An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
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Oral History Project Overview
Interview Transcript

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Interview Transcript

timecode Seymour: The Oral History Project was started by the Office for Victims of Crime within the U.S. Department of Justice in 2002 and the co-sponsors of the project are Justice Solutions, the National Organization for Victim Assistance, the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators and the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards. It's a lot of national people involved. And the partnership really came together in order to be able to track our, the history of our field. And Steve Derene was actually involved in the creative thinking that led to the development of the OVC Oral History Project. Steve.

timecode Derene: Well, we did a state academy and Anne was out helping us develop the academy and we started it out with a unit on the history of the victims' rights movement and the victim services movement, both nationally. And we focused on Wisconsin and brought in some of the original actors in developing the laws and the programs in the state. And the students were mostly younger advocates, people who had been in the field for several years. And I don't think until we talked to them afterwards and I know Anne came back for a conference a year later and was struck by their response to realizing that they were part of a larger movement with a history, with some passion and some reasons for doing it. And it made them feel like they were contributing to something more than just a job, that this was a social movement and really helped drive their motivation. And so we thought sometime later we were having dinner with Jo Kolanda who was one of the originators of services in Wisconsin and internationally.

timecode And we were sort of reminiscing and realize that there's a lot of information, material, people's perspectives, try to capture that drive and passion, that led people at the beginning. And people who didn't have conferences to go to necessarily or, you know, skills that were honed and we could pass along. And we wanted to capture that passion to pass along, to preserve it for those who are new to the field today and for those who are coming into the field tomorrow. So again they'll feel like there's a reason, there's a cause, there's a commitment, that there were people there before them. And that it enhances their perceptions of what they're doing and why they're doing it.

timecode Seymour: We always say, "what is past is prologue," written on the archive building in Washington, DC. I think that really applies to the victim assistance field because we do have a rich history. And I know recently it all, I don't know why it's always going back to Wisconsin, but I went to do a training program in Wisconsin and I talked about the president's task force report that came out in 1982. And a couple of the little advocates said, "well, we weren't even born in 1982." And I think we need to know about our ancestors and that became the, I think, the focus of this project. And we are going to be developing some OVC publications on the history of the field, specifically on the history of the President's Task Force Report as well. But, also we are going to be documenting this online so crime victims and survivors and victim advocates, (unclear) in researchers, will be able to use these archives of just some of the most wonderful people who've been in this field forever, for research and for trying to understand the past of our field and how it's contributed to where we are today. So, Steve.

timecode Derene: Well, I think we also realize that we are at a point where the people who have been working in this field for the last 20, 30 years and we've lost some of the pioneers in the field. And if we didn't start taking advantage of recording that material now in terms of remembrances, questions about what motivated people, what obstacles did they face. If we didn't start doing that now, we'd lose it forever, just as they have with other areas in terms of the Civil Rights Movement, second world war and we tried to follow the standards so that this is not necessarily the deciding history, but to preserve the raw material of history that others, you know, can look at and resolve. But... but if we didn't take advantage of people's experiences, perspectives, at the origins, we would never be able to capture it. So it's very timely now as we look to a new generation of advocates and providers and champions that we start capturing it, otherwise we'll never have it. We'll be lost forever.

timecode Seymour: And that's the oral history of the Oral History Project.