Home News Stories 2008 June Assistance for U.S. Victims Overseas

Assistance for U.S. Victims Overseas

Specialized Assistance
For U.S. Crime Victims Overseas



Earlier this month, we told you how the FBI responds internationally to incidents of Americans being seriously harmed or killed overseas.

But we also offer another, more personal service: through our victim assistance program, we ensure that victims and their families receive all the rights and services help they are entitled to under U.S. law. In other words, we make sure they have what they need to help put their lives back together.

The FBI established its Office for Victim Assistance in 2002 to aid victims of crimes investigated by the Bureau, including overseas crimes against Americans. In addition to experts at our Headquarters, every FBI field office has its own victim assistance specialist. But we soon recognized that victims of overseas crimes that fell under FBI jurisdiction—like terrorism and kidnappings—had unique needs. So in 2003, we formed a Terrorism Victim Assistance Program within our Office for Victim Assistance.

Included on our special terrorism team are licensed clinical social workers and, soon, a forensic family affairs specialist—all with plenty of experience working with victims, particularly bombing victims.

Since then, we have worked with a variety of victims and their families—tourists, business travelers, missionaries, journalists, and humanitarian aid workers. We’ve also assisted U.S. government contractors and employees, including diplomats, security officials, and drivers. We have even worked with some of our own employees deployed overseas—most recently, with four agents injured in a bombing in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Our assistance usually begins shortly after the family—or in some cases an employer—is notified of the incident by the State Department. Our assistance can continue for years, depending on the path of the investigation and subsequent court proceedings…as well as the needs of the victim and/or family.

What kind of assistance do we offer? We break it down into three phases:

  • Acute: usually lasting anywhere from one to four weeks—includes explaining the process to the family; meeting with victims; coordinating medical evacuations and autopsies (if necessary) and obtaining official death certificates for benefits purposes; arranging crisis intervention services if appropriate; and facilitating investigative interviews with family members;
  • Intermediate/Transition: usually anywhere from four to 24 weeks—includes identifying additional federal, state, and local resources for victims; providing appropriate intervention with creditors and employers; supplying case status updates; and arranging briefings with investigative officials; and
  • Long-term: could be months or years—includes responding to inquiries from victims and/or their families; maintaining updated victim contact information; providing updates on case developments; and assisting with travel arrangements to attend the trial.

Over the past several years, we’ve been called upon to offer assistance to victims around the world. We’ve coordinated medical evacuations following terrorist attacks in the U.K., Jordan, and Egypt…helped families of citizens taken hostage in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Colombia…worked with recovered American hostages from Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, and Nigeria…and coordinated the repatriation of citizens killed in terror attacks in London, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, and Jordan.

We don’t do it alone. While working with American victims and their families, we often work closely with partner agencies like the State Department, Defense Department, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, and the Dover Air Force Base Mortuary.

FBI Office for Victim Assistance