An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
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Jane Nady Sigmon: Second
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Beatty: I'm David Beatty. I'll be interviewing today. I'm here with Jane Burnley. Jane, could you state your name for the record, spell it for us, tell us your current position?
Sigmon: My name is Jane Nady Burnley Sigmon and, I'm the, let's see spell my last name. My last name is S-I-G-M-O-N and I'm the Victim Assistant Specialist at the State Department.
Beatty: Okay. We're going to pick up on an interview that we started some time back so I'm gonna, coming a little bit into the middle of it, but the first question we have for you today is what would you say is needed today to continue the growth and professionalism of our field? What's missing?
Sigmon: Well, I think one of the things that is missing has to do with, really standardizing training and bringing it to the field as a whole everywhere, in all the communities. I was very pleased. I think it was 1994 when I was serving as Director of VALOR, the Victims Assistance Legal Organization to serve as the Project Director for the creation of the National Victim Assistance Academy. And, this was an effort in 19... late 1994 and early 1995 to create, the curriculum that would serve as a foundation level course of study for all people who were involved with victims of crime. Professionals, volunteers, serving at any point in the system from law enforcement, first response from the time of the crime through corrections, post conviction and through corrections. And the idea was to bring all of those professionals together, give them an opportunity to train together, to see the continuing of the criminal justice process, so the people in corrections could understand victim impact and trauma and understand how victims have, what they've gone through just to get to the point of a conviction and dealing with them.
And so there... it was... it was really quite an effort to pull together a curriculum that would train so many diverse perspectives in assisting victims and gather together the information base that everyone would need. That project is still continuing with, but it only occurs twice a year. One, it's a, I think it's... maybe trains 115, 150 people max each year. It really isn't institutionalized. It's still a discretionary grant program. It's fabulous that a number of community colleges, undergraduate universities and graduate schools have taken on the development of a course of study leading to a concentration in victimology usually as part of a criminal justice degree. I frankly think it would be better if it was part of an inter-disciplinary degree, but it's usually under criminal justice. And, while victimology has grown in our colleges and universities and we have this... the National Victim Assistance Academy, it's still such a drop in the bucket, such a small effort toward really developing a professional identity and a professional course of study that you could look to ... that people in victim services share and would promote a more sense of a common sense of a professional identity.
So while we've had a number of these wonderful efforts, we're still not there in terms of, and we've got universities providing some leadership um, CAL State Fresno, University of New Haven, Medical University of South Carolina, where Dean Kilpatrick is, Sam Houston State University in Texas. We've got a number of places doing some wonderful things to develop training and professionalizing the field. They're not institutionalized. They're not big enough. They're not enough to serve the field broadly across every... every state should have a net... a State Victim Assistance Academy. I'm really pleased that OVC took the National Victim Assistance Academy in that direction and there are, I don't know what the number is now. There may 15 or so that are evolving to develop into their academies but, you know, the further I am from that project I have to tell you the more I think that a week's training is not enough. It's only a 40-hour course. So clearly it needs to be devol uh, evolved into more... a more clinical and more applied practicum kind of thing. So I think training and making the training more commonly available, more regularly available to people in the field to answer their diverse training needs is still a tremendous challenge that we need to be addressing.
Beatty: Thank you. What advice would you give professionals or volunteers who are just joining the field and say their first year or first five years? What advice are you giving to that... would you give that new generation of advocates coming up?
Sigmon: Well, I think I would... I'd focus in on three things. Three's a lot. So, but I don't think I could do it in less than three and I'm sure there's many more. But one of them is to understand where we've come from. I don't think you can appreciate the, today's challenges in providing assistance to victims of crime without understanding what the antecedents were, what the roots were the evolution from the 1970s when the prosecutor based programs got started and the rape crisis programs got started and domestic violence shelters were getting starting and, you know, compensation was under fund... they used to have means tests for crime victim compensation, you know, you could only get compensation if you were poor enough, as opposed to everybody should have a right to have crime victim compensation. And so understand some of the challenges that came before to understand some of the progress that we've made so you see where we fit within that time continuum because I think understanding some of the challenges that have been overcome will make some of the challenges for the future more clear.
