Section 5: Strategies for Applying the Victim–Centered Approach
3 Hours, 25 Minutes

Lecture TopicTOPIC: GETTING STARTED
(15 minutes)

Learning Objective
(1 minute)

Use Slide Use Slide #1: Strategies for Applying the Victim–Centered Approach

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Use Slide Use Slide #2: Learning Objectives

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Use Slide Use Slide #3: The Victim–Centered Approach

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

Introduction
(4 minutes)

Each community has its own unique combination of resources and personalities, its own history, its own strengths and limitations. In this final section, we are going to talk about what it might mean to you in your own community to either begin to implement a victim–centered approach or to consider ways to improve on the victim–centered strategies you are already employing.

Remember that the victim–centered approach involves:

As we discussed earlier when we were talking about working with victim advocates, there are at least two perspectives from which to consider these possibilities. One is as an individual supervision officer: What (else) can I do in my practice as a supervisor of sex offenders to broaden my lens; to work with advocates; to seek and incorporate victim input; and to ask the question, what would be best for the victim?

The other is from a policy perspective: What (else) can we put in place as a unit, as an agency, or as a management team to systematically broaden our lens; to work with advocates; to seek and incorporate victim input; and to ask the question, “What would be best for the victim?”

Whether we are talking about the individual perspective or the policy perspective, the place we need to start is with the development of relationships based on trust.

Building Relationships
(20 minutes)

We talked in the previous section about the different organizations and agencies where we might find sexual assault victim advocates. We also began the process of filling out a worksheet that charts the victim services available in our respective communities. I am assuming that most of you have some blanks in your chart; let’s talk about some of the steps you can take to fill in that information.

Trainer QuestionWhat are some of the steps you plan to take to complete your victim services chart?

Use Slide Use Slide #4: Completing Your Victim Services Chart

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All of the steps mentioned are good ways to start gathering this information. These are also good methods for keeping your chart updated as changes occur in your community. To summarize then, steps that you can take to complete or update your victim services chart include:

  1. Talking to a victim advocate that you already know who can provide information about other victim services in your area.
  2. Talking to other officers in your agency to see who and what they know about victim services in general, and sexual assault victim services in particular.
  3. Checking the Internet at the different agencies in your locality (e.g., DA’s office, rape crisis center, victim advisory councils, etc.).
  4. Looking up local victim services in the phone book or online (helpful resources can be found at http://ovc.ncjrs.org/findvictimservices/).
  5. Contacting a national resource such as the National Sexual Assault Coalition Resource Sharing Project, at www.resourcesharingproject.org/index.html.

Once you have begun to identify some of the victim advocacy resources in your community, the second and most important step is to make personal contact. Call the agency or individual and set up an appointment. Use the chart as a starting place—explain that you are trying to collect information about victim services so that you can provide referrals to the victims you have contact with, and so that you know who to call for assistance in working on a particular case or issue. The meeting may provide an opportunity for you to explain more about your role in sex offender management, or you may choose to limit it to your own information gathering and leave the door open for another meeting where you are able to share more information.

Even if you decide not to take the relationship any further, you will have made an important contact with someone who can assist you as you work with offenders and their victims. You may have found someone that you can call for advice or input on a particular case you are having difficulty with, or someone to whom you feel comfortable making referrals. (Remember that victim advocates may be restricted in the kind of information they can share with you about a particular victim or case, but they should be able to discuss issues on a general level.)

It is also important to acknowledge that in the course of making these contacts with victim advocates and their agencies, you may encounter some difficult questions or concerns posed by the advocates or agencies, and that these situations will require further consideration, concerted efforts at collaboration, and discussion to determine if and how these contacts can be included in collaborative efforts.

Trainer QuestionWhat if you already have good, established relationships with either individual advocates or with advocacy agencies?

Some of you have already done the critical work of establishing good working relationships with advocates and advocacy agencies in your area. Once these relationships are established, the next step might be to facilitate interaction between your colleagues or agency and the victim advocate(s) and their agencies. If you are in a position to do so, you might want to discuss the possibility of implementing an in–service cross training to allow the advocates to find out more about your work in sex offender management, and your agency to find out more about the victim advocacy options in your community. If this is something that goes beyond your level of authority, you can request that your supervisors pursue it, or you can conduct a more informal exchange. Consider a lunch meeting with the other officers in your unit and a couple of representatives from the advocacy agency. Again, even if the relationship goes no further than this level of information sharing, you will have taken some important steps in providing better service to victims and potential victims in the community. The goal of this is to build an alliance and foster trust based on the fact that you are genuinely concerned about the well–being of victims, and that you believe victim advocates are important contributors to your part of the work in preventing convicted known offenders from reoffending.

The advocates in your community may not have considered you an ally before, but once they see that you provide a service that is in the best interest of their constituents, and that you are genuinely interested in their work with victims, they will be eager to work with you.

If your agency is interested in pursuing a victim–centered approach on a more formal level, these contacts and information–gathering steps will prove to be important. Once you know who the advocates are in your community, and what they each contribute, and even some of the personalities and politics, you are in a better position to negotiate with them about how they can best be involved with your sex offender management strategy. Remember that different kinds of advocates bring different strengths to the work, and it is important to take advantage of all the benefits these different kinds of advocacy can offer.

Note: If audience members don’t recall the list from the beginning of the training, you can use the slide from Section 1 to prompt them.

The next step in establishing a more formal approach to victim–centered sex offender management might be to invite the director(s) of the victim advocacy agencies or offices to meet with the supervisors of the sex offender unit, or the supervisor at whatever level would be most appropriate to your agency, to discuss options, strategies, and resources. These steps will obviously depend on the kinds of structures already in place for managing sex offenders in your community.

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