5 Ways the Legal System is Improved by Advocates for Victims
- Navigating the Non-Legal System
- Preparing for Courts and Parole Boards
- Connecting With Others
- Removing Barriers
- Emotional Support
A victim advocate is professionally trained to work with crime victims and support them in various ways ranging from connecting them with resources to providing counseling to explaining how the legal system works and more. The advocate may have a criminal justice degree or a degree in a related field. Below are five ways the advocate can help.
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1. Navigating Non-Legal Systems
An advocate can help put a compassionate face on the legal system by making sure victims are supported in other areas of their lives as well. For example, a victim of domestic violence might feel unsafe returning to work or might have issues with a landlord or creditor. A victim's advocate can help in dealing with these parties and finding a solution to issues that arise, allowing the victim to focus on the legal case.
2. Preparing for Courts and Parole Boards
Victims may need to testify in court and to prepare victim impact statements. They may have to appear before the parole board to make sure the perpetrator is not released. A victim advocate can assist a person in preparing for all of these appearances. Furthermore, if the perpetrator is going to be released, the advocate for the victim may inform the victim and help them take the necessary steps to prepare and feel safe.
3. Connecting With Others
People who become crime victims or whose loved ones are crime victims may be dealing with situations and emotions that make those who are not in the same position feel uncomfortable. It can be difficult to find people to talk to after a sexual assault or losing a family member to murder. According to an article in Forbes, victim advocacy groups such as Parents of Murdered Children allow family members to speak bluntly with others who have experienced the same trauma. Another advantage of advocacy groups for victims is that they may be able to bring pressure to lawmakers to make changes to the legal system.
4. Assisting With Barriers
Some victims may have particular challenges that make navigating the legal system even more difficult for them, such as a disability. An advocate can step in and assist with these and other issues. One article in The New York Times examined the plight of victims who wish to tell their side of the story in their native tongues. An advocate can help ensure that non-English speakers are connected with interpreters who can help.
5. Emotional Support
From the immediate aftermath and reporting of the crime through the investigation and trial, crime victims endure a grueling gauntlet. People who work in the field of victim advocacy are trained in providing emotional support to victims. This support, in turn, can make it possible for the victim to engage with the legal system to the degree that is necessary to prosecute the perpetrator of the crime.
An advocate can make an enormous difference in the life of a crime victim and in the outcome of the legal case. Whether the victim advocate has a criminal justice degree or one from another field, their skill in navigating the legal and emotional elements of being a crime victim can be invaluable.