You know, most of these things we've made progress toward fixing, changing, but most of them we haven't solved. There's unfinished business at every turn and worse yet we're uncovering new problems and new challenges every day. So I think understanding the context in which they work is really important in order to really map the... what their view of what the future can be. I think the second thing I'd say is get connected. Get connected locally. Find other people who do... who share your values, who share the vision that you have for how victims can be assisted and should have the kind of treatment that they deserve from criminal justice professionals, medical professionals, mental health professionals, religious leaders and so many others who come into contact with them. So get connected with people who share your vision of what you want to do and who understand that victims need this kind of treatment so that you can go to them and get support because it's really tough work.
Don't get connected just locally though, get connected in your state and then get connected nationally. Go to statewide conferences and be part of the statewide network in victim assistance and then be part of a national network of victim assistance providers by going to national conferences. Join the VA on-line listserv, the International Victimology Listserv that's moderated by a guy in Canada but it gives you... just give, reminds you that these problems are everywhere. You have people from Canada writing in about, you know, the need for protection of a domestic violence victim or a need for services for a sexual assault victim or a child. And, you know, it helps you to... I think it helps all of us to feel that we can get support from other people who have the same types of goals. So get connected is probably the second thing I'd say. And use those connections for your emotional support when you're down.
The third thing I'd say is try not to get discouraged because there are more roadblocks than there are open pathways in assisting victims and you have to be in it for the long haul. Understand that to help an individual victim from the point of the time a crime occurs is probably, if you're going to be there for that victim through the issues related to that case and that victimization, it's probably going to be years. So you have to be in it for the long haul with individuals, you know, we want a seamless system so that police pass victim assistance needs to prosecutors but, you know, there are lots of times when victims will go back to a person in another... in a previous part of the system that they want support from and we know people will be there. You might run into them in a courthouse. They might want you to write a letter when the offenders coming up for parole. There, so you're going to be involved with people over a long period of time and, of course, there... the majority of cases never go to prosecution. There's so many where there is never an arrest made.
So understand with regard to individuals that you're going to have to be in it for the long haul. It's not just wrap them up and everything is going to be fine dealing with this emergency situation this night. The second piece of that is you've got to be in for the long haul with regard to the system. If, when I look back at where we've come in 15 or 20 years, it's pretty astounding but I also now have my eye on the next horizon and I know that to change the things that I see now that need to be changed is that I have to be in it for the long haul. I have to... I have to, because no change that's worth its... that's worth making frankly is that easy to do because otherwise you'd just do it. So you have to be really persistent and you have to know that you're going to have a lot of frustrating time trying to promote change and trying to get things done but there are others out there with you, you're not in it alone, there's no victim assistance provider who ought to feel like she... he or she is in it alone and if you do, you need to reach out and find those people that are with it... with you in that battle. But you've got to be in it for the long haul because really significant change just takes a long, long time.
When, you know, we look at VOCA, you know, it was a great law passed but you know what, it has been improved a lot of times that we... just getting VOCA on the books, in 1984 wasn't good enough. We then had to include explicitly domestic violence and drunk driving victims, you know. I was there, when I was the Director of the Victims' Office, we had to go to Congress and recommend that they make the Director of the Victims' Office Senate confirmed to elevate the stature of the Office so that it would be the same as the other offices in the Office of Justice Programs. All of these things represent change and they all take time. They take at least a legislative year or more to build support for it. The Indian... the Indian Nations Programs that I worked on, you know, the first one, the first grant, the first service we provided was in one community in the Hopi Community and then we provided some direct services in another community in... on the Navajo Nation. And... but gradually we began to get grants there and we began to get some additional service providers there and we had more and more tribes that wanted those kinds of services. It's more than ten years later now since we were starting those programs and there are scores of victims assistance programs on Indian Reservations and they started from nothing. Well, I take that back, almost nothing.
There were some fledgling programs before we got there, such as the White Buffalo Calf Society that... where women, just as you would expect, women had banded together to decide that we needed... they needed to help women who were victims of violence. So there were some pockets of victim assistance on reservations 15 years ago but there wasn't much and now there's... there are scores of programs and there are scores of people, probably hundreds of people at this point, who are actually providing victim assistance on Indian Reservations. So that's the kind of change that takes a long time. So my last piece of advice is if you really want to make a difference, you've got to be in it for the long haul.
