An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
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Dean Kilpatrick, Ph.D.
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Seymour: Sound check from Anne Seymour, Justice Solutions, Washington, D.C. and Dean, can you say who are and spell your name?
Kilpatrick: Yes, I'm Dean Kilpatrick, D-E-A-N K-I-L-P-A-T-R-I-C-K.
Seymour: And which title today?
Kilpatrick: Well, Professor of Psychology and Director of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Seymour: Well, that concludes our hour and a half interview. (laughs) Dr. Dean, when and why and how did you first get involved in the crime victims' movement?
Kilpatrick: Well, early in 1974, I was invited by a friend to attend a speak out on rape that was being held by the National Organization for Women in Charleston, and during that presentation, which was carefully designed to everybody outraged as to how victims were treated legally, I mean, in the law, in the medical system and the healthcare system and every other way, we learned a lot about just the problem of rape and the problems that victims face. And so there were a few hot heads in the group who decided that something needed to be done about it, one of whom was me, and so probably about, I don't know, a core group of about six to eight people signed this piece of paper and then decided that we would get together to decide how Charleston was going to deal with this rape problem.
And People Against Rape (PAR), that's an organization... emerged from that and I was one of the founding members. I mean, one guy and all the rest were women, and that an interesting story about why it got called People Against Rape. There were two reasons- one of which was that one of the members of the founding group was a pacifist and Women Against Rape would have WAR, and she had a problem with that. And the other was that I think pretty early even though it was recognized that women were gonna have to do the heavy lifting in terms of getting the rape problem taken seriously that men ought to be involved too, because if for no other reason they're the one's that are doing the raping, and so trying to get men involved in terms of addressing the issue was important, and I guess also I was there and so they... they named it people as opposed to women, thus they did have one guy at the time.
Seymour: What was it like being the only guy with a bevy of women?
Kilpatrick: It was very interesting and very exciting in a lot of different ways. I mean, for one thing, People Against Rape was a very feminist-oriented organization, and so many men, I think, have not had the opportunity to be around women who are all really focused on trying to change society and to do things to end sexism and that type of thing. Secondly, the rules of People Against Rape when it first got started were very collectivist in nature meaning that it was a huge group. Every... I mean, that there were no start times or end times for meeting except when people just passed out from malnourishment or something in that the meetings would go on for hours and hours and hours, and you would try to achieve consensus, and in fact, consensus, total consensus was needed to do anything, so therefore, in the early days, I mean, the meetings would go on forever and one person could block anything.
And so it's really not a very efficient way to run an organization in the short-run. However, it means that if you ever do decide to do something, I mean, you're not gonna have somebody trying to sandbag you later, and so I... I ought... I really felt that I was fortunate because there were some very extraordinary women, and very strong women and participating in a group on that basis for basically I had to be... I felt like I always had to be twice as good because of my gender, which is a situation that women probably feel like all the time. But I thought it was very good for me really to be in that situation.
My professional training by the way too, I mean part of the things about-- kind of collectivist groups is that they're not often too jazzed about hierarchy driven organizations and male-dominated organizations or even sort of super high education, so the fact that you're a male professional means that you really did have to... you really did have to make your case because... I mean, what you were saying was suspect on... on it's surface.
Seymour: Um, 30 years ago when you started Dean, can you describe the field of victims' rights and services, including the context of the era in 1974.
Kilpatrick: The context was of victims' rights is that there were none. You know, as... as somebody and I think it might have even been you that I stole this line from that was testifying at a hearing in Texas about constitutional amendments. It said, "The only rights that a victim has is the right to be present at the scene of the commission of the crime," and I think that was...
Seymour: Nell Myers.
Kilpatrick: ... that was really the situation, and in 1974, particularly early '74, there had been a very few victim rights groups, I guess, or I don't even think there were victim rights groups exactly, but a couple of criminal justice oriented ones and then in terms of non-profits they... Bay Area Women Against Rape, the Women Against Rape in Philadelphia and then the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, and I think that that was really about it in terms of the United States, and I do remember when we had started PAR-- that since I was a mental health professional that we had decided we were gonna do counseling and so it was my job to find out how to do the counseling, and I had no clue, so what I decided that I needed to do was to first look in the literature.
There was no clue in the literature. I mean it was nothing had been published. In fact, some of the first things that really came out scientifically in the... in 1974, but I remember finding out about the Rape Crisis Center in D.C. and going through this long interesting experience trying to get an appointment to talk to them about how they did things, and which resulted in finally, you know, meeting in a safe place and whatever and that I... and I just said, "Look, you guys have been doing it and you know, we don't... I don't want to reinvent the wheel, you know what you're doing, I would like to learn from you about how to do it."
