Section III: Direct Services
PROGRAM STANDARD 3.1: A written guideline gives a general list of individual victim services provided by the program, including descriptions of any guidelines on the timing and duration of services.
Commentary: Individual victim services are those services and interventions offered to an individual victim/survivor to address expressed needs and concerns and promote feelings of healing and justice in the aftermath of a crime. Victim services may be provided in either individual or group settings, with information and support provided by peers and professionals.
Some programs have guidelines for the onset of services (e.g., within 48 hours of the victimization; after a traumatic event), and limitations on the duration of services (e.g., 30 days in a shelter). Guidelines might also address transition planning for phasing out or transferring services. Such guidelines may be helpful, but they can be problematic if rigidly enforced or if viewed as replacements for good case management and supervision.
Crime victims/survivors most frequently need and use the following:
- Information on victims' rights .
- General information on victimization.
- Safety planning, including safe and secure use of technology (e.g., information on electronic “footprints,” spyware, anti-stalking tools).
- Information on prevention and risk reduction.
- Advocacy or support.
- Assistance with victim compensation applications and restitution.
- Negotiations with creditors, landlords, and employers.
- Medical services (especially in cases involving forensic examination, family violence, transgender persons, or concern about HIV).
- Transportation services.
- Protective relocation, address confidentiality, or shelter.
- Crime scene cleanup.
- Assistance with funeral arrangements after a homicide.
- Information on administrative or justice-related case proceedings.
- Information about automated victim notification.
- Mental health services, counseling, and support groups.
- Substance abuse services.
- Connection to faith communities and cultural groups.
- Social services.
- Legal services, including immigration, family law, employment law, public benefits access, victims' rights enforcement, domestic violence/sexual assault law, and housing law.
- Housing assistance.
- Educational and literacy services.
- Job training/placement and employment services.
- Assistance with document replacement (e.g., birth certificate, identification card).
- Assistance with property repair and return.
- Interpretation and translation services.
PROGRAM STANDARD 3.2: A written guideline outlines resources and procedures for providing information on justice interventions.
Commentary: Crime victims/survivors often need information about criminal or juvenile justice interventions and court processes. Programs should have in place basic guidelines for providing information and referrals, regardless of the extent of the program's involvement in criminal, juvenile, civil, tribal, or other justice proceedings. Programs should maintain a list of local justice agencies and contacts in each jurisdiction. The list should include contact information for system-based victim/witness assistance professionals within police departments, and prosecutor's offices at the local, tribal, state, and federal levels. The list should also include legal referrals (including pro bono resources) and resources to assist victims with accessing information on current laws, victims' rights, justice procedures, and other pertinent issues.
Victim advocates can help victims/survivors locate and connect with appropriate resources if they want to pursue civil or criminal justice remedies. However, it is critical that advocates outline the difference between legal advice and legal information. Programs should strictly monitor how legal information is presented and prohibit staff from practicing law or providing legal representation if they are not licensed attorneys.
PROGRAM STANDARD 3.3: A written guideline outlines resources and procedures for addressing victim/survivor crisis situations.
Commentary: Develop written protocols for responding to unusual but foreseeable crisis situations relevant to the program's mission (e.g., victim/witness intimidation, suicide threat or attempt, breach in security of a victim service facility, inmate escape, death notification, mass violence situation, acts of terrorism, natural disaster). Crisis intervention services should be directed toward calming a situation, establishing physical and emotional safety, and, when appropriate, reinforcing the victim's ability to make choices regarding possible courses of action.
Procedures for responding to crisis situations will vary depending on the type of organization, the type of crisis situation, the setting, the staff's clinical expertise, and the role of the staff person as a mandated reporter. Guidelines may include procedures for arranging emergency support services, reporting situations to appropriate responders, or taking other actions to provide immediate aid to the victim/survivor. If the individuals providing crisis intervention are not licensed mental health professionals, they must be aware of mental health backup and consultation resources. In addition, procedures for staff responding to crisis situations may include the following:
- Identification of issues surrounding the crisis.
- Identification of physical and psychological barriers to safety.
- Assistance with identifying and evaluating options.
- Assistance with developing an action plan or safety plan.
- Provision of resources and referrals for ongoing support and services.
PROGRAM STANDARD 3.4: A written guideline describes procedures for addressing imminent danger, stalking, and intimidation of victims/survivors and/or witnesses.
Commentary: Programs should implement strong protocols for directly addressing or providing referrals to address imminent danger, stalking, and intimidation of people served or program staff. Responses might include arranging appropriate assistance for those who have been threatened or who, in the judgment of the program, express specific, credible reasons for fearing intimidation or further victimization. Appropriate assistance may include relocating the victim/survivor, arranging for protective custody by law enforcement, securing shelter, safety planning, or assisting with stalking diaries. The established safety plan should be reviewed or changed whenever an incident involving danger, stalking, or intimidation occurs.
Programs should discuss stalking and intimidation policies with victims/survivors when appropriate. In this way, programs can obtain consent to contact law enforcement, prosecutors, probation/parole officers, or others who can take specific steps to enhance victims' safety. Programs should also work with the appropriate authorities when contacting victims/survivors, informing them of danger, and discussing available options. Advocating for victims/survivors across agencies (e.g., acting on behalf of victims/survivors regarding police protection or court orders of protection) increases the likelihood that reasonable precautions will be taken to protect them from intimidation or harm.
Numerous resources exist to guide the development of safety plans, which help individuals avoid and react to dangerous situations. The Domestic Violence Resource Center provides some basic guidelines and resources for safety planning in a domestic violence situation, as well as a downloadable personalized safety planning packet, available in both English and Spanish.
The National Center for Victims of Crime Stalking Resource Center also provides tips for safety planning for victims of stalking.
PROGRAM STANDARD 3.5: A written guideline outlines written information to be provided to the victim/survivor on initial contact and/or throughout the service process.
Commentary: The guideline defines materials that will be provided to the victim/survivor, such as forms, letters, brochures, checklists, reference cards, and other written or electronic documents. Because it may be difficult for traumatized individuals to retain information, service providers should be judicious when determining how much information to provide at a given time. Information should be provided in a language and format that is preferred by the client (e.g., written English, recorded spoken English, written foreign language, spoken foreign language, Braille). Information might include or address:
- Victim/survivor rights.
- Confidentiality policies and procedures.
- Available services (e.g., counseling, medical, compensation, restitution).
- Subsequent steps in case processing and handling.
- The case number and contact person.
- Contacts for future crises or emergencies.
- What to do if threatened or intimidated.
- Safety planning, including safe use of technology.
- An “I Speak” card that identifies the victim's preferred language and his/her right to have language access provided.
- For undocumented victims, a letter indicating that they are working with a specific law enforcement officer or agency, in case someone questions their immigration status.
A large percentage of clients will have low levels of literacy or will not be literate at all. To the extent possible, written materials should be developed in plain language (7th or 8th grade reading level). If an individual is not literate, then the information above must be explained in person. A professional foreign language interpreter can assist limited English proficient victims by providing this information in their native languages. Professional American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and/or a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) (for those who communicate in other languages) should present the information above to Deaf individuals.