Beatty: Okay. Great. Thank you. What would you say is your... your greatest fear or the greatest challenge that we face as a... a field or a movement?
Sigmon: Well I'll... I probably can think of a few but I think I'll just focus on one. I think I worry that advocacy of some people on the part of certain types of, victims of certain types of crimes will lead to fragmentation and really losing ground. I think we're always vulnerable to that. Um, there, we are blessed with advocates in the domestic violence field and in the sexual assault field and increasingly assisting victims of homicide, survivors of homicide victims, not so much in child abuse, you know, child abuse has always struggled with its level of advocacy and now we have terrorism that's come in and taken, I'm sorry I didn't want to not mention drunk driving, I mean we have very strong advocates for drunk driving victims. But, and I can tell you from the work I currently do we have tremendous needs in assisting victims of other kinds of crimes, people who are traumatized by carjackings, people are traumatized by serious assaults and hate crimes and people are traumatized by kidnappings and hostage takings. I deal with those kinds of cases.
But terrorism is... has received more focus in the United States and there have been some special programs created for victims of terrorism and I listen sometimes to victim advocates and I see seeds of resentment, if not strong resentment, for victims of terrorism getting special treatment or earmarked funds or advantages or services or compensation that hasn't been available to other types of victims. I am fearful that these types of... what do I want to say, these types of issues as they've developed will, in fact, further fragment what is... what I would call a loose coalition of victim advocates who share a common mission, which is to expand the assistance in treatment for all victims.
It... there are problems in meeting the needs of everybody and we've always, at least I have and many of the leaders in the field have always worked toward equitable treatment of crime victims and that has been a goal and when we added a requirement compensation programs couldn't deny compensation to victims of domestic violence that's because they weren't being treated equally. So we, you know, we together did that and when we amended VOCA to... when the Children's Justice Act came along and we developed some programs to improve investigation and prosecution of child abuse, we added and amended so that Indian Nations could participate in that program and again trying to bring more attention, elevate Indian Nations programs so that they could have some additional attention, Federal dollars and develop services on reservations.
So there's a lot of advocacy that is pushing everybody forward. But I hear a lot about people being treated differently and and that is a concern. That's probably my greatest fear is that some victims get treated differently and get more services or compensation than other victims and the danger of fragmentation in the field and that somehow making it so that the coalition of advocacy groups, people wanting to improve the lot of all victims could, would be less united and, therefore, make less progress because Congress looks to the groups to lead and to say what's needed and if the groups aren't united or are attacking each other, it's very bad and everyone suffers. So that's probably my biggest fear is fragmentation.
Beatty: I'd like to pick up on a thread that you mentioned during that comment. You were doing some very unique cutting edge work yourself in your current position and I wonder if you could spend just a little bit of time telling us about the work you're doing and sort of what some of the challenges are and where you think that's going, you know, it's very massive stage.
Sigmon: Yeah. Well I took a challenge on... applied for a federal job and got hired by the State Department just about three years ago now as their first Victim Assistant Specialist in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services and my actual position is in a unit called Policy Review and Inter-Agency and Liaison and it's because it grew out of an agreement between the State Department, this inter-agency agreement with OVC and OVC said we want, OVC in the '80s and '90s was promoting the development of victim assistance services in the Federal agencies because we knew Federal agencies were way behind the local providers, the states, you know, prosecutors, law enforcement, Federal law enforcement way behind. We just didn't have the attention, the recognition of victims' needs and the attention to victim services in Federal law enforcement or Federal prosecution that we had... that the local had been able... states and locals had been able to achieve.
So OVC, I think one of its wiser moves was promoting, propagating the faith by giving money to the federal agencies and saying hire a person who is a specialist in victim services and develop your victim services. And, State took one of those inter-agency agreements and decided to develop a position and they're real clear with me that they didn't really know what they were getting in to. The State Department wasn't quite sure what victim assistance was, and it was my job to come in and say this is victim assistance. The challenge was in determining how does victim assistance, how is it really applied in an Embassy or Consulate overseas and that took a couple of years frankly to really get a handle on that. But we, the way State is organized, the Bureau of Consular Affairs is the part of the organization whose mission it is to assist Americans overseas through its Office of Overseas Citizen Services Consular Officers are actually commissioned by Congress and they, because of the Vienna Convention have the right and responsibility to protect their citizens in another country. They have diplomats... they're diplomats in another country whose job it is to assist their own citizens and we have Consular Officers throughout the United States from all... .from countries all over the world. Our Consular Officers are located in our Embassies and Consulates around the world and their job is to assist Americans in distress.
