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EVAWI > Resources > Best Practices > Advocacy
Advocates and Law Enforcement: Oil and Water?

This article explores the tension that is sometimes experienced between law enforcement and victim advocates in the community. It offers a detailed description of the advocate’s role during the criminal justice process, with particular focus on their involvement during forensic exams or interviews. Next, the article addresses the fact that many law enforcement officers, forensic examiners, and other community professionals are reluctant to involve advocates in the process, so we address some of the common factors underlying this reluctance and offer strategies to resolve them. The article originally appeared in the electronic newsletter for Sexual Assault Training & Investigations (SATI), Inc. It was then subsequently published in Sexual Assault Report, Vol. 11, No. 6, pp. 81-82, 86-95 by the Civic Research Institute.

Effective Victim Advocacy Within the Criminal Justice System

A training module on Effective Victim Advocacy within the Criminal Justice System is also available in the OnLine Training Institute (OLTI). This module offers detailed guidance on the role of community-based and system-based victim advocates, specifically for work that intersects with the criminal justice system.

Advocates and Confidentiality

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) created an online Technology & Confidentiality Resources Toolkit that addresses common questions that agencies and advocates who work with survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking frequently have regarding confidentiality and the release of information. The National Crime Victim Law Institute has a publication available on confidentiality titled: “Confidentiality and Sexual Violence Survivors: A Toolkit for State Coalitions.”

Advocates as Expert Witnesses

RTI International has created an online training course on "How to be a Good Expert Witness."

Notification of Advocates

The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General offers an example of a community-wide protocol for notifying advocates is seen in the “Standards for Providing Services to Victims of Sexual Assault.”

Presence of Advocates During Exam

A legal compilation is available from AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women, to summarize the statutes pertaining to the presence of a victim advocate during the medical forensic examination. Please visit their website to request the most up to date compilation.

Release of Information

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) prepared a resource providing detailed information on survivor confidentiality and release waivers entitled, "Frequently Asked Questions on Survivor Confidentiality Releases."

Training for Advocates

The Office for Victims of Crime offers their Victim Assistance Training Online (or VAT Online), which they describe as “a basic victim advocacy web-based training program that offers victim services providers and allied professionals the opportunity to acquire the basic skills and knowledge they need to better assist victims of crime. Specific information is also provided to meet the needs of target populations.”

The Advocacy Manual published by the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault in 1999 offers a thorough description of the criminal justice system that can provide a useful overview for advocates in any state.

Statewide Sexual Assault Coalitions

Statewide sexual assault (or dual sexual assault and domestic violence) coalitions can provide extensive information on state-specific policies or statutes, as well as training manuals and other publications. We have compiled a list of coalitions in our Resource Library.

Breaking Barriers: The Role of Community-Based and System-Based Victim Advocates

This training module is designed to help professionals within the criminal justice and community response system, including advocates themselves, better understand the role of victim advocates. (Please note that there is considerable overlap between the content of this training module and Course #12 on Effective Victim Advocacy in the Criminal Justice System: A Training Course for Victim Advocates.)

Notification of Advocates and HIPAA Protections

This training bulletin examines the question of whether routine notification of advocates violates the privacy protections outlined in HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). Although the name of the patient might not be revealed when an advocate is called out to respond, some have interpreted the face to face contact that may be made as violating HIPAA. Many programs continue to struggle with this issue and have a real desire to assure meaningful access to advocacy services.

Collaboration is Key: Role of Victim Advocates in the Criminal Justice System

This article in Sexual Assault Report by authors Dr. Kim Lonsway and Sgt. (Ret.) Joanne Archambault offers a brief review of the laws in six states that provide victims of sexual assault with a right to have an advocate (or personal representative) present during a medical forensic examination, as well as a general overview of advocacy and the benefit of advocacy. The article was designed to complement others in the issue, including a more detailed review of the laws regarding a victim’s right to have an advocate during the medical forensic examination; this legal compilation was written by Charlene Whitman and is available from AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women.

Responding to Survivors with Autism Spectrum Disorders

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center created a guide for sexual assault advocates to respond to survivors with autism spectrum disorders. Although this guide is intended for advocates, professionals from other disciplines can benefit from the information included on the characteristics of autism, communication techniques, connecting with caregivers, accommodations, and safety planning.

Multidisciplinary SARRT Video

Professionals in Alachua County, Florida created this multi-disciplinary video detailing the role of Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) members, including victim advocates, forensic medical examiners, investigators, and prosecutors. Team members share strategies from each disciplinary perspective on how to respond in a supportive, trauma-informed manner. The video was created by the Alachua County Communications Department.

Integrating Victim Services

In 2019, the IACP released a resolution declaring that agencies should integrate victim services into their day to day operations so that crime victims have immediate access to professional personnel who understand the complexities of trauma and victim needs.

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