According to the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA), Crime Victim Advocates became clearly recognized as key professionals after the Victims of Crime Act was passed in 1984. This legislation recognized victim rights and needs, as well as essential services provided by victim advocates.
“Skill-based advocates can be paid as well as volunteer,” states NOVA. “While the salary status of the two positions can differ, both roles reflect significant training, experience and education necessary to meet the demands of helping victims address safety concerns, navigate the justice system and deal with the emotional impact of profound losses.”
The website CrimeVictims.gov was launched in 2005 by the Office for Victims of Crime. It provides resources, publications, hotlines and other relevant sources of information to victims, victim service professionals and volunteers.
Victim advocates may have a range of responsibilities, depending on their specific employer, position and the individuals they help. Simply put they work on behalf of victims to promote and support them as they deal with mental, emotional, physical, financial, judicial and other concerns and barriers.
Victims Advocates At a Glance
- Degree Level Requirements: Generally a Bachelor’s (but in some cases a Master’s may be preferred).
- Licensure Requirements: Depending on jurisdiction/employer, certification may be voluntary or mandatory.
- Specializations: Domestic violence, Sexual Assault, Crisis Intervention, Child Abuse, Financial Crime, Coping after Terrorist Attacks…
- Median Annual Salaries: $40,400* (for Community and Social Service Occupations overall)
- Job Outlook: 37% growth from 2010 to 2020** (for Community and Social Service Occupations overall)
Career & Job Description
A victims advocate may be employed in a variety of settings including for a district or county attorney’s/attorney general’s office, a social services agency, a victim services agency, for the military, for a court system, for a local, state or federal law enforcement department, a community or non-profit organization, a crisis center or hospital.
Other names for victim advocates include victim specialists, victim witness specialists, violent crimes victim advocate, crime victim specialist and victim service provider.
While professional duties vary by position and employer, examples of victims advocate roles include:
• Provide counseling to victims and witnesses
• Notify victims of their rights and advocate on their behalf.
• Screen individuals who have suffered abuse/assault and help them access all necessary services (including immediate medical attention).
• Perform triage and crisis intervention services.
• Serve as liaison between victims and criminal justice representatives (and update victims and/or their families on proceedings).
• Possibly attend criminal justice-related interviews and proceedings alongside their clients.
• Coordinate with other professionals (such as case managers) to develop and implement assistance plans.
• Arrange accommodations when necessary (i.e. for shelter and safety or for criminal justice proceedings).
• Maintain a bank of information and services to be able to provide victims with all essential resources and referrals.
• Deliver workshops or educational programs on issues such as domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and other assaults and crimes.
• Develop training materials.
• Possibly notify or work with next of kin/loved ones.
• Be conscious of and make accommodations for those with special needs (such as disabled individuals, the elderly, children, those who speak another language, etc.)
Specializations / Concentrations
There are numerous specialties that fall under victim advocacy. Often the areas a victims advocate specializes in depends on experience and current position. These include:
• Child Pornography
• Domestic Violence
• Sexual Assault
• Terrorist Attacks
• Financial Crime
• Victims Compensation
• Human Trafficking
• Crisis Intervention
• Child Abuse
• Drunk Driving
• Navigating the Criminal Justice System
• Family/Loved Ones of Homicide Victims
• And More
Explore Your Career Path
Many victims advocate positions require a Bachelor’s degree (although some employers may even prefer or require a Master’s degree). Relevant undergraduate degrees include a Bachelor of Psychology, Human Services, Social Work, Criminal Justice, Criminology or a related behavioral/social science discipline.
A Guardian ad Litem is a person appointed by the court system to act on behalf of and to represent the rights of children or incompetent individuals.
Depending on jurisdiction, such advocates may either be trained volunteers or employees (and in some cases attorneys act as a Guadian ad Litem).
Employers will prefer (sometimes require) that you also have previous related experience. This might be volunteer or paid work that you complete during your Bachelor degree studies (such as a work placement). If you are unable to secure a victims advocate position after graduating, consider volunteering for an emergency shelter, social services agency or as a Guardian ad Litem; or working as a social worker assistant, crisis center worker, family services worker, youth probation officer, family or youth shelter case manager, correctional treatment specialist or in another related position on your way to becoming a victims advocate.
Licensure/certification requirements for victim service providers and victim advocates are completely dependent on the employer. (For example a particular jurisdiction may require that all public victim service providers be certified).
Certification is Ideal
Even when not required, certification will make you much more desirable and help you increase your expertise.
Examples of relevant certifications include those administered through the:
• Office for Victims of Crime (National Victim Assistance Academy or NVAA)
• National Advocate Credentialing Program (NACP)
• DOD Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program (D-SAACP) (in the case of military personnel)
• State-level Victim Assistance Academies/Victims Services Offices
- Reference & Data Information Provided by the Following:
- * May 2012 (for Community and Social Service Occupations, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- ** January 2012 (for Community and Social Service Occupations, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- † Salary data from US BLS http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes210000.htm
- ‡ Job Outlook data from US BLS http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2012/01/art5full.pdf
- Other Sources/References