That has been their most important mission from the beginning and what, so if an American had a passport stolen, you'd go to an Embassy and you'd get your passport replaced. Also if you're... if you had a family person who is sick and you're on a... you're overseas, overseas on a trip and you don't know where to go for expert medical care, you can contact your nearest Embassy and get suggestions about doctors. Knowing that this is their job to assist Americans in distress, I mean this is, what we did was to look at their traditional role of assisting Americans in distress and build on that a victims assistance capability. And what that entailed was essentially developing new policies and procedures that first were based on an assumption that more and more Americans, I mean we have 6 million Americans who live overseas. We have 60 million Americans who take trips over overseas every year. Sixty million trips are made by Americans every year.
Many of them are going to be victims of crime, many of them are going to come to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance and so our program has said they're going to come to us for assistance so what we need to do is to be prepared. We need to understand the impact of crime and the traumatic impact of crime and how much worse it is when a person isn't close to home and their built in network of supports and services, you know. My brother, Joe, who lives down the street, isn't there to help me. I'm there maybe on business alone. My wife's not there or my son, who might have helped me or my best friend. The people... the person I always call when I'm in distress is thousands of miles away. So the issues... the trauma... the traumatic impact is actually worsened by the person's being outside of their familiar culture, away from their support network, sometimes whatever intervention is necessary requires cash up front, medical services overseas, they want a pre-payment. Your Blue Cross/Blue Shield card isn't going to work very well if you have to be admitted into a hospital in Athens, Greece. It isn't going to... they're going to want a pre-payment.
So what we did was we took, we focused our training on Consular Officers to help them understand the trauma the victims would suffer, the basic principles of victim assistance that they have to first establish, they have to be proactive and take a case worker approach, which is a little different sometimes from some of their other assistance to Americans, and they have to assess the situation, they have to attend a safety and security needs first, which sometimes can be very important if a, many crimes happen against Americans in their hotel rooms, you know. Just think, you know, so you call the Embassy for help and one of the things they're going to say is do you feel safe there, let's talk about whether or not we should assist you in changing your hotel room, things like that. So assist, safety and security, help them to make a police report. What if the person doesn't speak any... speak the local language, how difficult it would be. I mean we talk about how hard it is for a victim to make a police report here in the United States. Imagine if you didn't speak the language and nobody at the police station spoke English. It's... it is so much harder, everything is more difficult.
So our... our, we train our Consular Officers to assist them with making a police report if the... if the victim chooses to do so and to tell them a little bit about the criminal justice system in that country because they... they need to know what they're getting into. There are numbers of countries where to participate in a case as a victim you have to hire an attorney and in most countries there's no place to get that money. You have to, so you can just imagine how an American rape victim feels when told if you want to press charges, it's going to cost you money. I mean it's shocking. If you want to come back to testify at trial, you're going to have to pay your own way and you might be invited back more than once because the processes are not geared for somebody who's out of country. So there's lots and lots of issues, where would you go to get adequate medical care, you know. I was noticing the other day that one of the states, I can't think of which one it was, just passed a law requiring that if a sexual assault victim comes... comes to the hospital, she must be offered contraception, con... medication to prevent conception and it noted that this was about the 13th or 14th state that had passed such a law. Well there are many countries in the United States where you can't even get that medication much less, you know, have someone be required to offer it to you, no one would bring it up because in the country contraception that sort of thing is not a viable option shall we say.