And so finally they met and it turned out that they were having, even though they were in existence, they were having some of the same kinds of problems and one thing that they said that I will not forget was that I was saying, "Well, we're in Charleston and we have a large minority population, being the victims are minority and so what we would like to do is to be able to serve those people and we need to recruit volunteers and how do you do it in D.C.?" And the person I was talking to said, "Volunteerism is a white middle-class phenomena and that many of the poor people don't really, I mean, they have to focus on other things that are more germane to their lives." And so I've always remembered that, and I think to this day most of the victim advocates and the rape crisis center people are still trying to deal with the issue of I guess cultural competence and how do you get people from different cultures or the people that you're serving to, you know, be involved in the service delivery system.
Seymour: What... you know, culturally, politically thirty years ago in terms of victims, what... what was the tenor?
Kilpatrick: The tenor was... I think it was just... it was an issue that was just absolutely not on the radar screen and who put it... who put violence against women on the radar screen and we owe them a huge debt of of gratitude I think was... was actually the National Organization for Women as much as anything, and they, I later found out, had an initiative, I mean recognizing from... from their members and that violence against women was a huge problem and that rape was a huge problem for women, and so they had as an initiative to have a series of speak outs in various communities around the country. It was... it was... it was --they had a task force and they... and they decided to do that. And frankly, I think that not only did People Against Rape get started directly because of that, and I think that many of the other rape crisis centers did too.
Now I would say shortly after that there was a program called LEAA which I'm sure exactly Law Enforcement Assistance Administration I guess it was, which was some Federal pass through funding and they, I think, made available funding to, in addition to criminal justice system people, also to non-profits and I recall probably getting one of the first grants or applying for a grant in probably either later '74 or early '75 that actually enabled People Against Rape to have-- to rent an office, to hire an executive director to coordinate the role of the volunteers, and then I think to pay phone charges or... or something like that. In our call that the grant-- the princely... this was all done at the time for the princely sum of $15,000, and we again, an interesting story about that is that our... you had to have measurable objectives, and so our measurable objectives were was that we were gonna make the reported rape rate go up in Charleston County.
Which required a little explanation in that um, ordinarily you might say that a criminal justice agency wouldn't want to see the rape rate go up, but we said that we're... what we were gonna be doing which was doing counseling, we would go to the ER and do counseling and advocacy for victims. We were gonna work with law enforcement, the prosecutor's office, healthcare professionals, everybody else to try to get victims treated better, and then we were also gonna do a lot of public education about rape through media things and you know, going out and had a speaker's bureau doing speeches all around the place to civic groups and whatnot.
That more people would know about that there were services available since such a low percentage of rape cases are reported we thought that you know, when you let people know about the services that it would increase the amount of people... the number of women who would come forward, and sure enough it did. And I think we got up to about eighth in the nation, half all the counties in the... or the metropolitan areas in the country for which the Chamber of Commerce I think was not amused, but we really did have to explain to them that it's a good thing because what's happening now is that they're... you know, it's not that you know, we're increasing the number of rapes, we're just increasing the number of rapes that people know about which then makes it possible to get them some services.
Seymour: In your pioneering area of victim assistance, which, Dean, some would... would consider it mental health but also violence against women. What is the greatest challenge that you and your colleagues face in affecting change?
Kilpatrick: Well, where do you start? I mean I think the thing is in '74 not only was the whole issue not on the radar screen, but if you looked at what would have to happen to create the kind of world for victims and the kind of services for victims that you would like to see happen and you consider laws need to be changed, there needs to be funding, there needs to be-- I guess the most important is just recognition by people that this is an issue and is important and that... there are many stereotypes about it that aren't true. So I think that part of it is just getting it... is figuring out a way to communicate to people and all kinds of people from the general public to policymakers to all kinds of folks.
How important this area is. It's a problem. It needs to get taken seriously. We need to do something about it. We need to figure out exactly what to do. We need to then follow through and make sure that those things get done. So, it seemed pretty mammoth. Now I will say that one of the things that I think we thought somewhat naively was that-- I mean for example, all you needed to do you go in and you train the police and, you know, say do better, and then they would know what to do and do better, and then you train, you know medical students and residents and then they would know and do better, and etc., etc.
