An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
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Beatty: My name is David Beatty. I'm the Project Manager for the OVC Oral History Project. Chris, do you want to introduce yourself?
Edmunds: Hi, I'm Chris Edmunds and I'm a victims' rights and services consultant. Nice to see you.
Beatty: We're going to jump right in. Chris, I want to ask you first, how did you get involved in the criminal justice system movement?
Edmunds: Well, I joined the victims movement close to 20 years ago. I was working at the American Bar Association in Washington, D.C. and taking a night graduate program on how to effectively change the law. How to lobby, how to get laws changed. And I wanted to do that for the American Bar Association. And just as my course was ending, I was informed that they wanted to move me to Chicago. And, so, I was looking for a job and I had met two really interesting people in the class. We used to share notes and have discussions and those two people were Marlene Young and John Stein.
And, so, they offered me a summer job to help lobby -- we couldn't use the word lobby -- but help educate Congress on victims' rights. A tiny little bill that they had this idea about. And so, they hired me and we worked real hard and that eventually became the Victims of Crime Act of 1984.
So, that's how I joined the field and -- and then once we got that law passed, I didn't want to leave and they wanted to keep me around and here I am still today.
Beatty: What has motivated you, why did you get into it and what kept you in for as long as you have been in it?
Edmunds: Well, I'll tell you something, I came to Washington to work on environmental issues. Like some of the best victim advocates, studied French in school, because there were no programs to teach people how to be victim advocates.
And there was just so much that was needed. I mean, back in the early 80s there were a handful of compensation programs, there were no victims rights laws basically on the book, except Steve Derene's Wisconsin 1980 Bill of Rights. But there was just so much that was needed and I just felt like this was a field where I could really make great contributions, make an impact. And there were a lot of smart people working on other causes. And I thought, they don't need me there, that this is where I could really help and make some change.
So, you know, I think of what we witnessed in the past 20 years, it's just been miraculous. So, that's kind of why I -- I stayed in the victim rights movement.
Beatty: Well, Chris, you were the architect of what was really considered one of the seminal publications in our field, and that's New Directions from the Field, which is a publication for the Office for Victims of Crime at DOJ. I was wondering if you could tell us, how did the idea of that product come about. And how was it created?
Edmunds: New Directions from the Field: Victims Rights and Services for the 21st Century -- now just the title alone I could talk to you about for three hours and how we got that title, especially since it's from the field, it's not the Justice Department telling the field what should happen.
But over a thousand people that we worked with over a four year period to tell the field to -- to kind of congeal the greatest ideas and the promising practices and put it in a document in one place so that people could use it, to not reinvent the wheel.
But as you know New Directions is an update of the 1982 President's Task Force report that we all call it the bible or the blueprint of the movement. And I'm sure other people that you've interviewed served on that task force and have told you the history of that wonderful task force, where Lois Haight was the Chair of it. And, so, it was the 80s. We talked about being the age of funding programs and of passing laws and of creating programs. And in the 90s what we were doing is finally having a bit of a time to go back and reflect and see what changes have happened.
What's working, instead of people just reinventing themselves, why not collect and put in one place these wonderful promising practices and ideas so that people from Iowa to Georgia to California to New York could see what others are doing and replicate it.
So, the idea was to look and see what the original recommendations were. The President's Task Force -- there were 68 of them. It was a beautiful, small concise book and we thought -- well, the Justice Department and leaders in the field thought that we should look at that and see what laws had been passed, what changes occurred in the justice system and as well across what we call our allied professions and document it and make recommendations for the future.
So, this was a project as you know that started in about 1993 -- the idea started coalescing around '93, research started happening on it. I know that the Justice Department worked with the National Victims Center, now the National Center for Victims of Crime, with the legislative database to start documenting how many states had what laws. And we were very much a part of that. And, so, they sent a staff member over to NVC and that person was there for seven months, as you remember.
