An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
Video and Audio Archive
How To Search This Transcript:
Seymour: I'm Anne Seymour with Justice Solutions, I'm interviewing here in Washington, DC, January, '03.
Beatty: My name is David Beatty. That's spelled D-A-V-I-D, B-E-A-T-T-Y. I'm the Executive Director of Justice Solutions.
Seymour: David, thank you for participating in this project and I want to start by asking when and how did you get involved in the crime victims' movement?
Beatty: Well I can tell my interest first came from. I was actually a law student and taking my first criminal justice course. And of course professors started talking about the process and saying what rights a prosecutor had and what rights the defendants had and who could do what in the trial. And I actually asked the rather naive question, "Now doesn't the victim have the right to testify during the trial?" And of course after the laughter died down I was informed that "no, victims are really there just to provide testimony and re--really didn't have a place in the process." And even at that moment I was offended by the notion that someone who clearly, to me, was so affected by the crime would have no role in the process. And so that sort of simmered on the back burner for a long time until I left law school, actually ended up doing a lot of political work and,just by happenstance read of an advertisement national non-profit organization, National Victim Center, was looking for a Director of Public Policy. And I was looking for something that would marry my interest in legal and on political issues. And so interviewed, got that position, and then spent the next decade plus working specifically with public policy on those issues, an opportunity to work on something that, I felt was directly related to my own sense of injustice when it came to the criminal justice system.
Seymour: Great. When you began at the National Victim Center, David, tell us what year it was and describe, if you can recall, the field of victims' rights and services, but also a bit of the context of the era.
Beatty: Yeah. I started right at the end of the '80s. And when I got there and I'll talk about it in the context of public policy 'cause that's where my focus was, I saw most of the states were putting the basic pieces in place. But at that point we were still seeing states pay, pass the basic Bills of Rights. You know, things like the right to be in present, informed and heard, the right to restitution, compensation programs. All those basic building blocks that we sort of take for granted today were still bidding--being put in place, as late as the late 1980s, as a matter of fact. As time progressed and as we spent sort of, the next decade really going back and revising those laws, people had a chance at that point to see how those laws were working in the field and finding out what their shortcomings were, whether the scope was appropriate or not, and some of the other, more practical aspects. So people were fine tuning. At the same time, they were expanding both the scope of the, the measures were being extended to include new categories of victimization.
For example, I think a good example would be say stalking victims. And that was really a crime that we discovered during the '80s and early '90s. We started passing laws that make sure that victims would be covered by those Bills of Rights as well and extending the scope, in the same sense that we were making kind of specialized laws for particular constituencies. Domestic violence began getting laws that related specifically to things such as protective orders. You could get a domestic violence protective order. So we were getting some specialization within the context of the laws. And then as we kinda got to the end of the '80s what we really discovered was that while we had these things on the book and we had these things called rights on the books and in some cases we even had Constitutional Amendments that were supposedly guaranteeing these rights, that we were finding out that these rights were not being observed in reality. Things that were telling us well you all may have the right to notice but didn't actually get that right when it came time to be informed about the sentencing hearing. So a lot of us began spending a lot of time looking not so much at passing laws but implementing laws.
And I think as we turned the century, the focuses really shifted very dramatically in terms of the focus about public policy efforts towards implementation. You're seeing states now go back and take a look at mechanisms and other ways that they can actually implement these laws. We said for a long time that rights are fine. But rights without remedies fully equal rhetoric. And so everyone is now talking about how can we get criminal justice officials who have the duty under the law supposedly then to implement these rights to actually do it. So you're seeing states pass things like, oh, ombudsman programs. So there's a place that a victim can turn if they feel like their rights have been violated to have somebody kind of mediate between them and the official who may have not observed their right to find a solution. Colorado has a Board that has the same function. Some states even allow victim standing which is a huge development in victims' rights. That means that the victim could go into a court and actually address the court directly as if they were a party of the case at least in the context of some limited rights, like restitution in Maryland.
A very important, positive step because victims are now going from what we used to call in the old days, you know, walking pieces of evidence to an actual party to the suit. Major developments and we're now looking at some one of the broader issues in terms of victims rights. I think probably the pen al--penaltum example of that is the fact that there is a Federal Constitutional Amendment that is pending here in Washington that if passed will, sort of put to rest any question in any--in the mind of any criminal justice official as to whether these rights are fundamental to every citizen and to every citizen who becomes a victim of crime. I think that's really the focus of where we're going with public policy. The days we still have a lot left to do. We have a lot of fine tune--fine tuning left to do but, frankly I think we're well on our way, at least in the first phase, and hopefully, within our lifetime we'll see numbers that range, you know, we actually did a study for the National Institute of Justice that indicted that victims were seeing their rights observed somewhere in the 50 to 60 percent observation rate which I think is really, shockingly low.
We need to see that number come up. And I hope that you know these continued efforts to implement these rights that in a couple years we're gonna have very different picture and wha--and a majority of victims will now begin getting a majority of their rights.
Seymour: You were instrumental in the early days in two areas I'm going to ask you about. One you've mentioned, is stalking, the other is civil remedies. I'd like to start with stalking, which began, I believe, in 1990, and within about 18 months every state had passed stalking laws. How and why did that happen?