And it turns out that, you know, there is so much turnover that even though you think you've got the job done, I mean I guess it was like we thought we could do it once. We'd pass a law that would solve everything, and so it turns out that it is a really in... incremental thing in that you need to keep doing what you're doing for a very long period of time, and I mean-- we're not there yet. I mean it's almost 30 years and we're not there yet.
Seymour: In the early days, but you know, even now but more so in the early days, Dean, what were the secrets and tactics and strategies that you all employed that were successful?
Kilpatrick: Well, I think I would say a couple of things, at least. One of which was recruiting people to work on the problem and I think particularly People Against Rape, but some of the other organizations that I've been involved with too like the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network and you know, some of the Crime Victim's Center that I now am involved with. The key in many ways was retail recruitment of people. I mean, in other words, going to friends, colleagues, figuring out ways to let them know about what's going on, figuring out ways to get them to volunteer and then figuring out ways to get people to work together on a problem in a situation where, again, there were all kinds of... just all kinds of difficulties internally within an organization about...
Seymour: Such as?
Kilpatrick: Well, such as ... but... well, let me give you one example. One example was that we originally decided to do or not originally but after a while decided to submit a research grant, because basically I... I thought and some of the other people, there was a psychiatric nurse, Jean (Selander?) and a good friend (Diomidel?) Smith who... who was actually a research tech but was very interested in psychological things, and the three of us were the counseling committee, so we decided it was important to know about what reactions to rape were so we could train the counselors so they could serve as reser... resource people to the victims. Well, there wasn't any research there. People didn't really know what those things were so we decided that it would be a good idea to do some research, and so we put together a grant proposal to the National Institute of Mental Health and we're trying to negotiate with PAR, who... of whom we were all members to some kind of situation where we could do this collaboratively.
And what we proposed was to have a subcontract in which PAR would provide all the personnel, for all of the personnel for the research grant. When in... well, in talking to them some of the-- I guess radical feminists Marxist flavor I guess on... on the... in the group decided that everybody on the project should make the same amount of money, and my friend and colleague Dr. Lois Veronen who had just gotten her Ph.D. --we're sitting in a meeting describing this and Lois has worked with this group for two years and they know her and they like her very well and it's nothing personal, but it's just that the principle is everybody from the lowest secretary to the highest Ph.D. should make exactly the same salary, and I could just see Lois's eyes get bigger and bigger and bigger and she was about to cry, and I said, well, the thing is we're not gonna be able to pay Ph.D. salaries to all the secretaries, so I think we're just gonna have... so I mean that took three or four meetings to get resolved.
So, again, I think that a big thing is that there are these tensions and different philosophies and should... do we totally change the society for example, which some people would like to do, or do we focus in on trying to provide services to the people who were there. Should we do-- I mean is it should we get ourselves involved with the criminal justice system given the way it treats victims or not. I mean there's a lot of kind of philosophical things that were going on that made things difficult. The second trick that we had in terms of recruiting some very good people was... was really I think we were wound up being fairly clever about utilizing the media, in that it just became obvious that, you know, if you go around and talk to people in small groups or one to one basis and all that, that... it's gonna take a very long time to get the job done even if you ever had access to them.
But we figured out ways to ... in fact one of the things that we did originally is that one of the volunteers actually worked at the newspaper and so I don't know... I suspect that she may have had a particular personal experience that led her to be interested in the topic, but she became a member of our group and so she would cover things and you know, give us advice about how to do things and that certainly worked out very well. Charleston also, it... it's bigger now than it was then but it was almost ideally sized for a media market in that it had all of the major T.V. -- I mean it had NBC you know, you know, CBS and ABC and one independent station and then a public station, and it doesn't have enough... it still doesn't but it certainly didn't then have enough hard news to, you know, to drive things, so we found out that you could volunteer to be on things, that you could, you know, even though it was very hard for us to do that, I mean we made ourselves go do T.V. because we... and you know, worked with the newspapers because we felt like that was the best way to get out the message about rape and about the need for services and really jurors too, I mean they're part of public, and so, in other words, if they have all these misconceptions about rape and what rape victims are like and what they do then the only to communicate with them is in a realistic sense is really through the media.
So I think that that was one of the things we did. We also realized that it was gonna be necessary to, if we wanted to really make a change, we... we needed to have a comprehensive way to go about do it, and so we did target specific groups to try to go get them to make us do training or I mean to let us do training with them. And we also sought funding from a variety of different governmental agencies and forced ourselves to learn about the process by which money was given out. So I... I mean, I think... and it was just really an outstanding group of people. I mean, it's just... I mean I think part of it was the people who were there really cared about what they were doing and were just smart and very persistent.
