State Victim Assistance Academies offer coursework and training in victimology, victims' rights, and victim services designed to meet the needs of victim service providers and allied professionals. These state programs are modeled on National Victim Assistance Academies presented by the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and are specifically tailored to the needs of individual states. Currently, 36 states, including Alaska, receive federal funding to assist with planning and presenting State Victim Assistance Academies.
With the help of both state and federal funding, Victims for Justice, a community-based crime victim service organization located in Anchorage, began in 2008 to develop a plan for a State Victim Assistance Academy for Alaska. An important first step in the development of a State Victim Assistance Academy is to conduct a needs assessment survey to identify the most important training needs to address in coursework. In this short article, we present the results of a needs assessment survey conducted by the Justice Center in partnership with Victims for Justice.
A convenience sample of 153 individuals working in the area of victim assistance was conducted. Most respondents indicated that they worked for victim service agencies (41%) and/or health and human service agencies (35%). Ten to fifteen percent of respondents also indicated that they worked for law enforcement agencies, educational agencies, and/or medical agencies. Forty-three (30%) of respondents were from Anchorage and 46 (32%) were from hubs and villages off the road system. Over half (66%) of the respondents had five or more years of victim services experience, and 30 percent had more than fifteen years of experience.
The survey asked respondents to indicate both basic and advanced training needs for 40 different subject areas. The most often noted basic training needs included identity theft (46%), internet crimes (42%), the impact of media on crime victims (40%), community justice (38%), hospital/legal advocacy (38%), stalking and cyber stalking (37%), and rural justice issues (36%). The most often noted advanced training needs included cultural and spiritual considerations (29%), sexual violence (28%), stalking and cyber stalking (28%), domestic violence (28%), juvenile sex offenders (27%), recovery from victimization (26%), the criminal justice process (26%), perpetrator profiles (26%), family violence (26%), and reactions to victimization and trauma (25%). Four topics were noted as important for both basic and advanced training by over 25% of respondents. These four topics included stalking and cyber stalking, juvenile sex offenders, recovery from victimization, and perpetrator profiles.
Results from this survey will influence the development of the Alaska State Victim Assistance Academy. The first Academy is planned for summer 2010. Readers interested in the Academy should contact Victims for Justice (www.victimsforjustice.org).
André Rosay is Director of the Justice Center.