Career and Job Search Guide

Victims' Advocate

Since domestic violence is very traumatic and difficult to cope with, abuse victims usually struggle dealing with their emotional pain and anxiety by themselves. They often seek the help of victims' advocates to understand why their abuser would act so viciously and what redress options are available to them. Abuse victims also rely on victims' advocates for emotional support.

Victims' advocates usually specialize and work with a certain group of victims, such as children or women. They explain court procedures and details about social services and other resources available to abuse victims.

Abuse victims, especially victims of sexual abuse, usually suffer poor self-esteem and feel powerless. Therefore, the first thing a victims' advocate will do when working with abuse victims is express unwavering support for them, provide them with information about counseling professionals they can meet with, and provide a list of government or private charitable resources they can utilize.

Government agencies, municipal police departments, battered women's shelters, community centers, and a variety of other organizations employ victims' advocates. Many often set up their own businesses.

Victims' advocates working at community centers and battered women's shelters are usually responsible for developing protection plans, (predetermined plans in case the victim is threatened by their abusers), providing initial consoling when working with victims for the first time, and directing victims to available social services.

Many victims' advocates employed by community centers or non-profit groups have administrative and fundraising responsibilities. Others contact police departments daily to inquire about reported abuse, organize classes intended for abuse victims, and determine whether their clients are at risk of further abuse if they continue to associate with their abusers.

Many advocates work with groups that meet with victims in emergency rooms, college dorms, and police departments immediately following reported abuse. These advocates are usually on-call during all hours of the day.

Certain victims' advocates travel to schools, seminars sponsored by women's organizations, and hospitals to provide lectures on domestic violence. During these lectures, they discuss intervention strategies, coping methods, and signs that indicate abuse.

Victims' advocates also lobby the federal government and state governments to provide funding for victims' rights organizations and causes. Many participate in drafting victims' rights legislation and contribute written articles for scholarly journals. Occasionally, victims' advocates are asked to testify in court on behalf of their clients.

Since most abuse victims struggle immensely with emotional stress, it is often difficult for them to meet with attorneys and file reports required by police departments and courts by themselves. Victims' advocates frequently attend lawyer and court appointments with them, and they assist with paper work.

Those interested in working as a victims' advocate are usually required to complete a bachelor's or master's program. Additionally, in most cases, they must complete a state certification program. Programs in psychology and social work are good preparation for a career in this field. Those interested in managing a shelter or non-profit group should complete a graduate program.

The best way to begin a career as a victims' advocate is to volunteer with a non-profit group or battered women's shelter while still in college. Volunteers will gain valuable experience and have an opportunity to network with people already working with abuse victims.