Seymour: Dr. Dean, what were some of the failures of the movement as you see them?
Kilpatrick: Well, I think one of the failures... let me just say I think they've been more successes than failures but I think that one of the failures is the fact that the movement really got and to a large degree still is, very balkanized in the sense that there are-- everybody's involved with parallel play. I mean, you have different interest groups that are I mean, you have some people that are totally criminal justice oriented. I mean, and then you have your prosecutor-based people and then you have your correction-based people and you have your, you know, police-based, victim witness people who may or may not get along with people at the rape crisis centers, the domestic violence shelters. You have people who are interested in child sexual abuse and then there's a whole other group that's interested in child physical abuse. Nobody's interested in neglect. It's kind of a neglected area.
And then you have, you know, your homicide survivors, you have MADD, you have all of these groups who tend to look at what makes my group different and special, and I think one of the failures is is to recognize that a lot of these different types of victimization are experienced by a lot of the same people, and that if we're very fragmented, and we're all looking after only our particular group, then it becomes very difficult to build a coalition large enough to get some of the changes made that... made that needed to get made. I think a second failure is that we made a lot of progress and I think we're kind of stalled at this point. I think we got a lot of laws changed. We got constitutional amendments in many cases a failure is to not have enforcement mechanisms and it's back to what I was saying before, I mean we naively when we started out said all we got to do is change the law and then we can... can train a few people, congratulate ourselves and go home and you know, it'll all be... it'll be morning in America for victims.
Well, the problem is, is that basically I've... I've concluded that it is gonna be... it's gonna take a struggle to get the legal infrastructure and the training infrastructure in place, but we're gonna then need to monitor it. We're gonna need to work it. Somebody... I mean, it... it's... it would be like, you'd say, well, we need to have lawyers. Okay, so we'll train one class of lawyers and then we don't have to worry about that anymore. It's... and we have not, I guess, another failure is is that we've not... we've not recognized the... to the extent that we should the need for professionalization in a good sense for the field. And in some cases our task is much more difficult because we have a whole series of different types of people who are doing victim assistance, and they don't need to necessarily all know the same things, which is more difficult in some ways in terms of training than it would be training lawyers or doctors or somebody like that.
So I think that we... we have sort of stalled on that dimension, too. And I think another way that's sort of related to the balkanization thing is is that to paraphrase, you know, Rodney King, "Why can't we all just get along?" In fact, there are a lot of people who don't like victim rights at all who... who I think have a fundamental... and they don't like money spent on it because they think the money ought to be spent on something else. We really have a whole lot more in common than we have separating us in a lot ways if we could just get along and but we can't. I mean, you know, and it's largely because we're people and so we... we like... we'd rather fuss and fight than we would sort of unify maybe to try to have more political clout to get done what needs to get done.
Seymour: What do you perceive to be... excuse me... the one greatest accomplishment that has promoted victims' rights and needs?
Kilpatrick: Well, I think one of the great accomplishments has been to even recognize that there are a lot of victims. Two, that they shouldn't be just treated like evidence, that they should be afforded some rights and that it's in the vested interest of the criminal justice system not to mention society as a whole to do that. So I... I think just the recognition that there are a lot of victims that, you know, that "hey, it's not right to treat them badly, and in fact, if we treat them badly, we all suffer because they're not gonna come forward, they're not gonna report, they're not gonna cooperate with the criminal system, etc.," and for my own thing as a pointy-headed intellectual researcher and mental health professional I think there's increasing evidence now... I mean research evidence, strong, hard, good research evidence that says that if victims don't get some of these services, either mental health services and whatnot, it really affects mental health as well as health, and society cannot afford to have people who are less productive, who are not as healthy, who... who can't realize their potential because they have a victimization experience that has not been addressed.
So I... I think we've... I mean again, it's one of those "is the glass half empty or half full situations," and I mean I think if... if you really take stock of where... where we were at least in 1974 when I got involved and where we are now, I think you would have to say that we've made a lot of progress, but I think we would be foolish to say that, you know, that there's still a lot that needs to be done.
Seymour: And we'll get to that in a moment. What is needed today to continue the growth and professionalism of our field? Or what's missing from today, 2003?
