Serving Crime Victims During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the United States, advocates face additional challenges in providing the highest levels of care to all survivors and victims of crime. Coping with a pandemic is new to all of us, and the effects of the disruption will be felt by both crime victims, survivors, and those that support them. Technological and communication difficulties may slow efforts to empower crime victims and survivors, and the sense of urgency caused by the pandemic may result in higher levels of advocate stress.

Our content library below provides some key resources to help advocates continue to serve crime victims and survivors during this time, as well as resources about advocate resilience and general technological needs.

Updated April 23, 2020

Updated April 2, 2020

Marginalized and vulnerable communities are affected by the COVID-19 crisis in unique ways.

Advocates working with these communities can help by staying informed:

Tribal Advocacy

  • Fact sheets about COVID-19 for Tribes and Urban Indian Communities

Children’s Advocacy

Undocumented and immigrant survivors and victims

Limited English Speaking Communities

LGBTQ+

Counselors/psychologists

March 26, 2020

 8 things crime victim advocates need to know during COVID-19

1. There are free webinars for sustaining victim services during COVID-19

Check these national victim service organizations often for upcoming and recorded webinars, up-to-date resources, and news articles relevant to crime victim services and COVID-19. And, be sure to visit our webinar-round-up page: COVID-19 Webinars.

 

2. Older adults and persons with disabilities are at especially high-risk for serious COVID-19 complications

Advocates working with these populations can help navigate unique challenges including:

 

3. Victims of violence and abuse that occur at home are at even greater risk during social distancing and quarantine

As shelters work to prevent or minimize the spread of COVID-19 within their facilities, victims needing emergency housing may choose to return or stay home to reduce their risk of COVID-19 in a shared-housing facility, which increases their risk for further victimization at home.

Perpetrators of violence and abuse may use the outbreak as another method of control.

 

4. The COVID-19 crisis may trigger past trauma responses in victims

Many people are understandably experiencing anxiety, hopelessness, and fear around the outbreak of COVID-19, but for victims of crime and other trauma survivors, the uncertainty, lack of control, and threat to bodily safety surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak could be reminiscent of past trauma experienced and trauma symptoms may flare up. Advocates can play a crucial role in validating this reality for victims and facilitating techniques to help victims stay grounded.

Victims may have seen news reports of jails considering releasing inmates, and that could be very triggering to victims whose perpetrators are incarcerated, even if they ultimately are never released. Preparing victims for safety planning and PPO assistance can promote empowerment and feelings of security

 

5. Victims of crime are at greater risk of mental health challenges during social distancing and quarantine

Healthy social support is one of the greatest tools in easing the effects of trauma, and measures to limit the spread of the virus may also lead to social isolation that impact mental health. Advocates can help victims plan ways to stay connected to their support network.

 

6. Advocates are at greater risk of burnout and compassion fatigue during COVID-19

Advocates may feel the extra strain of limited resources and increased workload as their agencies work to respond to state and federal guidelines for limiting the spread of COVID-19 while still providing much-needed services to crime victims. The crime victims advocates are working with may be understandably more stressed or triggered during this time, increasing the vicarious trauma load on advocates. Advocates may also be balancing stressors related to the personal impact of COVID-19 on their lives—with their own social isolation, children home from school, high-risk loved ones, and uncertain financial security.

Despite these challenges, advocates have shown great strength and resilience as they continue to provide crucial support to victims, and proactively preventing burnout and compassion fatigue in this challenging time is more important than ever—advocates deserve care too!

 

7. Technology can help advocates connect with victims remotely

Social distancing and quarantine can create challenges for victims obtaining services and resources. Technology can help advocates connect with victims remotely, and communicating through technology comes with benefits and risks for both victims and advocates. By making necessary adjustments to meet the needs of survivors, while also understanding the risks of digital service provision, victims and advocates can have the information they need to get help and also do their jobs to the best of their ability.

 

8. Technology can help advocacy agencies maintain program operations

Advocacy agencies may use technology such as remote access to files, instant messaging, and video calls to maintain program operations while allowing staff and volunteers to work remotely. Using technology to work remotely helps to support advocate health and wellbeing.

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