Beatty: Well, I think it's interesting. Obviously stalking behaviors, following somebody, threatening somebody, was not a new behavior, but it was one that I think, sort of came to a head in the minds of the public when some really horrific cases happened within a very short period of time. So haps--that they happened in California and one of them, happened to a very well-known starlet at that time. Suddenly we sort of heard these cases of individuals who not only stalked but killed their victims. The media took an interest. And the National Victim Center, you, one Anne Seymour, suddenly started going on morning shows talking about this thing called "stalking" that had always been around but until that day had not been a crime. A lot of people after those horrific cases happened and these young women died, people said, you know, why didn't the law protect them. And they discovered that there was no law that prevented the kind of behavior that led up to those murders. So at that point a young representative by the name of Royce called the Center and asked us for a model san--sample of what a stalking law would look like.
And I had to tell him no such thing exists. So we sat down with him and his staff and helped him draft the very first stalking law for the state of California. And there it really kind of caught fire and people sort of realized my gosh, we really don't have, laws that, prevent this, what we call domestic terrorism -- people who were threatening, following, and really making a lot of people very scared in their daily lives. Then within a very short period of time, I hadn't seen any victims' rights law that had passed more quickly than the stalking laws. And as you said, within 18 months virtually every state in the country had a stalking law.
Seymour: And what, in the victims' movement, and this I think is very specific to you, how does word get out? I mean, this is before we had the Internet. We barely had fax. How did 50 states in such a short time, how were they able to do this?
Beatty: Yeah, I don't know why it sort of caught the imagination of policymakers. I'm sure a lot of it had to do with the fact that it caught the imagination of public media. You know suddenly everyone was profiling a case. Even the entertainment media, everyone had you know, an episode where one of their characters was being stalked. Once certain learned about this in the first place and everyone, sort of took on a life of its own. And so policymakers were very responsive. I mean nobody wanted to be the next state that didn't have a law to protect a young woman who was murdered by their stalker. And so that really I think was the impetus behind it. Why it happened so quickly and why there aren't other issues that have been passed, that you know again would have the same lifesaving effect on victims, I don't know. I think it's just a combination ofmedia attention, public interest, and perhaps advocacy for the individual victims as well.
Seymour: That's great. You were involved in the very early days in developing some of the first resources on civil remedies. I'm hoping you can tell us a little bit about Frank Carrington. I'm hoping you can tell us a little bit about why victims should care about civil remedies.
Beatty: I don't know if I can tell you a little bit, I could probably tell you a lot. Frank Carrington who was really kind of known as the father of the victims' rights movement, certainly the father of civil rights, I think took an interest to this very early. He was an attorney himself and he realized that apart from the criminal justice system that is there to address the crimes that occur to victims that we had this other part of the judicial system called the civil system. And that with each crime there was actually a tort or a, you know, a basis on which the individual victim could sue. Whether that meant suing the individual offender or suing those who were directly responsible for allowing that offender to commit the crime. And so Frank started actually representing crime victims and then began collecting other attorneys from across the country who were doing similar work. And he realized that there was enough of this work happening that we really needed to start collecting the cases. So there was a repository to educate attorneys and even victims and advocates like ourselves that this was a possibility.
He actually began doing it by himself personally, literally going through, believe this or not, every case that was recorded in the country and piles that related to crime victims -- shockingly, overwhelming task to undertake. He did that for awhile by himself and then the National Victim Center actually provided some resources for him and we began, cataloging those cases and putting them into a database. And we developed what was called the Crime Victim Litigation Project. And that was really the forerunner to most of the work that has been done to collect that information. That I'm pleased to say, had the opportunity to work with Frank very early on when I came to the National Victim Center and had a chance to see that grow from what was kind of a discreet project into what is now known as the National Crime Victim Bar Association. We now have enough attorneys who are representing crime victims in these third and first party cases that it justifies having its own Bar Association.
And that now has a brand new branch of attorneys who specialize in representing crime victims whose rights have been offended. So hopefully this will continue to flourish and that we'll finally for the first time have attorneys out there who are uniquely qualified and uniquely interested in representing crime victims in both the criminal and the civil system.
Seymour: Great. Thank you. In your pioneering area of victim assistance, which is public policy but also so much more, what was your greatest challenge, David, that you and your colleagues faced in affecting change?
Beatty: Yeah, I have to say, it really does come back to implementing the laws and, two words come to mind: ignorance and attitude. Again we did this study for National Institute of Justice. We went out to several states and we asked the people whose job it was to know the law -- law enforcement agents, prosecutors, judges, parole, corrections -- asked them if they knew what the individual laws were, what the statutes in their state required in terms of victims' rights. And we were shocked to find out that even judges didn't even know the law. So the bottom line is, if you don't know what the law is, if you don't know you have the duty to implement that victims' rights law, chances are you're probably not doing it. So that's the first, I think, real challenge was simply informing people that these rights existed. Unfortunately that wasn't the end of it. We found even amongst those who knew that the law required them to provide victims with notice or to allow them to give a victim impact statement that they simply weren't doing it.
And when we asked why, they stated a variety of reasons. Some cases they said, "Well we just don't have the money to do it. In some cases they said well, you know, it's not our job, somebody else's job to do it." And in some cases, surprisingly enough, they said,"We just don't think that's important. That's not a priority." There's a famous story that someone tells about the prosecutor in a southern state who held up the Victims Bill of Rights and said I, with some pride, said, "I violate this bill of rights every single day 'cause it's not a priority; that's not what the criminal justice system is about." Pretty shocking admission, that a public servant who was sworn to uphold the law is stating so obviously that he doesn't observe it. So that really comes around to an issue of attitude. And how we change the views of those who are quickly becoming a minority, who just don't feel like it's their obligation and that they have no duty to actually implement these laws. That's sort of the most blatant example of attitudes.