Kilpatrick: Well, I think one thing is we need, we need secure... sounds greedy... but we need secure, stable funding. Again, this is not... I mean the rights that victims have, the services that they need to be provided should not view... be viewed as... as optional or just little frills that if we can, you know, get around to it we can do that. I mean, I'm thinking in South Carolina... I mean we... we passed a Constitutional Amendment. It had some enabling legislation. It actually had some extra fines and fees and things like that to provide funding for the array of victim services that were needed, and guess what, we have a budget deficit. So guess what everybody's trying to do? I mean as a member of our comp board for the last you know, 20 some odd years, it's very clear that, you know, that what people do is that when their budget shortfalls, I mean they go after the easy money and in many cases they view victim money as easy money.
So, it's like if we're gonna be accountable, we need to... first of all, provide sufficient funding for the services that are mandated to be done, but then what we need to do is we need to monitor that and so some people... I mean, for example, when one of our jurisdictions in the state of South Carolina, it turned out that some of the victim money would show, which was supposed to be used for victim's services, was used to carpet the courthouse under the rationale that, you know, the victims deserved to see this nice carpet and somehow that's... that was the rationale of the person who did it. Well, you know, excuse me, I don't think that that's ... that's not right and there needs to be some mechanism to look at that.
Another thing that I think we need to do, is that we still aren't there with respect to laws, and I firmly believe that we do need a constitutional amendment at the Federal level, and I think the reason why we do is that in any case, and I don't think it's a zero some game. I don't think that giving victims constitutional rights takes a thing away from defendant's constitutional rights, but I think if the victims have only statutory rights Federally and they only have State Constitutional rights then defendants have Federally protected constitutional rights, then the Federal Constitution is gonna trump State laws and Constitution or even Federal Law every time. So I think that, you know, that that would help a lot and would ensure that a lot of these other things get, you know, get done.
I think another problem the field faces is is that we really do need to figure out the credentialing issue and the professionalism issue, and that's a hell of a lot easier said than done because it is very, very complicated. My own view is that it's gonna take time and my own view is is that as opposed to self-credentialing, it's gonna be important for some baby steps to be made legally or by some organization. I mean I don't think that self-credentialing is gonna cut it when everybody else is really certified or licensed, you know, by something else with academic requirements and all that. As an aca... academician, I'm well aware of the problems of a lot of pointy-headed academics, I mean who don't know squat about victims' services but I think it's possible to get some that do and in other words, if lawyers are gonna laugh... I mean, in other words, a prosecutor pretty much since they had to go to law school, they had to pace... pass the bar exam, and if we say, well, we've got some self-anointed certification system, I'm just afraid they're not gonna pay attention to it, because they're gonna say, well, you know, if it was really good, they would have had to do the same thing.
Same thing with physicians. I mean it used to be, for example you didn't have to go to law school, you didn't have to have any courses. All you had to do was pass the bar. That's not true anymore. I mean you can't just take the bar exam or at least that's my understanding. So I mean I think we got to... it's gonna take a while, but we got to identify the knowledge and then we've got to develop some mechanisms. I do think that the Office for Victims of Crime actually has and this... this would be difficult, but they control an awful lot of money that goes out to an awful lot of victim service agencies. They... they control money that goes to COPS and then, you know, the VOCA money that goes to victim assistance and I... and I think that they could probably use a little leverage to either carrots or sticks or some combination of carrots and sticks or is it Al Capone said, "You know, you get more with a kind word and a gun then you do a kind word alone, or a gun alone."
I think that with the use of some incentives as well as some maybe more negative things, it might be possible for OVC to encourage --let's say there to be more training, more professionalism, you know, among... among some of the many victim advocates.
Seymour: You're one of the founding members of the National Victim Assistance Academy, which I can't speak for OVC but I think they consider that their... it's not certification but basic level of training. Can you just talk a little bit about that experience and what the Academy is all about?
Kilpatrick: Sure. Well, I think what the Academy has been one of several things that I've been involved with that I'm really very, very proud to have been a part of it, and I think that that the important thing about that is that it identifies that there's a core... a core bunch of knowledge that... that's out there that is constantly changing, and that's a good thing. It means that we're learning new things and so we have to update that from time to time, but there's a core bunch of knowledge that basically whatever part of the victim advocacy field that you're in or victim service field that you're in, that you need to know something about, and so that was a combination of valor and also I guess we were one of the... well, I think we probably were the first University in addition to Cal State Fresno that was involved in that and the notion was that it would be an academic victim advocacy partnership, and so the academies are sort of a combination of-- I don't know, summer camp on steroids with more academic demands than you could imagine and then if done correctly, a lot of fun to make the medicine go down a little easier.