So there are so many issues that are played out in the different criminal justice systems and the complications that a victim has in participating and the total inadequacies of our crime victim compensation programs to deal with it. Only 22 states will pay compensation if their residents are victimized outside the U.S. if it's not terrorism. So 28 states, if you're a resident of New York and you're a victim of a vicious assault and you have your... your medical insurance won't pay, the compensation program won't pay either. So there are really serious issues with regard to Americans who are victimized outside of the U.S. What we're telling Consular Officers is Americans are going to come to you, you can anticipate their needs, you can be prepared by understanding that they're going to need to talk about it and you can validate their... their feelings and let them know it's not their fault, help them with the issue of how, almost all victims blame themselves, anticipate this whatever you do, don't pile on, don't say well what were you doing there anyway. And then help them with the criminal justice process, help process, provide them with information and our Consular Officers are, they... they now are taking on the role of being a point of contact in tracking the case.
So that if a person is-- returns back to the United States and wants information, the family members of a homicide victim, they want to know what's happening, was somebody arrested, are there charges being filed, our message to victims is you can call, we want to establish a single point of contact at the Embassy or Consulate who's going to be helpful in tracking your case and providing you with that information. Now there are some times when a person has to hire an attorney and this is a new thing for Consular Officers. For us to make the distinction between legal advice and providing information to victims about their case. Consular Officers cannot provide legal advice. They can't be legal representatives in court but they can find out if someone's been arrested. They can find out if, what the charge is. They can find out when the trial is going to be and they can convey that information. And that's probably one of the biggest breakthroughs in developing this program is to help Consular Officers understand that that's not legal advice because the first thing they used to do for a victim is to give them the attorney list and say this is... this is the person who's going to help you with your case.
Now we're parsing out what a Consular Officer can do versus what an attorney, what is those unique things that an attorney really has to do. We've learned that, you know, for example in Greece our Consular Officers cannot get information about the case. Only an attorney representing the victim's interest can get that information. So a victim really has to have an attorney in Greece. If we can help them... help a victim to avoid that, then we do because it's such an added, it just adds so much additional trauma when a person has to go out and buy an attorney who barely speaks the language and who doesn't, you know, we... most people... most foreign attorneys don't have that same desire and drive and need to know about what's going on in the case that an American would want or expect. So it's difficult if you're working with an attorney. So those are some of the things. We're training Consular Officers to understand that they have a unique and important role in assisting Americans who are victims. We... we've established a training program for Consular Officers at the foreign institute and we do... it's a full weeklong course, a little bit like the National Victim Assistance Academy. It's the basic training for Consular Officers on crime victim assistance.
They get general training and victim trauma, principles of victim assistance and specific training in what to do in a sexual assault case, what to do in a homicide case, domestic violence and child abuse and we're adding kidnapping and terrorism because we have a number of those kinds of cases overseas as specialized training. So we're really making headway. We're not providing this assistance to every victim by any stretch but, so the...there's lots of potential and a lot of challenge ahead. (Change tape)
Beatty: Right. Okay. Do... one more point you want to follow up on? I don't know what you were saying about your current...
Sigmon: Yeah. I just wanted to add that one of the things that we're asking our Consular Officers to do is to do outreach in their Consular Districts in the communities that they serve and to identify victim assistance programs that exist there and assess them and determine whether or not they could be a resource for an American who's a victim of crime and many Americans speak the local language and are more able to use local resources and some resources, in fact, have English speakers to provide assistance. They have, they're multi-lingual. So we're asking them to identify services and programs and we've just had some wonderful results in countries where such services are developing. In Amsterdam there's actually a tourist assistance program, ATAS is the Amsterdam Tourist Assistance Service and they specialize in the issues that tourists who are victims present. Not so much violent crime but the theft of all your luggage, your passport, your money and things like that and our Consular Officers are very well aware of that and work with that program. In France there is a, in Paris is a victim assistance organization and they're now linked with that. They've identified the hospital.
Do you remember... remember 20 years ago, we were very keen on making sure that every community had at least one place that could do a competent sexual assault exam, forensic and medical... forensic examination and medical treatment. Now it's much more common. Many, many hospitals, if not all, most hospitals and communities have that capability in most countries, that's not the case. There's one hospital in Paris where a sexual assault victim can get a competent forensic and medical examination. So our message to our Consular Officers is to identify local resources that you might need if an American came to us for help and then secondly the other piece of this is that we work very hard to link Americans who are returning to the United States with local victim assistance and the State Compensation Programs. We talk to them and we worked with some of the Comp Programs and I usually call the Comp Director there's are kind of unusual cases and say we've got a person who... we had a person who was savagely beaten in Saint Petersburg recently, had massive medical bills and came back to stay with his mom in New York for a little bit and then went back to live with his father in Iowa and by the time he got to Iowa the application for compensation was already there. He had no insurance to pay for his medical treatment and the Iowa program, we streamlined and facilitated the process.
