Section 3: Working with Sexual Assault Victim Advocates
2 Hours, 55 Minutes

(85 minutes)

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At this point, we’ve discussed the merits of a victim–centered approach to sex offender management and the benefits that can accrue from such collaboration, both to supervisory agencies and to the victims themselves. We’ve also spent some time considering the nature of sexual assault, particularly the impact it has on victims, and how that can inform and affect the work that we do in managing sex offenders.

Now it is time to turn our attention to victim advocates and other service providers who work closely with both adult and child victims of sexual assault, and to consider how they can contribute to efforts to effectively supervise sex offenders as well.

Learning Objectives
(5 minutes)

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

• Identify the various kinds of victim advocates who may be providing services within a community;
• Identify the different roles of system–based victim advocates and community–based victim advocates; and
• Explain the significance of confidentiality for victims and victim advocates.

Uncovering Past Experience
(5 minutes)

Most of us have had some experience working with victims or victim advocates in the course of our work in the criminal justice system, which shape our expectations for the future. If our experience working with victims and victim advocates has been positive, we anticipate that future interactions will be equally positive. If we have had difficult experiences, it is likely we will anticipate that future interactions will be equally negative or difficult. It is important to be aware of how that has affected our expectations of working with sexual assault victim advocates as we discuss the role victim advocates can play in the management of sex offenders. In addition, it is helpful to know what the experiences of our colleagues have been in situations similar to ours.

In this next exercise we ask all of you to share some information about your past experiences working with victim advocates, and to think about what information and lessons we can take from our common experience that will benefit and inform our consideration of a victim–centered approach to managing sex offenders. We will be breaking you into small groups so that you each have time to share your individual experiences working with sexual assault victim advocates and then, as a group, identify some of the commonalities and differences you have faced in working with these advocates.

Note: As with any exercise, the tone will depend in large part on the group itself. If the group has had largely positive experiences, focus on lessons that can be applied, such as the value of collaboration, the importance of listening, or how positive feedback from the community can be helpful. If you find yourself with a group whose experiences have been largely negative or difficult, you will want to acknowledge any frustration they may feel and reassure them that there will be an opportunity later to do some strategizing about how to address the challenges they have experienced in the past.

In addition, you will want to be listening for participants who are engaging in victim–blaming. While you may not choose to address it here (unless it comes out in the lessons), victim–blaming behaviors can interfere with the successful involvement of victims and victim advocates in sex offender management and should be addressed in the course of the training. You should address victim–blaming behaviors (or address them again) in Section 4: Enhancing Victim Involvement in Sex Offender Management (Victim Contact and Interviewing Victims—Interviewing Victims Exercise).

Tips for addressing comments that may display victim-blaming attitudes:

Learning ActivityLearning Activity: Uncovering Past Experience
(45 minutes)

  1. Arrange participants in groups of 4–6. Have each group select a recorder and a reporter.
  2. Direct groups to go through a “round robin” process, where each participant will be asked to share an experience they have had with a crime victim or victim advocate (ideally related to sexual assault, but not everyone will have had that experience). This could include work on an individual case, such as a pre–sentence investigation or a revocation hearing, a community meeting or task force activity, or an unsolicited contact about a particular offender.
    • What was the basic context of the interaction (why they were talking to or working with this person, what the situation was)?
    • How they would describe the tone of the interaction. (Encourage people to use their own terms.) Was it friendly and cooperative? Frustrating or challenging? Professional and neutral?
    • Was there a particular outcome or did either party expect a particular outcome?
    • What did the person feel went well in the interaction or caused the interaction to go well?
    • What does the person wish had happened differently, if anything?
    • What impression did the experience leave?
  3. After each person has had their turn to share an experience, invite the groups to note commonalities and differences among the experiences that were described or the way the person describing the experience handled the situation. See if the group can come up with any lessons from the experiences—at least one lesson about positive experiences and one lesson about negative experiences.

Processing of Exercise: Uncovering Past Experience
(30 minutes)

  1. Prior to the group report–out, prepare two flipcharts: one for positive experiences (one column each for commonalities and differences), and one for difficult experiences (set up in a similar fashion).
  2. For both positive and difficult experiences, ask each reporter to share the list of commonalities and differences generated by his/her small group. Note the commonalities and differences reported by more than one group, and why they thought the interactions were either positive or difficult.
  3. After all the groups have reported, ask if anyone has any additional ideas to add to the list.
  4. Select one or two commonalities and differences from each list (emphasize those commonalities or differences reported by multiple groups) and discuss. Ask participants to share the lessons learned in their small groups regarding these commonalities and differences, and to comment on the benefits of these experiences.
  5. To close the exercise, summarize what you’ve heard, with emphasis on the variety of experiences within the audience, and the lessons learned and benefits derived from experiences that created or supported collaborative relationships with victims and victim advocates.
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