But a lot of it is simply that victims' rights and victim services is an afterthought. That yeah it's kind of a something that would be nice to do but it's really not my job as a probation officer to provide restitution to crime victims. Those are fundamental attitudes that I think are gonna take a change at a seminal level. I mean we have to start changing the attitudes of law enforcement officers and others in the system before they become criminal justice officers. We have to start changing the attitudes of the average citizen -- the student who is learning about criminal justice. And so a lot of this I think has to do with education and simply providing people with the context that victims' rights and victim services is not sort of an afterthought but a critical and an essential part of the criminal justice system.
Seymour: You're -- what i hear you saying, Dave, is in 31 years as a field is ignorance and attitude still a barrier?
Beatty: It is. As I said I, it's--one thing that we have accomplished I think is that we have at least driven that underground. There aren't too many people as that prosecutor I mentioned who will stand up and say, "Yeah I ignore these laws all the time." But yeah there're still some really hardcore folks out there and I hope they're the minority, although I'm not always sure about that when I go out there to hinterlands myself and begin talking to some of these officials. And a lot of 'em do it by rote. You know a lot of them do the minimal that they feel is required by the law so they live to the letter of the law but they don't live to the spirit of the law. And that's what I think is really critical about the attitude. Someone who understands why the victim is there and understands the motivation behind the laws that these people really do have a very important, invaluable stake in the process, people who get that don't stop at the law. They go beyond the letter of the law not to just provide notice. They don't tap out a, you know, a notice to a victim on a court, courthouse step. They call or visit or do whatever is necessary to accomplish the intent and spirit behind the law.
So even when we've got everyone doing the minimal that the black letter law requires in statutes and constitutions, we still quite won't be home. We won't be there until, you know, 90 percent of the victims are telling me, "Yeah I got my rights, understood what my rights are, and I was able to,you know, to carry them out to the extent that I wanted to." That will be the measure of success.
Seymour: I'm gonna give you another sidebar question that I've heard you talk about before. Crime victims, actual survivors and advocates have for some time become involved in national justice, law enforcement in allied professional associations. What's the purpose and how does that impact what we're talking about now?
Beatty: Oh, if I understand your question is, if the question is have we gone outside the choir, we started talking to professions and experts beyond sort of our own immediate universe? I think we've started doing that. I think it's one of the biggest challenges left for us to do. I don't think there is any service agency or very few service agencies that couldn't play a role in assisting victims in one form or another. So we've begun to approach medical professionals, nursing professionals, obviously Bar Associations and attorneys who are not necessarily involved in the criminal justice process, even those who deal with more traditional assistance and service, education, psychologists and others. All those can play a very important role in helping victims put their lives back together. Because you can imagine when someone has their life destroyed, that every aspect of that life is destroyed. And there's hardly a profession that couldn't play a role. I mean we've got folks who are medical professionals who are helping reconstruct the faces of victims who have or, victims in domestic violence.
We have individuals who are creating special job training programs for those who've been victimized by sexual assault. I mean those are the kinds of things that.. that really excite me is that individuals are taking the responsibility personally to say, "Hey I'm gonna do something to help that victim. Whether it's I may just have a company that creates cosmetics, but I'm gonna take it upon myself to make sure that those victims get the resources they need to help them recover their lives." Not hand them their lives back but help them in whatever sort of coping strategy they've developed for themselves.
Seymour: In the early days, Dave, what were some of the secrets and tactics and strategies you employed and the field employed that worked, that were successful?
Beatty: Well, I think we had a couple secret weapons. Our probably the least secret, secret weapon was the victim themselves. I can tell you for someone who worked the public policy process long before I came to the field that I had never seen anything that has moved the hearts and minds of policymakers more effectively than victims telling their stories. I could tell you countless examples of where we went into a committee hearing where I knew everyone sitting on that dais was opposed to what we were proposing in terms of victims rights only to see a victim step forward, tell their story, and to see sort of those hearts melt, for them to make a connection at a very visceral level that what they were talking about was basic, um human justice. And for all the other sort of rhetoric and politics that swirl around justice issues, victims and the power of victims' issues and what they're saying it--I think it's hard for any human being to listen to those stories and not empathize and not want to do something about it. And not to recognize the injustice in those stories and say, "Hey you know this is fundamentally wrong."
And sort of underlying that I think is the separate secret weapon and that is the public. It's interesting when we talk to the public and we've done it numerous times in terms of surveys and the like and we ask them you know do you support the idea of victims' rights, do you support the idea of service for crime victims, etcetera, etcetera, you know the kind of response we get is kinda 98t percent of Americans feel like this is critical and important. Well with those sorts of numb--you know 90, Americans don't agree 98 percent about anything, not even mom and apple pie. But that's an overwhelming mandate. And even though I think the public probably does not understand the detail of the victims field and what rights victims have or don't have, that sort of public mandate is beginning to translate into a very powerful political force in terms of policy development. You know, in one sense I think it's simply a function of the fact that the average voter and average citizen in our country is ahead of the curve, ahead of our policy leaders when it comes to victims. They understand at a visceral level that when a victim is raped it's not the State of Virginia that was raped, it was that victim. And they imbue in them the kind of morale authority that in their mind justifies their position.