After the Moscow siege at the theater when we had some Americans and some permanent residents who are not U.S. citizens killed and injured there, we worked with the State Compensation Programs to assist with the return of remains of the Americans... American who was killed and, or to quickly facilitate compensation paying back the family. I mean compensation programs are not used to paying for the shipment of remains from another country and this is a real challenge and it's a real problem. So linking, we've had a couple of cases of domestic violence, for example, that the American Embassy provided a repatriation loan. We loaned the money to a domestic violence victim to leave the country and we coordinated her return so that she entered a shelter directly in the community to which she was returning in the United States. We give sexual assault victims the name of the Sexual Assault Coalition in their state and we also give them the RAINN number.
So that, we tell them when you get home you can call this number and it'll be routed to the nearest sexual assault program in your community. We talk to them about resources and services in the United States and do everything we can to help them to access those services. So that's something that is new and different and, you know, I have to say that the comp programs, I've already discussed what a problem that is when they don't pay any comp if the crime happens outside the U.S. but the assistance programs, I've never had a child advocacy center who I was asking to treat, to diagnose and treat a child abuse victim who was coming back into the United States or a domestic violence shelter or a sexual assault program say it didn't happen anywhere near where we are it's an overseas case and we're not going to help the victim. I've never had that happen. I've had a couple of them say you're... you're who and you do what and this person's coming from where.
(laugh) So it's kind of a new concept that we would be trying to link a victim who is a victim of a crime overseas with a local community rape crisis program. I mean I literally get the address of the victim and I try to find out the one that's closest to where she lives. So it... that kind of linkage is really, really important because we all know that there's a lot of things that follow being a victim of a crime and you need... we need to have people linked in with their local communities for support in addition to trying to get whatever information they can from Consular Officers because they're not counselors. They're not law enforcement. They're not really victim advocates, they're facilitators. They're increasingly aware of the needs of victims and they're aware of the fact that there's this whole system of services for victims in the U.S. that they now can link to and that... and that makes them feel better frankly. It makes them feel like they're helping people more. So we're trying to do that increasingly.
Beatty: We have one final question and this is a very broad and far reaching one. So I will just throw it out to you. What vision do you have for the future of our field?
Sigmon: Well, I have to say that if you'd asked me my vision for the field three years ago before I went to work at the State Department it would be different from what it is today and I know that a friend that I admire tremendously helped me understand why those kinds of things happen when he told me where you stand depends upon where you sit and right now I'm sitting in the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department. And so my vision for the field is really different from it was, from what it was before I starting working on and with Americans who are victims overseas. Gosh, so my vision has to do with being able to translate and propagate the kinds of advances that we've made here in the United States. This sounds astounding but worldwide. I mean it. I have had the opportunity because of my... of the need to ask Consular Officers to find out well what is there out there for victims in victim services in communities I can see and communities in different cities in the world that the victim... victims' movement is alive, it's a fledgling movement. When I went to Rome and I asked them to identify programs that I could visit as an example for us to talk about when we were training European Embassies and Consulates, I went and visited with a... a women's advocacy group that had set up two shelters and they were also responding, they were just... they were doing state-of-the-art stuff, working with law enforcement and domestic violence, they were expanding what they were doing in sexual assault, but they didn't have... we didn't have... they didn't have criminal justice based victim advocates. In fact, Italy is a country that wants a victim to have a lawyer to help them navigate the system.