And so I think that the training model that has been developed there, which is a very intensive thing, a boot camp but a fun boot camp type of atmosphere, and a combination of when it works best academicians who really actually have some hands-on experience dealing with crime victims and victim advocates, and hardcore victim advocates doing the training and using adult learning things and developing sort of educational R&D or serving as an educational research and development tool for the whole field in terms of coming up things like videotapes and the compressed video and satellite broadcasts and you know, a variety of things like that. In addition to developing this content, you know, which is very important I think that it's been... I think that's been one of the real successes of OVC frankly, and I think it's been one of the real successes educationally in the field.
Seymour: This'll... this'll be a double-edged question because I think you're known as a probably the largest... largest... you're the most well-known person promoting research to practice in our field, which is a basis for the Academy as I recall. What's up with research to practice? Why... I mean aren't we all about practice?
Kilpatrick: Well, here's the problem. The problem is we know a lot of stuff. Everybody does. Victim advocates do, clinicians do, you know, researchers do. We know a lot of stuff. Some of the stuff we know is right and some of the stuff we know is wrong, and some of the stuff, you know, and most of the time we can't tell the difference between what's right and what's wrong, which means that we... if we have very strong opinions about things, which a lot of strangely enough, I think a lot of victim advocates are pretty opinionated about things just as a lot of researchers are. I think the important thing about the research is it keeps us honest and it basically is a way of giving us some feedback about what really works and what doesn't. In fact, I think we all share that we would like to do things that work. I mean, does mandatory arrest work or not as a policy?
Well, one study was done, people thought it did, then they've tried to replicate it and it turns out it's not looking so good. Does critical incidence address debriefing or crisis, you know, response teams work? Well, it seems like a good idea, but what's important to do is to evaluate things like that and find out not only I mean, who benefits from it but are there are any side-effects that we didn't want to know about. So the problem with research to practice is is that it's partly researcher's fault and that we talk... if all we do is talk to each other by, you know, putting... publishing scientific papers, then it's almost... we... we might as well have, you know, put a top secret stamp on it because nobody's gonna read it. It's un... inaccessible to people, so if we want the research findings to get out there to people, then one of the things that needs to happen is that, we, the researchers need to figure out how to talk about it in a way that makes sense to somebody who's not a pointy-headed intellectual researcher.
Now I think the other thing about the field is is that, you know, all of us get stuck in our ways and we don't like to change things and we may think something works, and it may not work and we may not want to have that challenge. So, I mean I think change is difficult for everybody and so part of the reason why people don't pick up things that research has found is because it's just hard. It's easier to do it the old way. And I would say that one of the big challenges for the field really is that we need to absolutely be more rigorous in terms of evaluating the efficacy or effectiveness and safety of what we do, and safety, because just cause we think it's the best thing since sliced bread does... does not necessarily make it so, and if we're gonna improve things, it's quality control, it's quality assurance.
It's basically looking at what we do, trying to find out what's working, what's not working and then being willing to look for new things and to change things.
Seymour: Dr. Dean, what advice can you give to professionals and volunteers who more recently joined our... our field? The... the baby buffs, if you will.
Kilpatrick: "Hold onto your seats, it's gonna be a bumpy ride," to quote or probably to slightly misquote Betty Davis. I would say you're in... you're in for a thrill, you're in for an adventure, you're in for, if you do it right, you're in for something that's very meaningful and it'll change your life. I would say that this field is still, even though it's very... it's changed and you know, we've learned a lot of things. I think there's still so many more things that we need to know. There's so many more things we need to do and it's so exciting because I think you can really, you know, it's something that you can really make a difference.
Seymour: You know I'm sitting here doing this project with you and Janice Lord today, my two mentors from 20 years ago. Are we doing enough um, mentoring as we did so incredibly well 20, 30 years ago? Mutual support in mentoring?
Kilpatrick: You can always do more. I mean, I think maybe the nature of what you do changes a little bit and I mean I know in my own case I think who I mentor has probably changed, but I mean one of the things that, I mean, my specialty area I guess is kind of crime victims' mental health, and I have been so fortunate to-- or we're so fortunate to have so many good people, you know, particularly at the Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, and so I find myself mentoring faculty now who then are mentoring other people and trying to get them involved and trying to teach them some of the same things about, you know, don't just do your stuff with the researchers, do it with researchers... I mean, you have to talk the researchers, but get involved with community agencies. I mean, as you know, for our National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center-- research to practice is a big issue, and one of the things that we do with our interns and post-docs now is that we them get involved with they... they are assigned to a community agency.