Now some politicians are beginning to sort of figure it out. And as you notice now so--the... some politicians that will never talk about crime policy without have... having a victim standing there right next to 'em. And the reason is that while the average citizen may not get what the issue is about gun control or parole or issues like that, they understand that if the victims are for it, it's probably a good thing. And so translating the victim stories and their sense of injustice imbued and supported by the broad scale public support for this issue, I think is what's gonna continue to drive the policy development agenda. Now personally I don't think we have actualized that sort of untapped, unspoken, majority support that we have out there. And that's gonna be one of our challenges but when it does, it is going to be the tide that lifts all boats in the victims field.
Seymour: Dave, have there been any failures in the movement and if so, what are they?
Beatty: Failures? I can think of a couple. I think maybe the biggest failure that we've had, and this is just I think maybe a part of the natural evolution of any social movement is that we've done a pretty good job of communicating to ourselves, you know, preaching to the choir, telling ourselves about our issue, telling our immediate paraprofessionals and allied professionals about it. So you know we're good about talking to law enforcement, everyone in the criminal justice system. What I think we haven't done a real great job about is taking our issue to the general public and explaining to them in more than very broad-brushed details that, you know something more than victims are getting sort of a bad shake in the criminal justice system. People I think understand on a very limited basis what this whole issue of victims are all about. As I said before they certainly, I think understand that victims have a special moral authority to impact the system. But they don't understand the specifics of what needs to be done. There're still a lot of folks who believe that victims have the right to testify believe that victims have the right to be part of the sentencing hearing and the like. They think that victims have all kinds of rights 'cause it seems so obvious to them, not knowing the law that these are very basic roles for crime victims. And they're shocked to learn when that's not the case.
But because they don't know that, you know, people aren't marching on the legislative branch of their individual state governments to change the way that victim impacts operate, to give victims the right to give a recommendation at sentencing. Most people think that that happens automatically. It's not the case at all. So I think the biggest challenge is to not only educate people in broad terms about what this victims'rights issue is all about but to give them specific ideas of what we're talking about and more importantly some action agenda. And we started doing that. I mean we for the first time and this is I guess, again part of the evolution of victims' rights you know the national organizations are just now talking for the first time. We're just now starting to think of having a broad brush or a broad-based policy agenda. You know we're thirty years old and no one has been able to sit down and say, you know, "Here is the agenda of the victims field." We've got some wonderful work that's been done by the Office for Victims of Crime, in creating sort of follow-a-longs to their ten years after report and others that have proven to be sort of a de facto agenda for the field.
But we've never gone the extra step of getting the organizations and in fact the rank and file members of national organizations to really get forward and support that so that in effect we are talking to the field with not only the same message but with a single voice. And I think that's the only way that we're eventually going to be heard not only by the average person out there in, you know in--on the streets but by policymakers as well. You know we have to be able to sing as a chorus if we want our voice to be heard. And I think that's one of the biggest challenges that we haven't overcome. And simply as I mention sort of a follow-on to that is the fact that we as national organizations have not worked together very effectively. Again, I and yourself, Anne Seymour, and others, just within the last year have, taken upon ourselves to invite the national organizations who represent the various constituencies, domestic violence, homicide, sexual assault, children, all of them to sit together at a table and talk about what we have in common, because we do have a lot in common. There's a lot that affects every crime victim, in the process and outside the process. But we just now after 30 years are sitting across a table in some cases introducing ourselves. That's troublesome because it really plays into the hands of our opponents who want to either ignore us because you know they've got so many different people who were coming to them saying gosh you know I want this for domestic violence, I want this for homicide victims.
When you have a divided voice, you can either divide or conquer, divide and conquer which they have done on numerous occasions making us fight over funding and things of that variety. Or they can simply ignore us. And in some cases I think the most, obvious example of what is what's happening right here on Capitol Hill today. Congress without consulting with any victim group, in the country decided to place a cap on VOCA funds. The VOCA fund is the primary source of federal funding that provides VOCA grants to states that end up in the hands of service providers that you know that sexual assault, rape crisis, a phone center, that domestic violence shelter. And you know there are $700 million sitting here in Washington that, could be doing good work for crime victims who desperately need that assistance out there in the field and aren't getting it simply because there is a budgetary consideration that has nothing to do with, you know, spending the money for something else. It has more to do with just budgets and caps and other kinds of things. That's troubling to me that that happened without consulting the crime victims field and more importantly that the crime victims field has not been able to get them to sort of reverse their position, in a way that will allow the victims field to have some say in the destiny of the primary source of Federal funding. I think that's a good litmus test for us.
I think it tells us how much work we have left to do before we get to the point where someone on a Judiciary Committee would never make a move without consulting, the National Sheriffs Association, without consul--uh, without talking to the Bar Association. We got to get to the point where nobody makes any decisions in the larger criminal justice debate without consulting the victims. But by that same token that means we as victim advocates and national organizations have to have a voice. We have to be ready to speak together on those kinds of issues and we're just now finding that voice. And I think that's been, one of the biggest challenges in and one area where we have seriously sort of fallen short in our history.
Seymour: I'm going to ask you a follow-on question. What has caused what you termed "the divided voice" in the field over 30 years?