Then what happened was -- is that Aileen Adams was the director of OVC at that time. And -- and she wanted to put staff into it and to really try to do something. And, so, Sharon English came out from California and I know you are going to talk to her. Melanie Smith was at the Justice Department at the time. And what they did with Aileen is that they identified about 25 different people, leaders in the field, that -- and asked them to write background papers. And, so, each leader was asked to, based on their expertise, review what portions of the President's Task Force were appropriate for their area, write background papers and come up with recommendations, so that's where we are so far. [Break in Interview]
So, the leaders in our field wrote these papers -- many of them -- a lot of them were outstanding. There were hundreds of pages of background papers and as I remember the Attorney General and the then Assistant Attorney General, Laurie Robinson convened a meeting. You were part of that meeting, David, in Washington, D.C. This was about in 1995, I think. And convened a meeting and basically heard the recommendations from the different leaders in the field and what should happen.
And, so, the Attorney General, Janet Reno, the great supporter and leader in victims' rights, was -- wanted to see the project through and want us to update the President's Task Force at that time. So -- so, the Director of OVC, Aileen Adams, hired me. I was at that time a consultant working on my own. And hired me to help pull together the background papers. And, so, I think my original contract was six months. Or as I call it the sentence was six months -- I'm sorry Justice Department.
But my original sentence was six months and we started looking at these papers and there was just great -- great range of differences. Some recommendations were every specific, some of them were broad, some of them were overlapping. And so we started doing more research and -- and we published the report three and a half years later. And there's a lot of detail that went on in that. Some of the high points are is that we would look at the background papers, update them, conduct more research, look at the laws, send them out for review by experts, turn them into chapters. We had -- if the document is 19 chapters -- turn them into chapters. Then we had focus groups and review groups on each of them -- in each of the critical areas. And then we would edit them and update them more and send them back out for review. I remember compensation law and that's about a 40-page chapter and I probably spent three months of my life on that one chapter alone.
So, there was everyone from the President of the Compensation Association, Ted Boughton at the time, through Dan Eddy, others would read it. As you know, I was calling the National Victims Center several times a day asking information. So, we worked nights, we worked weekends. We worked weekends when there was no air conditioning at the Justice Department. OVC moved three times during that project. We moved boxes -- we -- the first boxes that were brought into the new -- the OJP because we were working that weekend.
So, as other people were moving furniture, Ashley Oliver and I at the time were just moving our boxes.
So, we were pleased because it went from several boxes in five cabinets, finally four and a half or three and a half years later into 400 and I think it's 28 page book.
Beatty: What was the most surprising thing that you learned?
Edmunds: Yeah, we're spending a lot of time talking about the process of how that document was made and not talking about what we learned. I wanted to say one more thing about process. Because I just thought of this and I thought of it often when we were writing that book and that's that -- when the President's Task Force -- the original one was done in 1982 -- they didn't have computers.
I mean, they didn't have word processors, they had typewriters. I mean, they were beyond carbon coping paper at that time. We did have xerox machines I think back in the early 80s. But there were no fax machines, there was no internet.
I mean, we communicated -- well, they had none of that. And even when we were doing the directions, we had computers. But it was just very in the early days of the Internet.
And I think now of how much easier the process would have been in getting information from all over the country than in FedExing disks and all the kinds of things that we went through and so I have so much respect for the original Task Force.
Terry Russell who was -- who headed up the effort to write the original Task Force Report -- the people who staffed it, because it was -- just a tremendous effort and it was for us.
Now on the flip side of that, because of the technology, we were able to change things rapidly. If somebody didn't like a paragraph, they'd delete. And some of these paragraphs that dealt with legal issues would have 45 footnotes in a paragraph, so you'd lose a paragraph and you'd lose a footnote.
So, a lot of the wrinkles on my face are simply from footnotes that were lost and had to be recaptured along the way. Lots of them had statistics, so -- but the substance, what did we learn?
We learned first of all -- you know this and you taught us this -- that victims rights are not implemented. Even with the incredible changes that have occurred in the last 25 - 30 years -- that they're simply not being implemented.
We looked at the study done by the National Center for Victims of Crime and what you did with Dean or Anne. Looked at that study and found that they're just not being implemented. Often irregardless of what has been a state Constitutional Amendment.
So that was one of the things that did not surprise us, but we documented it. As far as victims rights across the justice system, I think that one of the things that has stood by me four years later is that -- I think it's 90 percent of felonies are adjudicated via plea agreements.
And, yet, that's one of the areas were victims still have a few rights. They're still -- not even half the states are allowed victim consultation and pleas. And often victims are ignored.