And so, you know, you see the pockets in the movement toward improving, the European union has a victims forum and representatives from, and they now have a... an agreed floor, a base of services that EU countries are supposed to be achieving and what they want to do for victims includes compensation and the criminal justice process rights that we see, that we've been pushing and pushing for here in the United States. So that's going to be, that is the goal within the European Union. The, in Japan, the police...the police department has an office of victim assistance. I'm going down to Costa Rica in a couple weeks to train just Central America countries and our Embassy has just gotten in touch with the Institute for Women, which is developing a shelter for battered women and the court has just recently set up, within the last year or so an office of victim assistance low and behold and the Embassy is reaching out and we're going...I'm going to be meeting with some of those people. So those programs are developing. They're usually grossly under funded. Compensation exists in Europe, Western Europe and Japan and New Zealand, Australia and not much else. But Mexico has a constitutional amendment for victims' rights, not a lot actually happening to implement those rights yet but it's gotten in the constitution which always makes you know that, you know, just getting it there doesn't mean it's going to happen.
You know, I mean they actually have one and I... we've... I've worked a lot of cases in Mexico where one would not see... .in fact, I even met with a... no I won't say that. Anyway there's not a lot of awareness of the fact that victims have rights in the constitution there across law enforcement and prosecutors. So my vision is, in fact, now a worldwide vision. It's a vision that says that victims should be treated with dignity and respect and they should receive the immediate treatment that they need and they should be treated by the criminal justice system well and they should be able to participate in it without causing more trauma and there, and I see... I see when, now when I talk to Consular Officers I say this is just not a U.S. thing. This is a worldwide movement. This is a phenomena that we're going to, that we're seeing repeated in other countries. So you guys need to find out where your country is, what are they doing, what is the right and the place of the criminal justice as they call it in Europe, what's the position of the victim in this... in the criminal justice process. Does the victim have rights. If the victim has rights, how, who's there to help them to have those rights fulfilled and how, what's the Consular Officer's role in filling in those gaps and to provide information to assist... to victims about the criminal justice process.
So, you know, you always want everybody to be treated well. You want them to have the rights that they, and dignity and respect that they deserve. But now I, there are so many crimes against Americans overseas, residents of our country, some of whom are not U.S. citizens but U.S. residents and U.S. citizens are victimized overseas now we want, my vision is one day that they would have assistance and services appropriate to meet their needs when they're outside of the U.S. not just inside the U.S.
Beatty: Okay. Perfect. Well that's all my questions. Is there anything that you wanted to say or add for the record?
Sigmon: I think the only thing that I would say is I want to go back to the theme of being connected and I've spent a good deal of my career working at the national level and I've had the opportunity to meet so many local people. I mean, local program and state administrators, local program directors and frontline folks, this business of being connected, I've learned that the connections can extend beyond the United States. I now have met with victim assistance advocates in other countries and it is so wonderful to see beyond our shores that there are people who can share the vision and want so much to improve services for victims. So I, there is something called the World Society on Victimology, which is as, it's a membership organization, which a lot of academics but also practitioners and policymakers in that organization and it's a forum for communicating across countries.
And I think that's important and I would... would actually encourage people to do that and I would encourage people to become a member of VA online www.VAonline.org, Victim Assistance Online because it's another way of connecting through e-mail with people who are going to be raising issues from a different perspective and it's, I'm always amazed at some, when people raise an issue and I hadn't thought about a particular problem in the way that someone's raising it because they're in a different country, in a different community and the legal... the frame of their... their legal framework may be different or the constellation of services is going to be organized differently, but their goal is the same and it's very rewarding to see how this stuff... how what we want in terms of victim assistance can be translated in so many different ways, you know, what I think is acceptable is fairly broad. There are some basic principles that we know should be the core of a victim assistance but... but it's being translated in different ways and I think that helps those of us, especially when we get our noses to the grindstone and really looking down and we forget to look up.
So I would say look up beyond your local program, look up beyond your community, look up beyond your state, look up beyond out to the U.S. and be connected nationwide but consider being connected internationally. Consider joining Victim Assistance Online and consider joining the World Society of Victimology. This is not a plug for them because I, you know, have any special interest, I just think they're an avenue for communicating and seeing that there's, that there's a lot being done elsewhere outside the U.S. and some of it includes some fabulous leadership. So we, it's some... there are some wonderful things being done by people, leaders in other countries and it... and it does help to kind of keep in perspective what we're striving for. I think that's about all I have to say.
Beatty: Thank you, Jane.
Sigmon: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.
|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.|