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Apr 26, 2022| Events

Crime Victims’ Rights Week –
Reflections on Equity in Victim Services

The theme for Crime Victims’ Rights Week (CVRW) 2022 is Rights, Access, Equity for All Victims. To honor this important topic, the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services will be sharing reflections on equity in victim services addressing issues of equity of data, cultural humility, gender bias, racial trauma, and transformational collaborations. These reflections are intended to raise awareness, create understanding and ultimately help transform and enhance victim services in VT.

PARTICIPATION

To share your thoughts or comment on these topics, or share your reflection, email us at Omara.rivera-vazquez @ccvs.vermont.gov. We will combine all the thoughts and notions about each topic and share them (comments will be anonymous) at the end of Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Thank you for your participation!

We invite you to engage in these daily activities and hope that you find them transformational! 

Topic 1: Framing Equity in Victim Services

Historically, many groups, including communities of color, have lacked access to adequate services-or any services at all (OVC,2020). Just by examining available statistical data we can see that there are clear trends on who experiences victimization and who is accessing services. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), only 11 percent of victims of serious violence who report their victimization ever access help from a victim services agency. Increasing the number of crime victims connected to the services needed to support their healing is crucial. This connection is especially important for groups that experience high rates of victimization. In recent years, a rise in gun violence has disproportionally impacted underserved communities, particularly communities of color, as noted in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Fatal Injury Reports.

A look at what types of data you are collecting is important. For example, just by examining Vermont’s VOCA PMT data on race/ethnicity we know that many organizations do not track or submit race/ethnic data (far more than gender). Failure to track these data closely is problematic to understanding the scope of victim services in VT applying an equity lens.

We know that racism, sexism, classism, heteronormativity, ableism, ageism, felony disenfranchisement, colonialism, religious and cultural intolerance can skew equity of data just as it can programming.

As we move forward, let’s keep in mind that these issues can play a role in the lack of data being collected either implicitly or explicitly. Thus, reflecting on how these issues might impact your programs, as well as examining ways to overcome these voids in data and programming are needed when identifying solutions.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What data is your organization collecting that can help shed some light on victimization among victims/survivors of color, elders, new Americans, LGBTQ youth and adults, other vulnerable groups? 
  2. What are the challenges to collecting these data?
  3. Has your organization assessed the need for diversity of perspectives at the design and decision-making tables on what data to collect and why collecting certain information is important?

Resources:

Click on the resource to be taken to the link location.

  1. National Crime Victimization Survey
  2. CDC Fatal Injury and Violence Data
  3. Watch OVC’s presentation: A Vision for Equity in Victim Services: What Does the data tells us about the work?
  4. Serving Communities of Color


Topic 2: Cultural Humility in Victim Services

Cultural Humility is an approach to knowing individuals of other cultures that pushes one to challenge your own cultural biases, realize you cannot know everything about other cultures, and approach learning about other cultures as a lifelong goal and process.

Understanding the complexity of identities — that even in sameness there is difference — and that one will never be fully competent about the evolving and dynamic nature of an individual’s experiences is the crux of cultural humility.

Racism, sexism, ableism and other ‘isms exist in the world at large and trickle down to national levels, state levels, institutions, and systems of care and how policies and procedures are established. It is imperative that victim service providers are both aware of these issues and work to eliminate these inequalities and inequities.
A crucial way to build cultural humility into victim services is with representation. A diverse workforce is essential, but it doesn’t stop there. Upholding values of cultural humility and cultural competence, promoting equity, and improving access to victim services requires that we understand how these ‘isms are operational within the systems in which we interact and provide services. For this, cultural competence and humility and sensitivity training are essential.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What are the biases that I have and how do they impact my work?
  2. How can cultural humility help eliminate bias?
  3. Why might the concept of cultural humility be valuable in victim services?
  4. What are some ways you can practice cultural humility in your organization/program?

Resources:

Click on the resource to be taken to the link location.

  1. This TED talk by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explores the limitations of a single story.
  2. What is Cultural Humility? This video discusses cultural humility in relation to cultural competency.
  3. The article “Battling biases with the 5 Rs of cultural humility”, offers a cultural humility framework used by Society of Hospital Medicine.
  4. This article explains cultural humility within social work.
  5. Article on Cultural Humility in Legal Services.


Topic 3: Overcoming Gender Bias in Victim Services

It’s not the differences that divide us, it’s our incapacity to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences.
-Audre Lorde

Gender bias includes stereotyped thinking about the nature and roles of individuals’ gender identity; myths and misconceptions about these roles; and society’s historical pattern of devaluing individuals who do not fall under traditional binary gender roles. It can be explicit or implicit and presents itself in many ways throughout the criminal justice continuum, especially in cases involving abuse. Gender bias in any part of the system is troubling and can lead to dangerous outcomes for victims/survivors of crime.

Gender bias can be overcome with education. Best practice is for victim service providers to continuously engage in training and creating program guidelines to assist in providing unbiased services to all victims/survivors. There is also a need to understand hindsight bias (“I knew all along phenomenon”), outgroup bias (a dislike for other people that are outside of one’s own identity group), and the just world fallacy (“people get what they deserve”), and how these affect our understanding of victimization. Research suggests that people make less biased decisions once they are aware of how bias affects them.

Reflection Questions:

Below are sample questions that can help assess hidden gender biases and how they harm the LBGTQ+ community. For additional self-reflection questions, click here

  1. How do different identity markers such as race, ethnicity, ability/disability (e.g., able-bodied, etc.), body size, socioeconomic status/class, sexual orientation, spirituality/religion, or other identities, influence my gender identity? (e.g., ethnicity’s influence on masculinity/femininity; religion’s influence on binary gender norms, etc.) *use any or all that may apply.
  2. When someone calls me out regarding potentially harmful behaviors towards LGBTQ+ or Trans individuals, do I feel compelled to quickly defend myself and my intentions? Why is that? What am I hoping to communicate with this?