So, there's still large parts of our justice system where there's either a void in victims rights or they're not being implemented. We learn that it's up to the person, not up to the law as to whether victim's rights are being implemented. So, that kind of problem is still going on.
But there's obviously been tremendous change. I'm just focusing right now on the first chapter, which is victims' rights. There's -- in addition to that, we looked at each part of the criminal justice system, law enforcement, prosecution, judiciary, and corrections.
And went through and looked at what laws had been passed, what programs had been created, what policies had been put in place and that kind of thing. We looked at all five justice systems.
We looked at the federal, the state, the civil, the military and the juvenile justice system. So, you know, it was a pretty expansive document. But I think most of all we learned that in our country we have put the laws in place to help people, but they're being ignored.
Beatty: There have been a lot of projects, kind of related, and you were very much involved in the afterlife of this document, how it's been used -- has it met the expectations that were originally intended?
Edmunds: New Directions?
Edmunds: Well, my expectation at one point, two years into the project, was to simply see the cover printed. Okay. I Just wanted to see it printed. And -- and so that was a pretty big deal to get it out to the field, from the standpoint that accuracy was so important, coming from the Justice Department.
We wanted to make sure it was accurate. We wanted to make sure it was fair. We wanted to make sure that anyone in the field that wanted to put input into it had a chance to have input into it.
So, through the focus groups, we had over a couple years of time, through all the revisions. We wanted to make sure that when it came to the field it was not rejected.
And that meant going the National District Attorneys Association, national meetings, and having them react to the suggestions that were fairly strong about what prosecutors could do.
And then go to the National Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriff's Association and others and getting their input and approval.
But we didn't want them to just weaken the document, so it was always this delicate balance and that's why I was at the Justice Department at that time as an advocate from the field.
And as you know you'd be pulled in one direction saying, you know, this is not strong enough. And then you'd get pulled in the other one -- this is too strong, it's never going to go through.
So, there is a lot -- especially the first recommendation, which is to change the United States Constitution and that was one of the original 68 recommendations, it was very important one.
And so myself and others and especially Aileen felt very strongly that needed to be in there and we wanted it to be the first recommendation, not somewhere, 10 - 12 - 15 - 58 or whatever. And, so, it's the first of 250 recommendations.
And issues like whether, you know, we should suggest that standing is part of the constitutional amendment or should it cover violent crime victims or all crime victims. These are issues that were debated and discussed at length.
So, I forgot what your question is. I think I just got back involved in how long it took. But you asked me what has been the impact of it. Two years after we published New Directions, the Justice Department wanted to develop an implementation guide, so I worked with Laura Ivkovich on that and Carolyn Hightower.
And Aileen had left, Reggie Robinson was executive director at that time. And then Kathryn Turman. And, so, what that was -- was the development of a videotape like this talking to leaders in our field and talking to crime victims and finding out what they felt not only about New Directions, but what still needed to be done.
And then developing -- you worked on that too -- implementation strategy -- so, what states can do, including state task forces, holding focus groups, what communities can do, town meetings.
We did a series of talking points, overheads, sample speeches, press releases. What else is part of that. It was a fairly comprehensive document. So, that's been sent out to the field.
And people -- what I hear people are doing with it -- a lot of new direction -- surprisingly they're using it to teach college courses. So, they use it -- so, increasingly as universities come on board and start teaching victimology courses, they were using New Directions.
So, we thought of it as Thomas Morgan advocacy tool, to go to state legislators, to go to Governor's offices and to see what the discrepancies were in their own state laws and say here's where we can make improvements.
And, so, it's gone beyond that a little bit and is being used as actually kind of more of a academic document.
Beatty: Let's switch gears a little bit -- you've been in the movement how many years now?
EDMUNDS: I joined in 1984, so that -- [speaking over each other]
Beatty: What was the movement like when it first started? Did you get a chance to get a sense of it?
Edmunds: It's interesting because you gave us a list of questions, because this is a oral history and you wanted the consistency. And I -- and I told you I didn't get past the first question, because I started thinking about it and going back.
And, you know, I talked a little bit about what technology was like then. I can tell you what it was like. Dan Eddy hand wrote documents. He was the Executive Director of the Compensation Association. He hand wrote documents.
