Victim advocates provide emotional and legal support to people who have suffered trauma.
There are several avenues available to members of the public who wish to become advocates for victims in their communities. A victim advocate provides assistance to victims of crime who may need a mentor as they work through the legal system. Defenders can provide information about the case investigation and prosecution process and can attend courtrooms, meetings and other events with the victim to offer support. In most regions, victims of violent crime will be asked if they want to meet with an advocate when they make the initial report of crimes such as rape and violent attacks, and one will be provided free of charge.
Victim advocates need to have strong interpersonal skills and be able to listen to a variety of people.
One option is to participate in a community training program. A person who would like to become a victim advocate can speak with local law enforcement agencies or the district attorney about joining the victim advocacy program. The candidate will need to fill out some papers, go through a background check and complete the training. Typically, the office asks for a commitment of at least one year, as training requires a significant time investment and the agency wants to avoid training a person only to have them stop working after a short period of time.
A victim advocate may choose to work as a crisis counselor on a hotline.
A person who has already become a victim advocate in a different region may be able to skip part of the training to get to work right away. It is often necessary to provide evidence of successful completion of a training program. The advocate may be asked about the topics covered and their experience, to make sure they are a good fit for the program. If everything seems to be in order, he can start working in the local criminal justice system.
Advocates are usually former victims who understand what a person is going through.
Another way to become a victim advocate is to do so through a community organization, such as a rape crisis center or an organization that supports victims of violent crime. These organizations offer training programs and typically work with police officers to ensure that their personnel receive adequate and appropriate training. Graduates of the Victim Advocates Training Program can also work as crisis counselors on a direct or indirect line.
Someone who plans to become a victim advocate can also take training at a college or university. These trainings aim to provide knowledge about the criminal justice system. Graduates usually take some classes to learn how the system works and also take some psychology courses so they can work effectively with people in crisis. At the end of the training, the graduate receives a diploma. This can allow them to become advocates for victims in any community that accepts the training. They may also choose to join professional organizations of advocates for continuing education opportunities and additional certifications.
No matter which path a person takes to become a victim advocate, the job usually requires being on hand for a certain number of hours each month. During the call, defenders agree to help victims at the hospital, the police station and the courthouse. They can be called late at night and interact with victims in extreme emotional distress. Work can be very tiring, and it’s important to use self-care techniques like taking time off or going to counseling to avoid burnout.