Beatty: The divided voice? I think, well in some sense it might be a, just sort of a myopic view. I mean people who represent a specific constituency tend to focus on that. And, because I don't think you can do this work without being passionate, without being personally involved in it, it's hard to be sort of a good citizen when it comes to victims' issues. If you're a domestic violence advocate, your tendency is to focus on whatever domestic violence victims need. To go out and find funding for them, to make sure that the legislation passes that protects them. A good example is we had a very effective lobby here in Washington that succeeded in passing victim impact statements for domestic violence victims. Well gosh that was an excellent idea but would it have been an excellent, idea for sexual assault, homicide survivors and everything else. And when I talked to the advocates it, they said to me that it simply didn't occur to them to think about other constituencies. So, I think you know any good zealous representative of their constituent has to think of their constituency first.
But by the same token, I think we have to take a, more advanced and enlightened view that by working together, by working as a movement, will not only benefit, sort of everyone collectively but it's gonna benefit your constituency as well. And that's been a real challenge to get people to see that. I think they're beginning to see it iin, for the first time in just really the last year or so. But it's gonna take a while. Obviously one of the, reasons that we are divided is that money tends to divide. If there's only so much money for victims, you know they kind of throw it out there and let us fight over it. So you know you as a sexual assault advocate have to say, "Okay, well I'm gonna go take money out of here which means domestic violence doesn't have it or you know others." And the only way you can really effectively deal with that is to sort of sit down and agree together that we're not gonna be played. We're not gonna be played by the politicians.
We're not gonna let them sort of throw the money out in the middle of the floor and let us fight over it. That we're gonna go in as a united voice and say that these are our funding needs, these are what we need to provide basic services to every one of our constituents, homicide and sexual assault, domestic violence, child advocat--all of those together and that united voice will be heard as it has been in other contexts. Whether we are mature enough, whether we are sophisticate enough to make it to that level I think remains to be seen. But we're at least taking the first steps.
Seymour: What do you perceive, Dave, to be the one greatest accomplishment that has promoted victims' rights and services?
Beatty: Greatest accomplishment? Well, I think the greatest accomplishment is the sheer number of statutes and laws that we were able to get on the books with a paltry amount of resources and support. I mean, it's shocking. When I was with the National Victim Center we actually tracked these laws. We found out that there are more than 30,000 victim related provisions and statutes and a majority of 31 or 32 states that have passed Constitutional Amendments. Now that wasn't done with any national effort, with any, you know, national overarching organization. You know it wasn't done with professional lobbyists. It wasn't done with lots of money taking legislators out to play golf or whatever the traditional lobbying strategies have been.
It was, in most cases, individuals or small groups of individuals who went up to the statehouse, in some cases very naively thinking "gosh, I can change the laws." That may be has been one of our greatest weapons is that we're naive that we think democracy still works. But in our case it has. Those individuals have been able to make the case for why their situation really is deserving of legislative attention, why the criminal justice system is inherently unfair and doesn't consider the interest of crime victims sufficiently. And as I said, the stories of those individual victims has I think been the primary reason that we've been able to accomplish in a relatively short period of time what other constituencies and special interests have not been able to accomplish. And so I think that's probably the most amazing accomplishment that we've had in really the last thirty years. I mean that and the fact that frankly we're are ... we've now reached the point where it is uncool to not be for victims' rights. You know, just like back in the olden days of civil rights, at some point it became politically incorrect, hate to use that term, but became politically incorrect not to support the basic civil rights of minorities in this country.
Well, we have done the same. There're very few folks that you can find out there who are willing to say, "I'm not for victims' rights." Everyone knows that that's not politically correct or that's not politically acceptable to those who support them. Now we just as with civil rights we may have done nothing more than simply driving it under ground because a lot of... everyone will sort of say the magic words: I'm all for victims rights, but. It's what comes after that "but" that tells me that we still have a lot of work to do. But we don't have enough money. But that'll impact the rights of the defendants. So we still have a lot to do. But at least people are now at a place where they understand that it's wrong to be against victims' rights. And that's a major accomplishment. (Change of tape)
Seymour: David, what is needed today to continue the growth and professionalism of our field? Or another way of putting that: what's missing?
Beatty: I think one thing that's missing is that we're not providing those who are looking for careers with a clear career track in our field. Sure yeah it's obvious you can come be a counselor, on a rape crisis line or things like that. But people don't think of you know butcher, baker, and victim advocate. They don't think of as a sort of commonly accepted profession. And and we really are. Particularly as things have grown and we've become institutionalized, there are career paths. But people don't see it. We really need to start educating people when they're getting their education. You know we need to be in the schools, we need to be... have undergraduate degrees so that people understand, you know, that you need to go out and get an education to do this important work. Law schools, part of the wide open opportunity there to educate those young attorneys who graduate and become prosecutors and judges and run the criminal justice system. I believe that, you know, the bar association should require, as they require other kinds of questions on the... on the bar test, a question about victims rights. It ought to be taught in every law school. We ought to head clinics. We've got a few legal clinics out there that represent crime victims. But we should have one in every single law school in this country.
