In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Victim Services

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Specialized Organizations

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Social Work Victim Services
Karen S. Knox
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0018


According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, from 1993–2015 the rate of violent crime has decreased from 79.8 to 18.6 victimizations per 1,000 persons age twelve or over, with an estimated five million violent victimizations in 2015 (Truman and Morgan 2016, cited under Reference Works). While there have been many theories about this decrease, there is still no consensus on why this trend has occurred. Changing population demographics, an improved economy, decreases in drug and crack use/crimes, increased ownership of firearms, increases in police forces and innovative policing protocols, increased incarceration, and decreases in illegal abortion have been postulated as possible contributors to the decrease in the crime victimization rate, which was also seen globally. Crime victims, their families, and friends receive services in the aftermath of the traumatic incident from social workers, counselors, psychologists, and other helping professionals across a range of settings, such as law enforcement, the court systems, corrections, and probation/parole. As frontline responders on the scene, police-based victim services have unique opportunities to intervene at a critical time for intervention: immediately after the offense and during the investigation: Generally, brief, time-limited crisis intervention services and referrals for continued therapy and other services are provided by victim services programs based in law enforcement. Victim assistance services at the court level are provided during the hearings and focus primarily on case notification and advocacy, witness testimony, and crisis intervention. During the court processes, survivors, family members, and significant others may experience re-traumatization as a result of the court proceedings that bring up memories, emotional reactions, and psychological disturbance. Victim witness advocates assess and refer clients for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and grief and loss issues that indicate the need for continuing long-term therapy. Restorative justice programs are found at the corrections and probation/parole levels and provide services for crime survivors and family members that include release and parole notification, victim impact panels, victim-offender mediation, and restitution programs. However, the National Crime Victimization Survey reports that only 9.1 percent of victims of violent crime received assistance from a victim services agency in 2015 (Truman and Morgan 2016, cited under Reference Works).

Introductory Works

Victim services began in the early 1900s with the establishment of women’s bureaus within police departments, where the focus was primarily on working with children, youth, and women (see Roberts 1997). During the 1970s, the battered women’s and rape crisis movements invigorated the victim rights movement, and subsequent legislation (see Victims of Crime Act 1984) and funding resulted in an increase of programs and services. By 1999 there were over 10,000 victim and witness programs in every state (see Roberts and Fisher 1997). Professional literature about crime victims, victimology, and crisis intervention also increased during the 1990s. Research on victim services programs and their effectiveness contributed to the knowledge base and development of best practices (see Roberts 1990, McShane 1997, Kennedy and Sacco 1998, and Wainrib and Bloch 1998). Glicken and Sechrest 2003 provides comprehensive coverage of services and treatment for victims of violence. Specialized programs and legal services for domestic violence victims are presented in one of the first comprehensive texts on domestic violence, Roberts 2002.

  • Glicken, Morley D., and Dale Sechrest. 2003. The role of the helping professions in treating the victims and perpetrators of violence. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

    Covers the reasons behind, history of, and extent of violence in America, as well as the social and economic costs. Chapters focus on types of violence, including family, child, sexual, juvenile, and workplace violence, as well as random acts of violence. Each chapter provides content on treatment and case studies. Programs and services that respond to issues of substance abuse, violence in popular culture, mental illness, and terrorism are also presented.

  • Kennedy, Leslie. W., and Vincent F. Sacco. 1998. Crime victims in context. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Focuses on the cultural and political context of victimization, research on victims of crime, criminological theories of victims, personal safety and risk factors, and victim services in courts and alternative justice programs.

  • McShane, Marilyn, ed. 1997. Victims of crime and the victimization process. New York: Garland.

    This volume presents chapters on the effects of victim impact statements, radical victimology, the history of victim assistance in the United States, victim-offender mediation, and restorative justice.

  • Roberts, Albert R. 1990. Helping crime victims: Research, policy and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    This pioneering work presents the results and recommendations of the author’s national survey of victim services and victim assistance programs. Models for crisis intervention, recovery services, and restitution programs for crime victims are provided.

  • Roberts, Albert R. 1997. The history and role of social work in law enforcement. In Social work in juvenile and criminal justice settings. Edited by Albert R. Roberts, 105–115. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

    The author’s second edition discusses the increase in victim services and victim assistance programs since the mid-1980s. The third section focuses on police-based social work and police–social work collaboration.

  • Roberts, Albert R., ed. 2002. Handbook of domestic violence intervention: Policies, programs, and legal remedies. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Part 2 of the book offers six chapters on criminal justice and legal system responses to domestic violence, and Part 4 features crisis intervention, advocacy, and specialized programs for battered women and children exposed to domestic violence.

  • Roberts, Albert R., and P. Fisher. 1997. Service roles in victim/witness assistance programs. In Policy and practice in the justice system. Edited by C. Aaron McNeece and Albert R. Roberts, 127–142. Chicago: Nelson-Hall.

    This chapter provides a history and overview of victim services in the criminal justice systems. Types of programs, services, and roles of professionals across settings are discussed.

  • Wainrib, Barbara R., and Ellin Bloch. 1998. Crisis intervention and trauma response: Theory and practice. New York: Springer.

    The authors present their General Crisis Response model with short-term, problem-oriented interventions and real-life case examples. They stress the importance of focusing on client strengths and awareness of individual and cultural differences.

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