Resources:

Click on the resource to be taken to the link location.

  1. This short video from the New York Times on how bias shapes the way we think, talks about how implicit biases are thought processes that happen without us even knowing them.
  2. KQED Public Radio identifies the five most common types of bias and shares a quiz to test your knowledge. There is also a lesson plan in case you want to offer this as an activity.
  3. Implicit Association Test (IAT)– can help identify attitudes or beliefs about gender and other types of biases:
  4. Pragya Agarwal, a behavioral and data scientist in the U.K, explains that our brains are built for bias in this quick listen from NPR’s Short Wave.
  5. In this clip from Anderson Cooper 360, Dr. Margaret Beale Spencer, renowned child psychologist and University of Chicago researcher, recreates the groundbreaking “doll test” from the 1940s performed by Mamie and Kenneth Clark, a husband-and-wife team of Black psychologists who devoted their life’s work to understanding and helping heal children’s racial biases.

Scholarly articles:

  1. Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias in Law Enforcement Response to SA and DV.
  2. You do not Think of Me as a Human Being: Race and Gender Inequalities Intersect to Discourage Police Reporting of Violence Against Women
  3. Overcoming Biased Views of Gender and Victimhood in Custody Evaluations When Domestic Violence Is Alleged


Topic 4: Trauma Informed Victim Services and Racial Equity

“If it is not racially just, it is not trauma informed.” Kanwarpal Dhaliwal

Trauma is any experience that overwhelms one’s ability to cope. It’s important to recognize the impact trauma may have on the individuals you work with and use a trauma-informed approach in your interactions. A trauma-informed approach is mindful of the impact trauma has on a person/group.

Trauma-informed victim services acknowledge the role trauma plays in victim/survivors’ lives and the impact it has on their well-being, and to engage in practices that prevent retraumatizing them. Trauma-informed approaches to victim services provision should not overlook the critical impact of racism and racialized trauma on victims/survivors of crime.

Racial trauma is the result of ongoing exposure to stressors such as racism, racist bias, discrimination, violence against people of color, and abuse in the media that creates an environment in which a person of color feels unsafe simply because the color of their skin. It is widespread among all marginalized or stigmatized racial or ethnic groups (Villines, 2020). There are many triggers for a person to experience racial trauma. These include direct or indirect exposure to racist abuse or discrimination, media depictions of racism, such as police violence against unarmed Black people, exposure to racial or ethnic stereotypes, others not taking experiences of racism seriously.

Individuals experiencing racial trauma can suffer both psychological and physical symptoms. Psychological symptoms have been recorded in children of color as young as 12 years old. Both psychological and physical symptoms are exacerbated by the common lack of access to mental health care and medical care resulting from systematic racism (Coping with Racial Trauma, 2020).

Trauma-informed service provision requires a nuanced understanding of not only how trauma impacts the lives of individuals, but the root causes behind that trauma. Victim service providers/organizations should acknowledge and actively work to overcome the historical and present-day trauma experienced by individuals and staff from communities of color.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What can you/your organization do create awareness on racial trauma among victims of crime?
  2. What strategies might you use to help foster healing for the individuals that you serve that experience racial trauma?

Resources:

Click on the resource to be taken to the link location.

  1. Video: Understanding Racial Trauma

Articles:

  1. What to know about racial trauma?
  2. How micro-aggressions can lead to racial trauma
  3. The Little Understood Mental-Health Effects of Racial Trauma

Topic 4: Transformational Collaborations in Victim Services

Collaboration is a “mutually beneficial, well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations to achieve common goals.” Recently, there has been a strong push in the victim services field towards collaborating with culturally specific organizations. However, partnerships such as cooperation, coordination and collaboration are often misunderstood. It is not unusual, upon examination of “collaborations” to find the amount to then a referral network, whereby mainstream organizations continue to centralize leadership and control. This can happen in both partnerships that include, and those that exclude or marginalize culturally specific organizations and/or service providers.

There are many ways collaboration is confused with other forms of partnerships that are particularly dangerous and oppressive for culturally specific communities and/or individuals. These strategies may take the form of cooperation and coordination of services among others. These commonly used strategies not only fail to constitute collaboration, but further perpetuate inequities, exacerbate marginalization and can lead to exploitation.

Transformational Collaborations: Considerations to Apply a Racial Equity Lens (2020), emphasizes the need for collaborations that promote equity, inclusion, and meaningful engagement. Transformational collaborations serve to produce useful tools, minimize tokenism and the replication of institutional oppressions, and contribute to environments that share power while fostering racial equity. To achieve these transformations, we need to challenge structural inequalities built in society and do so relentlessly. Ultimately, engaging in transformational collaborations that promote racial equity will transform mainstream organizations and systems as opposed to expecting the assimilation of culturally specific organizations/service providers to operate within already established parameters.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” James Baldwin

Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you or your organization allow for different communication styles, attitudes toward conflict, and approaches to completing tasks internally and with partners?
  2. Do your current approaches account for the most marginalized rather than incorporate their needs as time and resources allow?
  3. Do you credit culturally specific organizations and/or individuals for their contributions, whether provided in verbal or in written form? 

Resources:

Click on the resource to be taken to the link location.

  1. Transformational Collaborations: Considerations to Apply a Racial Equity Lens
  2. Forging New Collaborations: A Guide for Rape Crisis, Domestic Violence, and Disability Organizations
  3. Collaborations and Partnerships for Victim Services in Community Corrections