So that people understand that this is what this profession is about and more importantly how valuable this work is. I'm convinced that this next generation of kids coming up through school have a renewed sense of the importance of social justice and that they're simply looking for an opportunity to do good in the world. And if it's not presented along with going and being a, you know, a teacher in the inner city or going and doing the Peace Corps, it if it's not presented alongside of that as an option to do justice and do good in this country, people won't take it. So we need to do a better job of showing that there's a clear track. The other thing we have to do is we have to build the track. Unfortunately we've got the first few miles laid but what happens is people hit the end after they've done their first job and they've been promoted once. And it's very difficult to, you know, be... go from counselor to Director or to, you know, Deputy Attorney General on that path. We have to find a way in which people can begin in this career and stay in this career. Because we're ending up losing some of our best and brightest people because there's nowhere to go, there's no room for personal growth. And so people end up burning out. And we're losing our best and brightest people unfortunately because we don't have a clear career path for them to follow.
Seymour: A follow-on question to that, Dave. When you and I began in the field, you know, 20, 15 years ago, we had pretty strong mentors. The question I've been asking a few people: are we mentoring today? That, now that -- are the elders mentoring as we received mentoring when we began?
Beatty: Right. Yeah unfortunately there really weren't a whole lot of mentors in our field, when those... when you started out. You know you don't have veterans in the field until you've been around for a while. But yeah I think we do a good job on a localized basis. So if you have a young person that comes into your organization, it's a pretty good chance that you're gonna end up being their de facto mentor. And you're gonna help them sort of figure out how to do their job etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Where it's more challenging is reaching outside your immediate universe. How do you help the next organization, three counties over that doesn't have a rape crisis like the one you work at, a rape crisis center like the one you work in? How can we educate them as to the steps on how to do that? How can we provide them with the critical lessons that we have used to survive? You know, I just mentioned that a lot of people burnout in this field. They go on to do other things. They're lost to us. Some of the most valuable assets we have depart because you know they don't have the tools that they need to remain in the profession. There are obviously, where people have been doing this for thirty years, there's expertise out there, and strategies that individual folks have developed for themselves which they need to share.
And for those we need I think to create a more institutionalized and conscious effort to do mentoring. And I don't know if that's getting those people who have sort of figured it out to, put those thoughts in words or, creating a mentoring network, a tree so that you teach those who train others and that you work your way down so it's get to everyone in the field. But we need to capture those because, again, those are very important skills that make or break a lot of the individuals in this profession.
Seymour: A new person who's joined the field, David, in the past one to ten years -- what advice can you give to these professionals and volunteers for the future?
Beatty: I think they need to ask themselves, maybe even before they come through the door, why they're here. Because unlike other professions, you know, maybe being an accountant or you know other professions that don't really require a personal commitment, I think it's difficult, if not impossible, to do this work without getting personally involved. I mean, you have to care. You have to really sort of become a true believer. If you don't you're gonna end up not only being of little help to victims but in some cases may actually hurt victims. I mean, you can imagine someone who has the job of helping victims develop an impact statement, if they don't care about the purpose behind that, if they don't care about the victims that they're helping, they're gonna re-victimize the victim because here comes a victim who is talking to someone who is supposed to be there for them, who doesn't care about them, doesn't care and it's to them. It's just a job, they're just filling out papers, they're just, you know, pushing paper. They are the representatives of the criminal justice system and whether it's justified or not, they're the way in which victims view whether the system and indeed society cares about them. So that's the first thing, is I think they need to act--ask themselves whether they're coming here because they care about the people that this, field is intending to provide assistance to.
The other thing I think they have to ask is that you know are they here to really provide, some leadership to change things. Are they willing to be a change agent? Are they willing to break a few eggs? You know, I think one of the greatest weapons that we have had to change the hearts and minds inside the criminal justice system is simply having advocates there, simply having someone in that prosecutor's office who is... it's always "the victim lady" -- that's how they refer to it, "the victim lady." You know that victim ladies, their mere presence in the system puts 'em at the table. They get to come to the discussions when all the attorneys talk about their prosecutorial policies. They can always say, "What are we doing for victims?" And eventually when you're exposed to the victim lady long enough, she makes a little progress with you. You sort of get what she's saying. She starts to make some sense. Suddenly you've become imbued with the same sensibilities and caring for victims as every one else. So we're really changing, it's interesting, I think maybe that has changed the face of the criminal justice system changed as many hearts and minds as anything from the outside such as demanding rights or passing laws. It's having someone who's sitting there at the table saying, "Hey, let's not forget the victim." And that is an... a critical role. And sometimes those individuals take a lot of heat. You know, particularly in a prosecutor's office they'll say, "Hey, you know we're not about the victims here. We're about prosecuting and putting the bad guys away." And you know we need someone to sort of remind them, "Hey, it is about the victims. They have rights." And in some cases that means that they have to be able to proactive and take some heat. But that's, I think, really change in the system and that's not for the meek. You know we're still at a phase in this field where we're pioneers. You know and you cannot be a pioneer sitting still.
You have to be willing to move forward and to take some risks and go out on the edge of the field and broaden it and im... improve it. And so it's not for the... it's not for the faint of heart. And not everyone is cut out to do that. And people need to ask themselves whether that's something they can do before they accept a job which is really it shouldn't be a job, it should really be a vocation. And it should be an avocation, not a vocation.
Seymour: What's your vision, David Beatty, for the future of our field?
