need to be implemented when it comes to a victim of a sex crime and the idea of working with a victim advocate. In many jurisdictions today an advocate will be made available to a sex crime victim directly after the incident and before a rape forensic examination of the victim is conducted. The idea is to have a supportive, experienced advocate available to the victim before and during the rape forensic examination. Having an advocate available oftentimes results in a sex crime victim feeling at least somewhat better about having to undergo what routinely is called a “rape kit.” (Oftentimes, a sex crime victim reports feeling almost as if she was revictimized having to do through a rape kit without the type of support provided by an advocate.)
Because of the urgency of pairing a sex crime victim with an advocate before a forensic examination, a victim lacks the opportunity for time and space to really contemplate being paired with this type of professional. One solution is to emphasize the helpfulness and importance of having an advocate on hand at the time of the forensic examination. A victim can be assured that she will have the opportunity to proceed with a different advocate or with no advocate after the forensic examination.
As an important aside, when it comes to an advocate at the time of the rape kit process, a victim must be provided the option of having the advocate in the exam room or outside it during the actual examination.
Final Thought: Working With an Advocate Is Always the Decision of the Crime Victim
A parting final thought is vital to bear in mind. The decision to work with an advocate must always be left to the crime victim his or her self. The bottom line is that it is never appropriate to unduly pressure of force a crime victim to work with an advocate. This is even the case for some underage crime victims. Only when a crime victim is underage and particularly young is it acceptable for a parent of other legal guardian to make the decision to engage the services of an advocate. Even though a parent may have the legal authority to force the decision, that doesn’t mean an adult should take this action in every situation.