Impact Feature Issue on Violence Against Women with Developmental or Other Disabilities
Collaborating to Serve Crime Victims in Denver:
Victim Services 2000
In 1997, Denver victim service providers came together to create a network of services where all victims of crime would get appropriate, culturally-sensitive services – where there would be “no wrong door” for victims to access services. This effort was funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, when Denver was selected as the urban site for the development and implementation of the Victim Services
In 1997, Denver victim serviceproviders came together to createa network of services where allvictims of crime would getappropriate services.
2000 (VS2000) model. The Office for Victims of Crime envisioned VS2000 as a five-year demonstration project to create a model victim service network and to then offer technical assistance and information to other communities.
The Denver VS2000 model was created with three goals in mind: to reach out to previously unserved or under-served populations; to institutionalize victimization training for service providers and allied professionals; and to use technology to better serve and provide information for victims of crime. More than 50 victim service agencies and programs participate in the project, including community nonprofit and criminal justice-based victim service programs. One of these participants is an agency which provides services specifically designed for domestic violence victims with disabilities, Domestic Violence Initiative for Women with Disabilities. Several other VS2000 partners also work with people with disabilities who have been victimized. Services are also available in Denver for other traditionally underserved victims such as African American, Latino and Asian victims; victims of hate crimes; and gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender victims. Denver utilizes many victim-centered interagency protocols, including the Interagency Protocol for Crime Victims who are Older or have a Disability, which provides for the replacement of attendant caregivers who are no longer able to fulfill their duties due to arrest or other emergency.
Reaching Underserved Crime Victims
Working together to realize the dream of an integrated victim service network, VS2000 staff and teams of victim service providers envisioned a new way to address barriers experienced by under-served groups. This new approach became the Community Advocate Project. Community advocates are individuals who are known and respected members of underserved communities, who provide the crime victims in those communities with crisis intervention and a trusted link to the agencies that can provide services for them. Community advocates are in a unique position to build trust in existing services and bridges between the underserved and victim service providers.
Three community advocates – representing the NorthEast Denver (primarily African American), Muslim women’s, and Highlands (primarily monolingual Spanish-speaking Latino) communities – began working in their communities in 1999, and provide crisis intervention, information and referral, and case management. In their first year they served 130 victims of crime. The advocates are involved in community activities such as meetings, forums, and events. The fact that they not “outsiders” allows victims to feel safe approaching them for help.
The Application of Technology
Technology often seems out of the reach of victim service providers, especially in light of insufficient resources and tight budgets. What the victim services community is starting to realize, however, is that technology is more accessible, affordable, and critical to the efficiency and productivity of victim service agencies than ever before.
The VS2000 information system is designed to benefit victim service providers, the victims they serve, and the general community. It consists of three components: an online resource directory; online training center; and a shared case management system. Two of these are currently in place.
The online resource directory, available in Spanish and English, makes locating, compiling, screening and organizing resources easier and more accessible. The directory contains over 800 records which are the combined information and referral sources of 38 Denver victim service agencies. Users access the directory on the VS2000 Web site and can then search for resources using any combination of the following categories: services provided; agency name; type of victims served; languages spoken; geographic area; age; ethnicity served; fees for service; wheelchair accessibility; or zip code (the more categories selected, the narrower the search).
The VS2000 needs assessment revealed that agencies were offering very similar training to staff and volunteers once or twice a year, often using the same trainers or speakers. Cross-training among agency staff was identified as a critical need in Denver to establish understanding, trust, and a basis for solid referrals between agencies. In order to streamline training efforts, reduce duplication of training offered, and create a framework for cross-training to occur, the Online Training Center was created.
Users access the training center through the VS2000 Web site. They can then search for training they are interested in by keyword, date, or categories such as child sexual abuse, criminal justice, cross-training, disability issues, diversity, domestic violence, elder abuse, gang violence, youth violence, hate/bias crimes, homicide, restorative justice, secondary trauma, and sexual assault. The training center uses e-mail notification to help VS2000 member agency users submit training events, register for training events hosted by other agencies, or know when training in their area of interest is offered.
Moving Beyond Denver
VS2000 hopes that all of these initiatives will be of help to human service providers around the country. All software was developed in the public domain and will soon be available, free of charge, from VS2000. The concept of community advocates could be an empowering tool to help any group of traditionally underserved people link with mainstream service providers. It has been said that there are no new ideas, and these initiatives are really just a new twist on an old idea: that our greatest strength is our interconnectedness.