Our Role in Supporting Victims
Crime Victims’ Rights Week
Our Role in Supporting Victims
Approximately 21 million Americans each year are victimized by crime—acts of terrorism, violent crime, financial fraud, child abuse, computer crime, kidnapping, bank robbery...the list is endless.
This week—National Crime Victims’ Rights Week—we pause to remember and express our support for victims. The FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance plays a vital role here…not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it facilitates the cooperation and participation of victims in the criminal justice process.
Broad range of crimes…and victims. According to a recent federal report, the FBI works with more crime victims than all other federal investigative agencies combined. But because our jurisdiction is so broad, there are always more victims than FBI personnel to help them. So we’ve prioritized our cases as follows: 1) child abuse; 2) terrorism; 3) violent crime; 4) Indian Country crime; and 5) civil rights violations.
“The role of victim advocates in state and local agencies and non-governmental programs is absolutely critical…we all benefit from these collaborations, but victims most of all.”
And what about our mega financial fraud or computer intrusion investigations…the ones with massive amounts of victims? While we’re not able to offer assistance to individual victims, we’ve begun developing an interactive webpage template that can be activated quickly, can collect data on victims and losses, and can provide useful information.
Recent progress. During the past fiscal year, says Office for Victim Assistance Director Kathryn Turman, we have made huge strides in moving our victim assistance efforts forward. “Our victim specialists go where the victims are—crime scenes, reservations, hospitals, and homes—at times when victims need them most.”
FBI victim specialists were called in on some well-known cases—the Mumbai terrorist attacks, the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship off the coast of Somalia, and the Jaycee Dugard kidnapping case in California. They also supported victims in cases that didn’t make headlines but were just as important to us—like the elderly victim of a $2 million investment fraud, the 17-year-old victim of domestic abuse, and the young child molested by a predator on a live webcam.
Information for Victims
Here are some more recent accomplishments:
- We’ve begun offering “reintegration” services to civilian hostage victims overseas—everything from arranging for travel home and ensuring counseling and follow-up medical care to debriefings, medical and mental health assessments, and reunification with family members. We hope to tailor aspects of this program for kidnap cases, particularly those involving children.
- We’ve piloted a program using a therapy dog to help provide support to victims, especially children who have been assaulted and have to undergo medical examinations. Since the program began, the dog has provided affection and comfort to victims of human trafficking, bank robberies, and even some white-collar crimes.
- We’ve assigned more victim specialists to Indian Country (more than 800 of the victims we worked with last year were Native Americans).
- We’ve published new brochures (above) with useful victim information regarding terrorism, child pornography, criminal aviation disasters, and bank robberies.
While the FBI supports many victims, we can’t reach all of them, and we can’t provide all that victims need. Says Kathryn Turman, “That’s why the role of victim advocates in state and local agencies and non-governmental programs is absolutely critical…we all benefit from these collaborations, but victims most of all.”