Beatty: What's my vision? (sighs) Well, where to start? I guess I'll start where I began. And that is that for me this field is about the three Rs. It's about giving victims rights, resources, and respect. And I guess the system that I would like to see in the future is a system where the rights of crime victims are respected and observed to the same rights, to the same extent that the rights of offenders are. That in some sense they become not taken for granted but granted-- period. So that people don't think twice about, oh, yeah, victims should have these rights. Just like we don't think twice about whether offenders should have these basic rights. I mean, I can't imagine anyone in this country who can't sort of state the Miranda, Constitutional rights of offenders. Everyone can say you know the right to remain silent, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. When we get to the point where they can state the same thing for victims, that it's almost a mindless process, well of course victims have rights. That if any of those rights are ever any of those rights are ever violated, we'll be up in arms, we'll be outraged. The public will not accept non-compliance of victims' rights. That's what I see as the ultimate vision. We will have arrived in terms of victims' rights when the average citizen on the street is outraged about violation of victims' rights as they are outraged about the violation of a defendant's right.
In terms or resources of course we need more. But I think we need to change our view about how we think about resources and services to help crime victims. Up till now the attitude has kind of been that this is a privilege. That the system provides you with assistance and resources and counseling and support out of the goodness of their heart. I think that's the wrong perspective. You know, this society has as one of its fundamental principles, the social contract which means that we are not going to allow you self help in terms of crime. You can't go out and if someone has violated you, can--you can't go back and you know shoot them or violate them. By the same token, society has agreed to protect us and take care of us in that circumstance. Well when it fails to do that, when it fails to protect its citizens, in my mind they are owed something. At the very least, they are owed the kind of assistance they need to try to put them in as good a position as they were before they were victimized. So we should stop thinking about victim services as a privilege and start thinking of them in terms of at least an entitlement if not a right. A victim should have a place if they were denied counseling services. You know, just as you have a place to go if you're denied welfare or something like this, a whole administrative service and process that you could go through. So we should start thinking about services in those terms so that, victims don't have to go "hat in hand" and beg for services, that it's their inha--inalienable right, in effect, to have those kinds of assistance and services available.
And then finally-- respect. Clearly the most difficult to define, but it's also I think the most important in my mind. It's difficult for me to articulate what respect looks like in concrete terms. The only analogy I can think of is the way in which we think about returning war heroes and veterans. You know the kind of respect that we have for them. The way that society welcomes them back from the foreign war. The analogy is that when we're dealing with victims, we're dealing with victims who survive this nation's war on crime. And I have to ask where is the respect that engender the GI Bill of Rights? Where are the education programs for victims and victim survivors? You know, where is the specialized hospital, specialized medical assistance and training? You know, where is the monument down here on the Mall that is a memorial to those who have lost their lives or who've lives have been shattered as a result of a crime? The kinds of attitudes and the way that even individuals think about war veterans, you know back in World War Two when a veteran came back to your community--community people took on the individual responsibility to make sure that that veteran was able to sort of take their life back. They offered 'em jobs. They took 'em casseroles. They went out of their way to make sure that that person was integrated back because of their acknowledgment of what they'd been through. They'd experienced some of the most horrific behavior that humans visit upon one another. Victims are no different. Victims are no different, yet the average citizen out there sort of turns their head. Maybe it's out of denial, maybe it's out of fear. But it's the opposite of what victims need. So I guess, you know it--I may not see it in my lifetime, but I would like to see victims respected in a way that we respect returning veterans from war. And if that happens, everything else that we've been talking about, rights and service and all that stuff, is gonna become obvious to people. Respect is the bottom line. The rest comes as a natural progression from that.
Seymour: What is your greatest fear in the future, Dave?
Beatty: I'd say my greatest fear is, that people have begun to think of the victims field as, as past its golden age. I think policymakers, maybe even the media, maybe even citizens to some degree, have feel like they have already done the victim thing. You know, they had their time. Their time has passed. We've taken care of them. We can go on to other things. That's dangerous for a lot of reasons. Number one I think it's dangerous because it really would preclude any additional advancement, providing additional services to crime victims out there in the field. Very troubling because clearly we have not provided sufficient resources and assistance and rights for crime victims. Their lives are truly impacted in a way that was intended. We need more laws. We need better laws. We need clear laws. We need remedies as I said. Very troubling if we stop now and think that we've already done the victim thing. I... I'm to this day I think one of the most important goals we should have as a movement is universal assistance and service.
You know we should not rest until every victim, no matter where they live, no matter what their ethnicity or religion or where they come from, no matter where you are in this country you ought to be guaranteed some minimal level of assistance, services, and rights. And we shouldn't rest until every single victim in this country has those minimum sorts of support. So if we haven't done that, we can't even talk about expanding the scope and dividing even greater services for crime victims. We're not even doing the minimal for those victims. My other fear, the other part of that is that I fear that maybe we're beginning to actually lose ground, that we may end up fighting a rear guard action. I'm very troubled to see that after this sort of "golden age" as some would describe it that number one people are beginning to rethink their priorities in terms of financing. We happen to be at this moment in a bit of a financial crunch. And a lot of states are having their budgets cut and slashed in pretty radical fashion. I was very troubled to see that one of the first places they look to cut is victim services because that tells me that we are still not a priority in their minds. I begin to see policymakers being emboldened to come out and actually oppose victims rights, to question whether the rights we have on the books are appropriate. And so maybe we're dealing with a... an actual backlash. We have to be as proactive in maintaining rights and services for crime victims as we were in obtaining them in the first place. And that's my greatest fear is that we lose passion along with sort of the high profile priority nature that we got in the general public and amongst policymakers to the point that we actually end up losing ground at a time when frankly there's so much left to do.