Everybody, for example, who comes through as a psychology intern has to do some volunteer work at either People Against Rape, the Low Country Children's Center, which is a child assessment center, a comprehensive child service center in Charleston or My Sister's House which is the battered women's shelter. And the reason is is that I mean, again, it's kind of nice for the people at those places to see that our mental health professional trainees are not, you know, horned devils, and it's also very good, I think for the trainees to see what life is like out there in a shelter or at a rape crisis center or at a child service center. So, I mean, again, we have to do the mentoring and again, looking for those bridges in trying to... I mean and not only the kind of mentoring our own, I suppose. I mean but... but doing some cross-mentoring if you could, I think is another thing that we need to be doing.
Seymour: What's your vision for the future, Dr. Dean? Future of our field?
Kilpatrick: I'm reminded of Ben Franklin's line, you know, you ... "we need to hang together or we'll all hang separately," I mean which I believe that he said when the colonies were, you know, uniting to form the United States, and I think that the future is what we make it and whether we have the perseverance and the wisdom to make it what it ought to be, I think is up for grabs. I think there's some... there's some dark sides-- there's some dark clouds out there, one of which, interestingly is terrorism. I mean, again, terrorism in 9/11 and Homeland Security and all that, in some way, is very much a crime related issue, but I don't think it's perceived to be that way by a lot of people, and I think that one thing that some of the wiser people worry about is that with the current budget deficit and you know, emphasis on certain kinds of areas is that gonna take away from... I mean, in other words, if you get, you know, if you get killed by, you know, a terrorist, you know, foreign, you know, terrorist good things happen to, you know... to your family and whatnot.
I mean, you know, there's a lot of services that are there, but if you get killed by domestic terrorists, I mean such as your husband or you know, you get raped or you know, it's just a quote "homicide," then what happens to you. So I think that one of the things that we as a field our future is gonna depend on how much we can say, "Look guys, these are act... absolutely core rights and services and they need to be there and we don't need to be you know, 'cause the budget's tight, taken away from this stuff." I think also, maybe how our future goes is gonna depend on whether we... to use a war analogy, whether... whether we treat this like, you know, if it's Afghanistan, and we go in and we bomb and we run the, you know, run a few folks off and declare victory and go home or whether we stay there and build the infrastructure and keep working it day after day after day that needs to be done.
I mean, in other words, I think that part of the problem really is is that we tend to like a quick fix and then move onto something else, and yet I think we're at the mop-up stage here, and the mop-up stage is gonna last forever. It really is, and so we need to say that this needs to get... victim services and assistance needs to get institutionalized to an extent that is not now. It needs to be part of the system. There needs to be secure funding for it. The laws need to be you know, or... and constitutions need to be addressed, deficits need to be addressed to fix things that are not there, but then we're gonna have to recognize that just like there'll always be a need for prosecutors, there will always be a need for police, always be a... a need for, you know, defense attorneys, and there will always be a need for victim assistance professionals.
Seymour: What's your greatest fear for the future?
Kilpatrick: That this area will turn out to have been a passing fad. That we will get tired and move on to other things. That the public support that has been there will... and I think will always be there, will not be tapped sufficiently. That due to economic problems in our states and nations that the advance we've made will be wiped out due to... wind up on the cutting room floor.
Seymour: We've done this whole interview and we have not talked yet about Rape in America, which is something that... (interruption by crew)
Seymour: Dean, let's combine all the stuff you've talked about, victims' rights, victim assistance, mental health issues, substance use/abuse, and to what probably you're best known for in the field and that's being the principal author of Rape in America. Can you tell us about that experience?
Kilpatrick: Well, I'd always thought and as I think I mentioned before that the media was an important way to communicate to people about rape and it... and there has always been a huge flap back and forth all the time about how much rape there is. The Justice Department says not very much. Other people say there is a lot. And so we actually, in conjunction with the National Victim's Center, and I believe you might have been involved in that as well as I recall came up with the idea of doing a two-part thing. One of which was doing an independent survey of all the rape crisis centers about what they viewed as some of the problems with rape and the ways to get people to report more, and so as I... as I recall the National Victim's Center funded a study of about 500 or so rape crisis centers all over the country.
And then the second part of it really was we had done a study with some funding from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, that was called the National Women's Study, involved a large national sample of women and we had asked them about rape experiences, and so what we decided to do is to have our two organizations together come up with a report, try to draw as big a crowd as possible for that and it became Rape in America, Report to the Nation. And what we found really in that study was that about one out of eight or about almost 13 percent of the adult women in the United States had been victims of at least one complete rape. We found out that the majority of those forcible rapes actually happened before age 18, and to quote a friend of mine who came up with a good line, "A rape in America is a tragedy in youth."
