Victims Advocate Career Guide

Career opportunities for victim advocates (or victims advocates) are increasing as more professional and non-profit organizations recognize the importance of having a professional on staff to work with the victims of crime or abuse. These positions are available in a wide array of fields, including criminal justice, social services, and community outreach.

Victims Advocate Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

A victim advocate helps victims cope with the stress and the trauma that follows a crime or abuse. Victims often have to manage psychological, physical, financial, and/or emotional stress and require expert care that involves listening to their questions and concerns. A victims advocate provides assistance throughout a victim’s entire ordeal. An advocate may:

  • Offer emotional support on a one-on-one basis or by leading a support group.
  • Help victims create a safety plan and find a safe place to go.
  • Inform victims about their rights and what they can expect from the legal process.
  • Assist victims in completing and submitting applications requesting victims’ compensation.
  • Accompany victims to court hearings and other legal proceedings.
  • Contact victims if their aggressor has been paroled or has escaped from prison.

Victim advocates are required to maintain confidentiality to protect victims. As a result, an extensive background investigation may be likely, especially for those candidates who want to work with a government agency.

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How to Become a Victims Advocate: Requirements and Qualifications

Most professional victim advocates have an associate’s, a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in psychology, criminal justice, social work, or education. Some organizations require a master’s degree. Coursework is frequently coupled with intense practical training in social work. Victim advocates must hone their listening skills and the teamwork-oriented methods of problem-solving to work effectively with their clients.

Victims Advocate Job Training

Many employers prefer that prospective advocates have previous experience working with victims. Experience may be as a result of volunteer work, an internship, or a previous position in law enforcement or social work. Advocates are not required to possess any specific professional credential to practice. However, the National Organization for Victim Assistance offers a National Advocate Credentialing Program that leads to professional credentialing. The program allows victim advocates to earn four different levels of credentialing. Candidates can apply for the provisional, the basic, the intermediate, or the advanced, depending on for which the advocates are qualified. The provisional credential, for example, requires candidates to have successfully completed a 40 hour training program. More information about the National Advocate Credentialing Program can be found at Trynova.org.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Advocates generally work with individuals who are emotionally fragile and, as a result, the victims advocate must possess empathy, the ability to listen, and a desire to help others. Those individuals with experience in law enforcement, social work, or experience with the court system may have an advantage when it comes to finding employment. Advocates who speak a second language fluently may also find more employment opportunities, especially if they live in a culturally diverse area.

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Examples of Possible Job Titles for this Career

  • Victim coordinator
  • Victim service provider
  • Victim specialist
  • Witness coordinator
  • Witness specialist

Career Opportunities and Employers

Victim advocates are fast becoming a part of the traditional community landscape. They have been common in larger cities and suburban areas for some time, but now even smaller communities are seeing the benefits of supporting programs for victims of crime and abuse. These professionals are often employed by non-profit organizations, state or federal legal offices, shelters and community centers, or act as independent consultants.

Victims Advocate Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide data on salary for victims advocates.

Frequently Asked Questions About This Career

What type of schedule does a victims advocate work?
Advocates can expect to work a normal full time schedule. However, they must be prepared to be on call. An on call advocate may be called to a crime scene in the middle of the night, for example.

Are victim advocates mandated reporters?
Yes. While advocates generally keep the information of victims confidential, they must legally report certain information, including threats victims make against others, if the victim threatens self-harm, or if the victim is abusing or neglecting his or her child(ren).

Are all victims advocates’ responsibilities the same?
No. All advocates are there to provide emotional support to victims. However, the specific day-to-day responsibilities vary depending on the organization for which the advocate works. Some victims advocates, for example, may be responsible for covering an organization’s crisis hotline while others may not.

Do all victims advocates earn a salary?
No. Some work in volunteer positions, offering the same type of support as a paid advocate.

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Additional Resources

National Organization for Victim Assistance – A national resource for victims of crime and victim advocates.

Office for Victims of Crime – The National Victim Assistance Academy provides training for a career as a victim advocate.

The National Center for Victims of Crime – A resource for victims advocates and victims of crime.

Victim Support Services – A guide to victim support, including victims advocates.

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References:
1. The National Center for Victims of Crime: http://www.victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/what-is-a-victim-advocate-
2. The National Organization for Victim Assistance: http://www.trynova.org/
3. Victim Support Services: victimsupportservices.org/help-for-victims/what-is-a-victim-advocate/

Page Edited by Charles Sipe.