Seymour: I'm gonna ask you a couple of bonus questions. One is that, if someone came to Justice Solutions tomorrow and wanted to I don't know, to work for you, volunteer, whatever. And they asked you, what's different from now from the day you started in the victims' field? How would you answer that?
Beatty: I guess I would say the biggest difference is that we have learned some lessons along the ways. We spend a lot of time doing everything because we didn't know what to do and we didn't focus our efforts as well as we might have. So we ended up wasting a lot of time. We ended up fighting a lot amongst ourselves in terms of either turf issues or fighting amongst ideas or directions etcetera, etcetera. And there was a lot of spinning wheels. I think now 20, 30 years later we have a clearer sense of what's to do, what's left to do and because we do have the advantage of hindsight we have something to build on. And so I think the fact that we have made progress virtually across the board has given us the opportunity to use it as springboard to do more. Clearly, as I said we have people who sort of understand victims' issues across the board both within the criminal justice system, people who you know are reticent to speak out in against victims' rights, those who are traditional opponents, they at least are weary aand it's pla--been politically inappropriate to speak out against it.
So the environment, I think, is much improved. And that reality has allowed us to go farther. To begin to talk about changing attitudes which is I think the last way when it comes to any social movement. You know you can change the laws, you can start forcing people to comply with the laws, and then ultimately you change the attitudes which makes it, an accepted and institutionalized part of society. We're working on that last one. And we have an awful lot to do before we really convince people that our cause is not only just but it's worthy of priority and support from across the board in our society.
Seymour: And last year, David, 2002, you co-founded Justice Solutions. What is up with that?
Beatty: What is Justice Solutions? Well, it's an interesting I guess, end result of a mature criminal justice process. What we found out is a lot of us who've been working in this field for a long time really enjoy doing the work that we enjoy and working with one another and you know, spending time just sitting around talking about sort of where we ought to go next as a field and what's the next horizon and try to do some of the forest rather than the trees kind of thinking. And a lot of us have been working in national organizations and we wanted to sort of focus and do the kind of work we wanted with the people we wanted to work with so the idea of creating a vehicle that would maximize those opportunities for those who were consulting and senior advocates in the field sort of came to light. And so we sat down again on a shoestring which we're proud of -- everything in the field seems to begin on a shoestring -- and develop what is really a virtual organization that is an attempt to bind all of these very experienced knowledgeable and very effective advocates together in a way that'll allow them to find common interests, to work on projects that really need the kind of veteran expertise that they can provide and to use it as a vehicle to really begin focusing on some of the big issues, the policy issues.
I mean, so it's a cross between a think tank, a non profit organization, an association, I--it's a... I think it's really a hybrid of something that the field hasn't really seen. And because it's built as a virtual organization which means that those consultants are part of a network linked electronically through the Internet rather than having everyone move to a single place like Washington, DC, has, has made it a kind of an ideal opportunity that provides the customized career creation that veterans in our field really see as, where they want to go with their careers.
Seymour: I interviewed David Lloyd this morning and he said...I'm going to paraphrase, but: one of the assets of our field is that we have so much fun. Do you agree?
Beatty: Yeah, you know what? It's-- I think in any high stress field you have to sort of find the outlet, whatever that emotional outlet is. I know some people, some people cry, some people, exercise a lot, some people smoke, some people drink. A lot of us have decided that the most healthy thing to do is to have fun. So we're very much adherents to the work hard, play hard kind of reality. It's not uncommon that we'll go out and do a weekend's worth of work and then spend an extra day just getting together, having fun and skiing, chatting, know what it is, just getting together and sort of bonding in a way that I think is critical. I mean, you can go out and party with anyone but it's different when you're partying with colleagues who know what you've been through, can understand the sort of challenges and how critically important it is to have fun. You know, you have to get out there and enjoy yourself because, you know, if you don't laugh, you cry. And this is, it's just too hard and too difficult and too challenging, not to be in touch with the fun side. You really have to balance it off because otherwise all of us would be so depressed we couldn't get out of bed in the morning. So, as someone who actually trains the field about burnout and stress and crisis intervention and all the incumbent challenges that go along with that you know we're actually beginning to teach ourselves how to have fun or at least to remember ourselves, to take time for yourself.
As I said the most disappointing or the most challenging thing we have I think to deal with is burnout. The worst thing that could happen to our field is we lose the best, the brightest people at a point where they're most effective and have the greatest impact. So you know it's, fun is fun for its own sake and entertainment and having a good time is critical for its own sake. It's actually a crucial part of our own survival as victim advocates. And, so I, you know, cry but laugh too.
Seymour: And, Dave, is there anything that I haven't asked you that you think you'd like to close with?
Beatty: No, other than the fact that I really do appreciate that we're doing a project on history. I mean as is, pasted over the Archives just two blocks from here: The past is prologue. I think it's important that we learn our past not only so we don't make the same mistakes again but that we give both ourselves and those new advocates in the field a sense that they are part of an important social movement. That the kinds of things that they are doing is not only gonna have direct impact on the victims that they deal with but it's gonna make this system and this society a more just place to live. And every victim that comes after them is gonna find a little more justice in the criminal justice system. And I think that's critically important and everyone should be proud of that. Indeed you're appreciated by looking back and doing the history and understand that they're part of a continuum that is changing the lives of individuals and changing the way that society experiences justice.
|This project was supported by Grant Number 2002-VF-GX-0009 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this product are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.|