Types of Advocacy in Williams County
Studies have shown that victims who have connected with an advocate are more likely to participate in prosecution and to feel that the court process has been safe, fair, and responsive to their needs. Advocacy services may be provided by a prosecutors' office (system-based advocacy), an independent, non-profit agency (community-based advocacy), or, as in Williams County, both entities. Although both types of advocates offer important assistance to victims, such as safety planning, court accompaniment, and assistance with accessing benefits and services, there are significant differences in their purpose and approach.
Provides services to victims who report as well as those who don't
Offer services not only to direct victims but secondary victims as well
Comprehensive advocacy (long-term, wrap around services)
No limitations on services. Victims decide when services end.
Provides services to victims whose cases are processed through the criminal justice system
Services specific to direct victims
Advocacy specific to moving a victim through the system (information of court dates, case status, disposition, and prosecutor goals)
Services limited to the length of the criminal justice process.
Delivery of Victim Rights
Education of the Community on Victim Needs
Access to Justice System Information
Access to Case Information
In-depth Knowledge of System
Right to be Present and Heard in Court
Provides services to victims in Williams County, Ohio.
Assistance with accessing benefits and services
Things to Consider
Because of their affiliation with organizations mandated to investigate and prosecute criminal activity, advocates from prosecutors' offices may be compelled to give to the prosecutor any information shared by the victim that is relevant to the criminal case-even if the victim does not want the information to be shared. This information may, in turn, be shared with the defense attorney (and therefore, the defendant), due to rules of evidence and criminal penal law, which can endanger the victim. Knowing that they can't speak freely in confidence, some victims may not feel comfortable working with this type of advocate.
In contrast, advocates working for independent agencies have the legally-protected ability to keep almost all information confidential. These agencies typically operate with the mission to support and empower victims, and as such, victims' autonomy and choices are given paramount consideration. With this in mind, most independent victim service agencies have a written confidentiality waiver that must be signed by the victim before the advocate can share information with the court or any other person or organization.
One objective of an advocate working within a prosecutors' office is to maintain a relationship with the victim during the pendency of the case. Therefore, these advocates primarily provide short-term services, such as crisis intervention, referral to emergency shelter, reimbursement for travel to court, restitution information, assistance with applying for crime victims' benefits, and notification about orders of protection and case status.
Community-based advocates traditionally have an on-going relationship with the victim indepedent of the status or existence of any legal case. These advocates provide a full range of both short-and long-term services including safety planning, court accompaniment and advocacy, shelter, support groups, assistance with housing, long-term counseling, legal services, and referral to other needed services.