Section 4: Enhancing Victim Involvement in Sex Offender Management
1 Hour, 55 Minutes

Lecture Topic TOPIC: INVOLVING VICTIM ADVOCATES
(20 minutes)

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During the course of the last few hours, we have spent time talking about the merits and benefits of a victim–centered approach to sex offender management, what we know about sexual assault and the impact that it can have on victims, the various kinds of sexual assault advocates operating in our communities, and the services and support they can offer victims.

All of this has been preparation for what we will spend some time discussing now: how we can enhance victim involvement in sex offender management and how the services and the information victim advocates can provide can contribute to the more effective management of sex offenders. In this next session, we will look at some specific ways that sexual assault and other victim advocates can assist us in our work, with everything from day–to–day management issues to policy development, professional training, and community education. We will talk about what victims need when they become involved in supervision, and about the most effective ways to interview victims.

Learning Objectives
(5 minutes)

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At the conclusion of this section, participants will be able to:

Working With Victim Advocates to Enhance Victim Involvement
(15 minutes)

We’ve talked about victim advocates, the importance of involving them in your victim-centered approach to managing sex offenders, and the various contributions that different types of victim advocates can make to our work and to victims in our communities. By now we’ve established that involving victim advocates increases our ability to effectively manage sex offenders. Advocates have legitimacy with sexual assault victims in ways that many of us do not, as we are often identified with the system that is associated with the offender. Advocates have different insights and knowledge as a result of their training and experience, and in many cases they will have already established trust with the victim. When we implement a victim-centered approach, it is in our best interest to enlist the advice and support of the system–based and/or community–based advocates that serve our communities.

There are many different ways that advocates can be involved in the community supervision of sex offenders. It might be helpful to consider victim advocate involvement at two different levels: day–to–day case management and policy levels. You and/or your agency may decide to involve advocates on one or the other, or both levels.

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What Advocates Can Do With and For You

With their specialized knowledge and training, and their credibility with victims, victim advocates are uniquely positioned to assist you in a variety of implementation strategies. Some of these activities will be conducted best by community-based advocates, whose position may allow them to work with non-reporting victims, secondary victims and with victims whose cases are no longer in a particular part of the system. Other activities are more typically within the purview of system-based advocates who have direct access to system personnel and information. It is important to meet with the various advocates in your community to determine how the above occurs.

Victim advocates often maintain frequent and direct contact with victims of sexual assault. This makes them well positioned to assist with the daily activities of sex offender management. When discussing possible opportunities for collaboration with advocates, keep in mind that advocates can help to do the following:

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Note: Much of the following information can be found in the CSOM document “Engaging Advocates and Other Victim Service Providers in the Community Management of Sex Offenders,” emphasis on pages 5 – 7. This document is available on the CSOM Web site at www.csom.org/pubs/advocacy.html or can be ordered from CSOM using the document order form provided with the training materials.

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Documenting Losses for Victim Restitution” for more information.

In the Area of Day–to–Day Offender Management

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In the Area of Policy Development

In order to facilitate effective and consistent management of sex offenders, jurisdictions need both jurisdiction–wide and agency–specific policies. Victim advocates are well positioned by virtue of their work with victims, and with the criminal justice system on behalf of victims, to contribute to these policy development efforts. Advocates and other victim service providers can collaborate with supervision agencies, sex offender treatment providers, and others to:

Likewise, advocates can build collaborative relationships and ensure continuity between the work of their agencies and the criminal justice system by involving practitioners from the sex offender management field in assisting in the development of policies and practices related to victim services.

In the Area of Professional Training, Community Education, Information–Sharing, and Networking

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Note: The role of advocates in community notification is an important point, worth emphasizing. Jurisdictions that have included victim advocates in their community notification efforts have reported very positive responses by community members.

Sexual assault victim advocates have received specialized training in the area of sexual assault and are often eager to help share this training and information with others in the community. Many victim advocates and service providers consider community and system education to be a central part of their mission. Victim advocates, along with other victim service providers, can:

It’s important to remember in our training and educational efforts that information sharing is most effective when it works and flows both ways 1) advocates and other victim service providers need a clear picture of how the criminal justice system handles convicted sex offenders in order to help identify areas where victims of these offenders and the public could benefit from their assistance, and 2) while criminal justice professionals need a clear picture of the impact of sexual assault on victims and victims’ families and how that may affect the ability of victims to participate in the criminal justice process, the safety concerns that arise from managing a sex offender in the same community as the victim, and the variety of resources available (or not) to victims to address these needs.

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“Case Studies on CSOM’s National Resource Sites, 2nd Edition, Revised” is available on the CSOM Web site (www.csom.org/pubs/casestudies2.pdf) or ordered from CSOM using the document order form provided in the Trainer’s Resources section.

Lessons from Around the Country1

A few jurisdictions (for example, New Haven, Connecticut) utilize a full–time victim advocate as part of a team that manages sex offenders in their community. Those of you interested in this approach can get a copy of the “Case Studies on CSOM’s National Resource Sites, 2nd Edition, Revised” publication from the Center for Sex Offender Management.1 Other jurisdictions around the country have created similar positions or found other ways to draw upon the skills and experience of the victim advocacy community in their jurisdiction. In the example from Connecticut, advocates are supervised by and remain employees of the state community–based advocacy programs, grant funded by community corrections. There are a couple of particular benefits to this approach: A community–based advocate can respond to victims’ needs without being limited to the goals of the justice system. Also, as the advocate in the Intensive Sex Offender Supervision Unit of New Haven, Connecticut, indicates, victims respond better to her once they know that she does not work specifically for the justice system and that her parent organization’s goals are supporting victims in recovery and preventing future victimization.

This is just one example of how other jurisdictions have successfully collaborated with victim advocates to improve services to victims and to more effectively supervise sex offenders in the community. In reaching out to victim advocates in your community, you will want to explore with them all of the options available for successful collaboration as dictated by your local policies, resources, and needs. However you choose to collaborate with victim advocates, you will find your ability to effectively supervise sex offenders enhanced by that collaboration.

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