During this decade, researchers continued efforts to examine the plight of victims and evaluate social and criminal justice interventions and programs. This includes the implementation of mandatory arrest policies for domestic violence victims and the evaluation of their efficacy for protecting victims. The 1990s was also a decade of continued and more diverse legislation to change the circumstances faced by crime victims. There were a number of contributions of research to practice, as reflected in the work done by domestic violence researchers examining the efficacy of mandatory arrest policies, domestic violence courts, and batterer interventions. While the findings are often mixed on whether mandatory arrest policies reduce revictimization, most states have adopted either a mandatory or pro-arrest stance on domestic violence.
There were also a number of advances made in responding to the trauma experienced by crime victims, including the expansion and deepening of services to the varied victim populations. There continued to be a worldwide movement to articulate the rights of victims within the criminal justice system and attempts to develop interventions to enforce those rights. During this time period, for example, many states incorporated victims’ rights into their state constitutions. There was also a growing sensitivity to the varied experience of crime victims and the extensive consequences of violence. For example, there was recognition of the lack of sensitivity to victims of sexual assault during medical evidentiary examinations. This led to the development of sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) programs. The SANE programs addressed the waiting time for victims of sexual violence, and the lack of training and experience of those working with sexual assault victims during forensic examinations.
After the early 1960s, there was a dramatic increase in the demand for child protective services. Some of the services provided by these agencies included assistance for children and families, foster care placement for abused children, support for youth making the transition to adulthood while living in foster care, and placement of children in adoptive homes. Today, there are close to 3 million referrals made yearly to state-level protective service agencies, involving more than 4.5 million children. In dealing with the impact of child abuse, more than 350 communities have established children’s advocacy center programs. These centers permit law enforcement officers, prosecutors, child protection workers, victim advocates, and therapists to interview children in a single, child-friendly location rather than in several intimidating environments. Child advocacy programs also provide holistic multidisciplinary case management to children during various stages of therapeutic treatment and criminal justice intervention.
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The earliest assistance and services for the victims of violent crime came in the form of victim compensation programs. The first program of its kind was established in California in 1965 through that state’s Victims of Violent Crime Act. This act provided for “reimbursement to persons who, as a result of a violent crime, have suffered a monetary loss due to a physical or emotional injury not covered by another source” (California Attorney General’s Office, 1998, p. 21). In addition, the act allowed for the reimbursement of medical and hospital bills, loss of income, loss of support, funeral and burial expenses, rehabilitation or retraining costs, counseling and therapy, and attorney fees. It also required that members of law enforcement inform victims about the availability of state compensation funds and the location of the local victim/ witness assistance center where they could file for a reimbursement. In outlining the need for such a service and provision to victims, California State Senator Eugene McAteer made a convincing case to then Governor Edmund G. Brown by stating the following:
Until these rights are also enshrined in our Constitution, the people who have been hurt most by crime will continue to be denied equal justice under law. That’s what this country is really all about—equal justice under law. And crime victims deserve that as much as any group of citizens in the United States ever will. (Office of the Press Secretary, the White House, 1996)
Two hundred twenty years ago, our Founding Fathers were concerned, justifiably, that government never, never trample on the rights of people just because they are accused of a crime. Today, it’s time for us to make sure that while we continue to protect the rights of the accused, government does not trample on the rights of the victims.
Relationships between the offender and the victim are much more intricate than is observable. These relationships form the basis of some of the issues under investigation in this research. Women and children often bear the burden of the culpable victims in crimes or other injustices in societies. Issues such as sexual violence, war, exploitation, and crime are examined with an aim of developing a clear understanding of the victim’s contribution to this. Some justice systems chose to put these issues into consideration when determining guilt and during sentencing. For fair deliberation and subsequent sentencing of the culpable victims to be done, the legal authorities need to establish an elaborate system (Geis & Edelhertz, 2007).
I have supported the goals of many constitutional amendments since I took office, but in each amendment that has been proposed during my tenure as President, I have opposed the amendment either because it was not appropriate or not necessary. But this is different. I want to balance the budget, for example, but the Constitution already gives us the power to do that. What we need is the will and to work together to do that. I want young people to be able to express their religious convictions in an appropriate manner wherever they are, even in a school, but the Constitution protects people’s rights to express their faith.
The move to enact federal legislation to protect the rights of violent crime victims and in particular an amendment to the United States Constitution has a long history and support from both liberals and conservatives. On June 25, 1996, President Bill Clinton voiced his position on such proposed legislation:
The decade may also be seen as suffering from a failure to take federal action to recognize the rights of victims in the same way the U.S. Constitution protects the rights the of accused. With support from both Democrats and Republicans, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Federal Victims’ Rights Amendment to ensure basic rights to victims nationwide. However, the Congress failed to approve the amendment. As an alternative, the Justice for All Act was passed in 2004, providing substantive rights for crime victims and legal mechanisms to enforce those rights.
Almost 7 years later, on May 9, 2002, President George W. Bush voiced similar support for the victims of crime. In a speech at the Department of Justice, President Bush gave his support to a federal constitutional amendment for violent crime victims: