How Victim Advocates Can Help Those Who Are Struggling
People who have been victims of domestic violence have a long road ahead of them. It’s hard enough for someone to get help and get out of a bad situation, but the challenges don’t end once they’re out of the house and away from immediate danger. Victims still have to navigate the legal system, manage their mental health, and sometimes still live in fear that their abuser will come back and hurt them or their children. Some victims also have trouble supporting themselves now that they are on their own.
Victim advocates are an important lifeline for people who are trying to put their lives back together after being a victim of domestic violence. Here’s how a victim advocate can make a difference in someone’s life.
What is a Victim Advocate?
A victim advocate is a trained professional who helps people after they have left a domestic violence situation. They provide different kinds of support to help victims get back on their feet and navigate social services. Advocates work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, crisis centers, and shelters.
Unfortunately, around 25% of women and 10% of men will be victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives. Without the help of victim advocates, many of these survivors will have trouble accessing the services they need to recover and move on with their lives.
Supporting Safety and Physical Needs
Right after someone gets out of an abusive situation, they often don’t have anywhere to go. A victim advocate can step in and help them find safe housing where they can stay until they can get back on their feet. This often involves working with social services and nonprofit groups to find temporary housing for victims and their children or discussing options with victims’ landlords. Advocates can also help victims apply for financial assistance and other social programs.
Many women who are victims of domestic violence won’t leave their partners until they have a place where they can take their children. Having access to safe housing can mean the difference between someone staying in an abusive situation and leaving.
Helping Victims Access Mental Health Services
After being a victim of domestic violence, often for many years, people don’t just bounce back on their own. They have a lot of trauma to process and heal from. Without access to mental health services, like counseling, many people struggle with problems ranging from PTSD to substance abuse.
Victim advocates help their clients find a therapist and any other mental health services they might need to help them process their experiences. The advocate can also check in from time to time to ensure that no additional or different services are needed. Since it can be challenging to connect with the right therapist and set up initial appointments, this kind of support can be critical.
Guiding Victims Through the Legal Process
Aside from helping to ensure that victims have their physical and mental health needs met and securing safe housing, victim advocates can provide support by guiding people through the legal process of holding their abusers accountable. This is a complex, often drawn-out process that becomes extremely emotional, especially in domestic abuse cases.
Many people become overwhelmed as they try to juggle their legal obligations while prioritizing their own mental health and safety. A victim advocate can make the court process less stressful by helping to explain the steps and walking victims through what they need to do to ensure that prosecutors have the best chance of a successful conviction.
How to Become a Victim Advocate
If you want to help people during difficult times in their lives, then becoming a victim advocate can be a great choice. Getting a degree in a field like social work, psychology, or criminal justice is an excellent way to set yourself up for this career, but you will need additional training with a national or state organization specializing in victim support as well.
It’s easy to think that the worst is over for victims when they are finally safe from their abuser. But unfortunately, the truth isn’t so simple. Victim advocates can help ensure that people who need support don’t have to add stress into their lives when they’re trying to get back on their feet. When people are struggling, they need someone to lift them up.