Ethical decision-making is a skill to be acquired. This handbook of ethical practice is a skill-building resource that will help victim assistance providers think through common ethical dilemmas. It offers practical tools and problem-solving techniques for addressing ethical challenges as they develop. Readers have the chance to assess their personal values, moral orientation, and personal bias to consider how these elements influence the decisions they make in the workplace. Exercises in ethical decision-making allow individuals and groups the benefit of forethought : the chance to practice the process through which common dilemmas are solved in a workshop environment.
Support and services to crime victims takes many different forms and, as a result, not all victim assistance providers are subject to the same ethical standards. This text strives to be inclusive in its analysis of elements that influence ethical responsibility. Oftentimes, how a victim assistance provider responds to an ethical challenge is dependent on the nature of the service he or she provides.
Since the late 1960s, the field of victim assistance has evolved from a grassroots movement of committed individuals and nonprofit organizations into a professional discipline. It now encompasses a wide diversity of organized community- and system-based individuals and organizations whose service to crime victims range the entire gamut of the criminal justice experience. While there is no consensus on every aspect of the ethics of victim services, “putting victims first” remains the mantra of the field. As this evolution has continued, victim assistance providers on many fronts have called for a definition of professionalism. Common questions include:
• What constitutes excellence in the delivery of services to crime victims?
• What does it mean to be well trained and well informed?
• How do we formalize accountability?
• How do we build credibility in the broader criminal justice arena?
• These inquiries are only natural for a movement increasingly recognized by the juvenile and criminal justice systems, academia, and the public at large as a credible, worthwhile, and much-needed service.
In an effort to address common goals around excellence in the delivery of services to crime victims, in 1999 the Office for Victims of Crime created the National Victim Assistance Standards Consortium (NVASC). NVASC’s goal was to create a model for competency and ethical standards of conduct for the field of victim assistance. To do this, the Consortium researched existing standards in similar professions, polled the field of victim assistance, and utilized the expertise and experience of a representative and diverse core of victim assistance professionals. The result of this work is theNVASC Standards for Victim Assistance Programs and Providers, written by Dana DeHart, Ph.D., at the University of South Carolina at Columbia.
This book, Ethics in Victim Services, is based on the NVASC model of ethical standards. It is designed to help victim assistance professionals identify, analyze, and resolve the many ethical dilemmas they face on a daily basis. It provides victim service providers with the tools to develop model ethical standards appropriate for their organizations and agencies. Neither the NVASC standards, nor this book, are intended to dictate standards of performance.
“As the victim service profession grows and becomes integral to our social, criminal justice, medical, and mental health response systems, providers confront increasingly complex ethical questions. Melissa Hook ‘s in-depth examination provides a much-needed resource for the victim services field. It will help prepare students and professionals for the real-world dilemmas they will face in providing the highest quality service to their clients.”
Mary Lou Leary
National Center for Victims of Crime
“Bravo to Melissa Hook for successfully communicating the core ethics of the victim rights and service field. She effectively connects the wisdom, practical application, and complexities of working with crime victims. This book is mind-opening, validating, and promotes the self-awareness necessary for effective victim service. It is a must read whether one has been in the field for one month or 30 years.”