Working with victims of crime: A manual applying research to clinical practice (Second Edition)

Introduction

This manual is designed mainly for those who deliver front-line services to crime victims. As a quick reference resource, it should help front-line workers provide better services by giving them access to recent research and theory related to crime victims. For the purposes of this manual, “front-line workers” are broadly defined as those who come into contact with victims in any role, from reception staff to clinicians to support workers. Although the focus is on clinical intervention, readers should note that any contact with victims can be healing for them. To this end the term “worker” will be used throughout the manual as a catchall term to mean professionals, paraprofes­sionals, volunteers, support staff, administrators and anyone who comes into contact with victims with a focus on helping. The manual has two parts: General Issues and Specialty Populations.

Part One: General Issues with working with Victims of Crime

Part One focuses on general research findings that can be linked to skills development. Each section focuses on common experiences of crime victims and other important issues. “The Importance of Self-Care” focuses on advice to workers for taking care of themselves as they work within this challenging and rewarding area. The “Model of Victimization and Recovery” presents a model of how people become victims and psychologically adjust to their victimization. The section entitled “Common Reactions to Crime” reviews the common reactions people can have after criminal victimization, the issue of previous victimization, and the severity of reaction. The next section, “How Do Victims Cope?” focuses on coping strategies often used by victims and strengths victims might use to heal.  “A Model for Client Change: The Stages of Change” presents the Transtheoretical Model of Change (Prochaska et al. 1992) and describes how it might be used to help victims to increase their motivation in getting help. “Assessment Issues: What should I ask about?” focuses on possible areas workers might want to explore in meeting with victims. Finally, “Pulling it Together: Concluding Remarks” summarizes the key findings, and can be used as a quick resource to remind readers of the research in this area. The end of each section also has a quick-reference page called “The Basics,” which summarizes the key points of the section. Each section in the manual covers issues related to victims, but also provides suggestions for how workers can improve their skills and abilities.

Those familiar with the original version of this manual will notice changes in the above sections. For the most part, new research has been added to each section. All new articles in the reference sections have an asterisk in front of them. This will give readers an idea of the scope of this update. The following are some of the key updates:

  • “The Importance of Self-Care” includes more self-care information and strategies.
  • “Model of Victimization and Recovery” includes more information about why victims report crimes.
  • “Common Reactions to Crime” has more information on grief and complicated grief
  • “How Do Victims Cope?” now has new items under both positive and negative coping strategies. There is also a major revision and expansion that discusses resiliency, self-efficacy, and post-traumatic growth.
  • “Assessment Issues: What should I ask about?” now has a section that focuses on identifying client strengths and resources.

Part Two: Specialty Populations

Part Two of the manual contains two new chapters on special subgroups of victims: Victims of Hate Crimes and Victims of Terrorism. These chapters are written to be a review of the issues that you might encounter if you are working with these subgroups of victims. Although these chapters are introductions, they include detailed information. The hope is that workers who have clients facing these challenges will be able to improve their understanding of the complex issues involved and, again, improve the effectiveness of their work.

Another difference about these additional chapters was the writing process itself, which drew on special topic readers to provide guidance. Each reader was asked to provide key articles and research in the area and offer feedback on early drafts of the chapter. The goal of this process was to ensure that the information was not simply based on recent research and theory, but also would be useful to those working with these special groups. To ensure fairness, I set up a process to deal with any disagreements. In case of a disagreement, the reader’s position would be included in the chapter (along with my view), clearly identifying it as his or her position. I am pleased to report that there were no disagreements and that the chapters reflect my perspective, informed by the helpful comments of each reader.

The readers provided the following short biographies:

  • Working with victims of hate crimes: Reader: Karen Mock[1]
    Dr. Karen Mock, a registered psychologist, educator, trainer and consultant for over 30 years, is former Executive Director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and of the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada. She has been qualified by the courts and human rights tribunals as an expert in human rights, racism, discrimination, anti-Semitism, and hate group activity, and chaired the Hate Crimes Community Working Group throughout 2006 for the Government of Ontario. Dr. Mock is widely published and has received several awards and honours for her work.

  • Working with victims of terrorism: Reader: Steve Sullivan
    Steve Sullivan, a long-time advocate for victims of crime, was named by Order in Council the first Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime in April 2007. He began working in the victims' rights movement in 1993, and has advocated for more victim rights and victim services. He has appeared before numerous federal committees on various issues, including victim rights and better protection for victims of child sexual exploitation, and is promoting the need for services for victims of terrorism.

Throughout this manual, a crime victim will usually be defined as a person who has directly experienced and suffered because of a specific illegal act. These people are the main focus of the research reviewed for this manual. However, workers must remember that crime affects everyone. For example, front-line staff recognize that crime often injures the victim’s loved ones and support people. These people may also suffer psychologically, socially or financially, and may have to deal with many of the same issues as the victim. The chapters on victims of hate crimes and terrorism discuss this issue in more detail. The clinical skills and information provided in the manual may be of help to these potential supports as well.


[1] Dr. Mock provided research articles and reviewed the earlier draft of the chapter, but scheduling conflicts and administrative issues prevented her comments from being received in time for the final revision.

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