It turned out that 28 percent of all those rape cases happened before the age of 11. So what we did is that we produced a... I think a very well-done user-friendly document that had a lot of graphs and everything including some of these graphs here. This was from some of the press material about it. We had a press conference at the National Press Club and a gazillion people showed up and we wound up in essence hitting a home run. I don't know exactly why, but nonetheless, I mean, it really was because it led all the evening news programs. I mean, there were... our... our medical school did a media hit assessment of you know, just what kind of coverage it was and within ten days afterwards they estimated that something like a hundred and three million hits had happened in the United States, which was a lot.
I think that the impact of that was that it involved two things, one of which was some very good data. I mean some really good sound data that withstood a lot of attacks since the numbers that we came up with differed a bit from the Justice Department numbers. But secondly it was presented in such a way that it was easy to understand. It was not dumbed down at all, but it was done in a way that I think was very understandable, and because of all the press coverage and the fact that I think we had also let a lot of people know about it in advance including the sexual violence and rape crisis centers across the country had representatives from their national organization who were there at the press conference.. it really has had a lot of impact and served I think as a model for some of the following things including the the National Sexual Violence Study that Pat Tjaden and her crew did with funding from, you know, the Justice Department and the CDC.
Seymour: You've mentioned several times today just the role of the media. How... how significant is that, Dean, in the work that we do, because there's so much you have to do with direct services with research, but I keep hearing that public awareness has some role?
Kilpatrick: Well, I think public awareness has a role for a variety of people it has a role, for the general public for whom you know, if they don't have accurate information will... then they don't have accurate basis for making judgments about the importance of things. But also, I mean again a little known fact is I suspect that public policymakers like even people in this town like, you know, in the Senate, House, and maybe the White House and God knows where all else and not to mention back in South Carolina, many of them when they're going to research a subject I mean, they don't necessarily go down to the library and start flipping through technical journals that are very difficult to understand because we make them that way.
What they do is is that they get a lot of their information from the media, so as do, I mean, public policymakers as well as people in the criminal justice system, etc. So I really think that, and advocate this very strongly that those of us who do research, those of us who do good... good policy... this is for dissing the Justice Department. Anyway, those of us who... or politicians I guess it was ... which I really wasn't due I want to make this perfectly clear,... .it's just that most of us don't have the time to research things on our own, so if we want to communicate to people, we can have an impact if we are thoughtful, if... first of all, we have good information and then we're thoughtful about how we're trying to communicate that, because that's where I think a lot of people do get their information.
So I would say that even though you know, particularly for mental health professionals and academicians, I mean we're often taught that it's a really, really bad thing to talk to people in the press. You ask yourself what's the worst thing that can happen. You know, they'll quote me accurately and I'll look like the idiot. The next worst thing is they quote me inaccurately and I look like an idiot. But that is a small price to pay for trying to improve the knowledge base, I guess, of the public as well as the people who are in, you know, public policy positions.
Seymour: Anything that you want to say that I haven't asked you or any final words of wit or wisdom?
Kilpatrick: I guess the one thing that I would like say is that I really feel incredibly fortunate and even blessed in a way, to have been captured intellectually and emotionally in by the field of victim rights and services so long ago. And it has been so meaningful, I guess, to... and it's something that I think a lot of people never have experienced. I mean, in other words, they do not have an opportunity to use whatever gifts they've got in a way that actually in some... some way makes things better for other people. The colleagues and the people who I've worked have made this an incredibly, you know, exciting meaningful time. I've gotten way more attention in a good way, than I probably ever deserved.
Never thought that that would happen. In fact, was told by some people when I got started that I was throwing my career away by getting involved in this crazy victim stuff, which was so far out of the mainstream of anything having to do with the mainstream mental health professionals. That's turned out not to be true, but I think the main thing is is that, you know, most of us... I think most of us want to do something that we like that's challenging and then makes a difference, and I just feel so fortunate to have been able to have had a long career in which I don't think I've been bored one time and in which there's still so many things that need to be done and that I've gotten to work with so many wonderful colleagues, and I guess I still am awed by the real heroes and heroines in this field who are the, you know, the victims and survivors who inspire us all and who really on a daily basis remind us of why we're doing this and what we ought to be doing and what we ought to be aspiring to.
|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.|