I worked with the man before they had computers, I mean, believe it or not, okay. So, we were -- in Congress at the time there was one place that you could go on Capitol Hill to get information about law and that was in the back of the Library of Congress. At that time you could just walk right through the Library of Congress, right through the main reading room into this room in the back.
That wasn't even that big and it had banks of those old fashioned computer screens. And they -- that's where the -- our United States Government and our Congress kept the information about the bills.
So, all the interns in DC -- this was back in the -- well it was back when we were working on VOCA in 80 -- I guess 84 -- yeah, 84. If you wanted to find out where your bill was, was there a hearing, had there been a mark-up, what changes occurred, you wouldn't send Marlene Young over there the executive director of NOVA, you'd send a young researcher.
I was the Assistant Director of Public Affairs -- and you'd spend the afternoon over there waiting in line. It was actually kind of -- I don't want to say this to Aileen, but it was often a party atmosphere. You put a bunch of 20-year-olds together waiting in line and it's not always boring. And you'd find out where all the happy hours were in town.
Anyway, so, then we'd wait there and -- and we'd get on line and type the numbers in for our bills and nobody knew how to use a computer system. So they had people that were there that would help you.
You couldn't print anything out, so you'd take notes off the computer screen -- you'd take notes off the computer screen. And then I'd take a bus back to NOVA and usually get there by the end of the day and then Marlene, John and I would sit down and -- and find out what happened, you know.
So -- I mean, technology I think has changed so much and I know that the Justice Department has supported the development of technology.
Look at -- I mean, other people are going to talk about victim notification and what's going on with that right now. And seamless, paperless judicial systems and that kind of stuff -- but when I think back from my perspective about joining the movement and how we -- you know, we couldn't just fax things to members of Congress. We couldn't email them.
So, people like me would hand deliver press releases, door to door to door. And we used to talk about how many heels I'd go through and my shoes just [unintelligible]. I was real thin then too. And that was nice, because you'd just run around Capitol Hill all day long and think you were doing great things by delivering a press release.
So, the field itself was very small. In '80 -- when I was there in '84 -- I mean, there was a victim's right movement. They had done a President's Task Force in '82.
What I remember when I was thinking about your questions is more attitudes. There was a great split at that time between the Justice side and the grassroots advocacy side, domestic violence programs and sexual assault programs were -- came out of the women's movement.
Or -- you know -- my -- and then there was the law enforcement side of it. And, so, there wasn't as much communication as there is today, as much camaraderie and collaboration, okay. Things were more split.
And that was difficult when we were working on the Victims of Crime Act because one side was not talking to the other. The field -- the criminal justice side -- was heavily dominated by men. And to an extent it still is today.
But I remember going to conferences where I'd be the only female and -- and they -- you know -- thought that I was there as somebody's secretary and ask me to do things that they'd ask secretaries to do back then.
So -- so, I would always accidentally spill coffee on people and then they'd never ask for it again. [Break in Interview]
Beatty: I guess any social movement by definition is a series of challenges, but what would you say is the greatest challenge in your experience that the movement has faced?
Edmunds: Well, funding has been a problem throughout the history of the victims movement as it is for any social cause. And there's so much -- you know, you go to the Hill and ask for funding and there's so many competing needs that are all legitimate needs.
And when I think back -- I may be stuck now in 1984, but when I think back during that time the issue of, you know -- helping crime victims was very good idea and nobody was against apple pie and motherhood, but how do you fund it.
And Ronald Reagan was President at the time. There was a -- at the time the philosophy, if you will, was less government not more government. And, so, one of the things that we had to do is we had to come up with a really creative funding mechanism to support the Victims of Crime Act.
People talked about putting excise taxes on guns at the time. They talked about -- this was a real controversial one that the NRA didn't like, they talked about putting a fee on hunting ranges or hunting clubs, or whatever, to fund it.
They talked about license plates. A lot of states do that now. Marriage licenses, divorce decrees, there were all sorts of ideas floating around there. Any way to fund other than to use a federal appropriation, because that wasn't going to happen.
And -- Steve Derene or John Stein can tell you who came up with the idea to basically tax offenders. But it was a really creative idea, to make those who commit crimes pay for it.
And, you know, we all take that for granted now, but that was very innovative back there in '84, to think that those who commit crimes would pay for it. And, you know we found in New Directions that judges still aren't ordering restitution. They're not holding defendants accountable they way they should be, as you know.
