Early and Consistent Victim Contact and Empowerment

Toolkit Note: When possible, consider providing therapeutic interventions for victims with children as well as childcare services so that victims with children have an easier time accessing services, and can openly discuss the case without retraumatizing their children.

1.Early victim engagement with services can empower the victim and mitigate dependency on the accused.

“Early victim engagement”  means contact made with the victim by a member of the victim services team as early in the criminal justice process as possible, and at least within 24 hours of the incident.

2. Robust services can prevent manipulation of the victim to recant, increase investment in the criminal justice process, address
immediate concerns, and build relationships for present and future assistance.

3. Early victim engagement can reduce risk through safety planning–including firearm location and removal and providing supportive services and referrals.

4. Services provided through early victim engagement can include trauma-informed care, healthcare, courtroom assistance, financial independence, housing, assistance with civil legal needs and/or protective orders, and other basic needs.

5. Ensure victim input in the case, to the extent possible, at all stages: prior to diversion to assist in providing context for the underlying context of violence, bond hearings, progress updates on diversion, etc.

6. Diversion programs can also include a mechanism to re-engage victims who may have declined services early in the process, but who later wish to access them.

7. Provide victims with information on empowering safety management options whenever possible. Such measures include  VINELink, a program that allows individuals to sign up and receive text or phone notifications upon an accused person’s release from jail, Victim’s Compensation funding, which can assist victims in securing safety-management options like new locks, security cameras, or relocation, and GPS monitoring of the accused in permissible and appropriate circumstances.

8. Traditional protective orders, pretrial “no contact” provisions, or limited civil protective orders may have a role in the diversion process. These provisions may include permissible contact with the victim and mutual children or address existing court orders. If necessary, clear protocols can establish strategies to seek and include the victim’s input in the process to determine precise provisions, to the extent possible.

9. To address risk of lethality,  “high-risk” cases can be determined by lethality assessments, the discretion of experienced and specialized prosecutors, particularized facts of a case, and other key indicators.

10. The inclusion of firearm surrender provisions as part of pretrial release orders or the utilization of extreme risk protection orders are needed to remove firearms from the accused’s possession to serve as a critical form of risk reduction.

11. Involving DV community-based agencies and coalitions in program planning to address trauma, safety concerns, and expertise in DV service program operations.

12. Investigate the feasibility of one-stop victim service referrals, such as Family Justice Centers, that provide basic needs and therapeutic interventions in a singular location rather than various offices that create transportation barriers to services.