And, so, I think back to the early 80s -- the ideas of holding the offender accountable to essentially the victim. It was very innovative.
So, funding has affected everything that we do. It has affected competition within communities and states for money. So, there hasn't been collaboration when there could have been, because there's competing -- people competing over the same pie.
It's affect collegial -- you know, things -- with colleagues on the national level competing for support. And it's -- obviously affects the implementation of victim's rights.
Because if you've got -- we found in New Directions that nobody really thinks about this, but half of our nation's prosecutors are part-time. You know, we think about the big prosecutors offices in the big cities and -- and but you've -- you got a -- large rural areas of this country with a part-time prosecutor -- the prosecutor in the morning and the defendant attorney in the afternoon or whatever, that don't have the money for -- to hire an advocate.
So, I would say -- we talk about it for a long time, but funding is a key issue, as you know.
Beatty: You've worked in lots of different areas and during that process you must have developed different strategies or tactics that really helped you. What is Chris' secret of Chris' success?
Edmunds: Well, stopping drinking coffee three years ago. [LAUGHS] Decaf. Ten cups a day. It's almost like a real cup of coffee.
Sense of humor. I know when I lost my sense of humor at the end of New Directions I was in trouble. I knew that I was in trouble because I had lost my sense of humor.
So, I think that's really important. And Marlene Young taught me to think about the crime victims, think about why we're here, why we're doing this. Not getting involved -- try not to get involved with the politics and think really truly, why are we here, you know.
It's not VOCA, it's money that goes to help people who have been hurt. You know, it's not restitution, it's holding somebody accountable to that person if they're hurt.
So -- so I try to think about that and think about -- hope that what we've all done has made a difference.
Beatty: We haven't gotten where we want to in this movement. What would you identify as the biggest challenge and the biggest failure that we still have to address?
Edmunds: Well, I look at it -- you know, you can look at it on different levels. And you can look at it as what does our field need, to improve our field, to improve us as professionals and then what does the country need or now the world as far as improving the treatment of crime victims.
I think that -- you know if you can sit back and kind of look at things -- we spent a lot of time on intervention. And we really need to look at prevention. And I know that's not allowable under the Victims of Crime Act.
But when you look at the inter-generational cycle of abuse -- and we find now that -- I think the -- in our substance abuse chapter in the Academy -- that something like 80 percent of women in substance abuse treatment were sexually assaulted, many as children.
So, when you start looking at that -- it's not just helping people once a crime happens, but intervening in it.
This study in California that we found during in New Directions put out by the National Bureau of Justice Statistics -- they surveyed sex offenders in California and they found out at that time -- what was it 80 - 90 percent of sex offenders in the California state prisons were sexually abused as children.
So, it's a cycle and so -- it's not just McGruff, who's more recognized -- I think they did a survey one time on Margaret Thatcher -- but it's really looking at how we stop this cycle of domestic violence, child abuse, so on and so on and so on and so...
Beatty: Looking at the source of violence?
Edmunds: Exactly like pollution, you know. You don't cure it in the lake you go to the source and cure it absolutely.
Beatty: What do you say the greatest success has been?
Edmunds: Well, the fact that we exist is a great success. The fact that so many people could see change and not accept the system the way it was. The fact that people within the system, the Chiefs of Police, the prosecutors, the judges, all these people that you're interviewing could be a part of the system and yet see change in the system.
And that just amazes. It just amazes me, because so many people are just -- you know accept the status quo. So, I think the fact that we exist, that the system has changed so dramatically -- when you think about it people say this is the greatest movement next to the civil rights movement.
Instead of focusing -- I know I focus on what needs to be done too much and not what has been done, that's the advocate in me. But when you look at what we have accomplished, we've changed the justice system. We've changed the justice system. We're giving hundreds of millions of dollars to people who have been victims of crime and given them counseling and helping them look at the way we were able to respond after 9/11 immediately.
I think if there's not pride in our victims movement by what we were able to do to help those thousands of family members, you know, that's -- that's the result of 30 years of hard work.
So, our greatest success is that we've changed a system that for over 200 years ignored half the population.
Beatty: What do you see as some of the signs that we have changed what we are?
Edmunds: Can we stop? [Break in Interview]
Beatty: We as a movement I assume have made some progress, but we're different than we were when we began? What signs or what sense that we have matured or changed as a movement?
Edmunds: As a field, so not how we've changed a country, but how we've changed as a field? Well, numbers. People have probably said we think there are 10,000 programs out there. Just like we don't know exactly how old we are, we don't know how many programs there are, but we're working on that. So, there's a lot more programs. I know that the early NOVA conference, a couple hundred people now -- what is there 1500 - 2000 people here. So, there's a lot more people in the field.
There's greater diversity in the field. When we started they said it was a middle class, middle aged white women's field. I don't know what it was, victim advocates, and, so, now there's greater diversity.
Multicultural diversity which we certainly have to prove that more, absolutely. Our advocates should reflect the victims they serve. But we're much more diverse.
There's more male advocates. I mean, you know -- you can go to a conference now and a five-day training and actually have five men out of an audience of 100. So, that's better.
One thing that we still need to do is work on professionalization. And part of that is to create standards of service, part of that is to create educational standards. Part of it is certifying people, testing people, retesting, mandatory continuous education, that kind of thing, we can truly be a profession.
And there's a lot of people who are doing work in that area. Many who you're talking to, Cal State Fresno and others -- but -- and other national organizations are looking at certification. But I see that as the big challenge.
And what -- and it's an interesting process, because who does it -- is the big question. Does the government or should it be private -- who on that side -- so, there's a lot of issues. We're struggling with this cause, moving towards that age.
But I really see that as something that is still, you know -- desperately needs to be done. And with that will come more respect for our advocates and prosecutors offices and law enforcement agencies.
And I think will that -- with that we'll also be better advocates, because they'll be better educated, and, you know...
Beatty: What advice would you give the professionals and volunteers who have joined in the last few years?
Edmunds: Well, I get this all the time at conferences. People come up to me and ask me that question. And I say, "I'm sorry, but we don't have a career ladder in the field that is visibly recognizable."
That -- that is a -- something that's our fault. That you can become a young cop and you know the steps that you have to go through and the ranks that you have to go through in order to be a chief or whatever.
But somebody comes into our field -- what is -- their question is where do I go next. What's my career path. And, so, we have to do a better job of creating that career path.
And, so, I say to people -- I say educate yourself. Attend every training conference that you can. I used to say read -- you know, order the publications. But now you can just get on line and read it.
I do most of my research and everything on line now. I'm doing my research for the U.S. Department of Justice and others on line, you know. And -- and, so, educate yourself and learn about what's out there.
And I also tell people -- and this is so important -- that old term network is kind of -- it's a kind of a dumb term. But the concept behind that is that you can't do it alone. You've got to meet people, learn their ideas and they help you. You help them and they help you.
And I say to them all time always be nice to Assistant District Attorneys, because they eventually grow up to be the Attorney Generals, okay. And Governors.
I think that Turpen used to say that AG was aspiring governor or something. So, be nice to people on the way and eventually they get in positions where they can help you and make a change.
So, networking and education and -- finding something to do that relieves stress. And have -- that's music or walking or family or whatever -- because there's a -- there's been this push in our movement as advocates and as change makers that you can't work hard enough.
Seven days is not enough, okay. And if you're not carrying a beeper on the weekend then you're not doing your job. And, so, there's been this -- our role models have been martyrs. And that hasn't always been the healthiest thing.
So, what -- what I try to tell people is -- is that -- you know, let's -- if we're in here for the long haul, let's figure out a way to balance. I'm trying to do that in my own life nowadays, to -- to seek a better balance if you really want to stay.
Because as you know there's been some great people in our field that have just burned out and left and -- and -- because it's -- it's not like being -- you know, it's not like any other job. You've got your hands in several different areas all at the same time.
Beatty: What vision do you see for the future?
Edmunds: I want it to stay with the -- and I want it to still be energetic and to have the advocates and to be this kind of wild riding bronco movement that we have. I never want to put it in a corral and say, okay, you're all tame now. But -- but we have to -- you know, I see the field as becoming more institutionalized. Where -- where it's not up to the prosecutor. If the prosecutor runs on a ticket that says I will have a victim advocate -- and the next one doesn't want an advocate. So, they -- the program disappears.
Or somebody, you know, gets mad at somebody and doesn't fund that program. There's all sorts of politics involved. So, I'd like to see it institutionalized.
And certainly you and all the other great legal minds tell us that the way to do that is by passing a federal constitutional amendment. But with that it will be mandatory, not discretionary. It's not if the person wants to do it, but they have to do it because our Constitution says so. So, I see that as probably something that absolutely needs to be done.
Beatty: Still hopeful about the directions of the movement?
Edmunds: Well, first of all, I don't see myself as one of the original people in the movement. Because by the time I got to the movement, you know, NOVA had already been in existence for almost ten years. So, I just -- put that on the record. I'm still young. I'm the next generation -- [Break in Interview]
Edmunds: Your question was, am I optimistic? Absolutely. I mean, this is just an incredible field and -- and you see this. I mean, one of the reasons my focus has not been on policy the last few years -- it's really been on training and going out there and educating and teaching at the universities and speaking at conferences, and -- and, you know, I'm meeting the next generation every day out there and they're great.
And -- and, so -- and there's a lot of sparks out there. So, we want people that will work in a system and want it institutionalized but I'm hopeful that the movement will still have these incredible people like a Marlene Young and Jim Rowlands and the Sharon Englishs and the Lois Haights and all those people that just really kind of shook up the system.
Beatty: One final question: I guess is the corollary to that one-- what is your greatest concern for the movement? What do you fear?
Edmunds: For the movement?
Beatty: Yeah, what do you lose sleep at night -- when you think about the well-being of the movement?
Edmunds: That's a really difficult question what my greatest fear is. I don't know how to answer that question. I mean, I just don't know how to answer it.
My greatest fear for -- when I think about victims' issues -- is that we're going to spend the next 50 years trying to change the Federal Constitution and that just frustrates me so greatly.
Because there are laws in place that are being ignored. There are victims that should be receiving information about compensation that aren't getting it. You know, there's victims that should be receiving restitution that aren't getting it.
So, it's not a fear for the movement, it's just the concept of it. How many more people have to suffer before we write this great law, before we balance the system and do victim's rights just like defendants have rights.
So -- and then my fear is that, you know, if we don't look at prevention aspects and if we don't kind of look at it in a comprehensive way, in an inter-generational way, that we're just going to see more people abused and the cycle continue -- continues.
So, I don't have any fears for our field because there's young people in it and there's going to be the next and the next and the next. It's just that I -- I get frustrated because things haven't changed fast enough. And that's what us old advocates are all about. We want to see things change, right, so...
Beatty: Is there anything that you'd like to add and sort of share with posterity. Any general observations... things that we didn't ask you that you think are important to make sure we remember?
Edmunds: I'd like to document that when we were lobbying [clears throat] for the change in VOCA in '86 -- I think that was to include victims of drunk driving, homicide and -- and mandatory coverage of domestic violence -- that we called everybody we knew.
And my mother called from a pay phone in Albuquerque our Congressman. And my dad -- dad has never let me forget [SIC] it. Because he pulled into the Safeway parking lot and took the back bumper of the motor home off in pulling out for the parking lot so she could make that phone call.
So, I don't know, I -- has anybody talked about the National Victims Assistance Academy yet?
Beatty: I think it's been mentioned, but share your thoughts.
Edmunds: Well, I just wanted to say that the Justice Department -- thank them for supporting that and that was -- we developed that in 1995. And this is its eighth year and I think that that [clears throat] really talks to the future.
Because it was the idea that prosecutors had their college. There was a national judicial college, there's Quantico for FBI and that kind of thing, but there was no national foundation academy for victims services.
So, the Justice Department funded this. All the leaders in the field -- I think we've had 90 faculty members from across the nation. We've had over I think -- is it 1500 graduates at this time.
It's a partnership between the academic community, Cal State Fresno, Washburn University and the Medical University of South Carolina and others. And, so, it's really helping us become more professional for the field, because it's providing academic credit for training and it has somewhat of a rigorous schedule -- as you know, you taught there as faculty.
And -- and I think that eventually that's the way -- that's what -- you know, all advocates will go through something like that. It's being replicated in I think -- like there's ten different states now that are -- that are starting their own state academies. And, so, I see that as an important change along the way -- that I was proud to be associated with.
|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.|