An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
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John Stein and Marlene Young J.D., Ph. D.
Interview Transcript

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Interview Transcript

timecode Beatty: Marlene, John, what vision do you have for the future of our field?

timecode Marlene: I guess I can sort of jump in and John can add on when I miss anything, but sort of on a global basis, and I would say a global basis. My vision is that, the short statement, there be quality victim services internationally in every country for all victims as an opportunity if they want to utilize them, victim services and victim rights. Which I believe will involve, not only clearly bringing our standards up in the United States and implementing laws where they exist and providing services here on that basis, but it also means broadening our view of providing technical assistance and training in other countries, helping them establish laws and the like. I can't help but be aware of the fact that our global community, as we all know, is shrinking and more and more people are traveling, and if you are a victim say in South Africa as a United States citizen, I would like to see in South Africa the same services available as you would have in your own jurisdiction here. We have a long way to go in equalizing services across state boundaries and equalizing rights in this country, but we have a far greater way to go in trying to make this clear that the world is bound together in this. It's... I don't believe it's an unrealistic vision because much of Europe has good victim services, although they're usually restricted to victims of crime, and I think that victims of crisis of any type should be... have those available as well.

timecode And there's good victim services in Australia and there's a beginning network in Japan, and there's great victim services in New Zealand and the United Kingdom and Canada, but there's a whole lot of the rest of the world that hasn't even begun to see the challenges ahead of them.

timecode John: One of the reasons I'm proud of NOVA, proud of Marlene, proud of our movement is that for us it is natural to work and to be concerned about the surviving victims of genocide in Rwanda -- that the things that motivate and animate us are universal. That you know, the bell tolls for everybody over time, and I mean, ours is a movement of practical people, smart people, hard-headed people, all of whom are the idealists or fundamentally idealists and it's... so it's um, it's putting that and those ideas into practice. I think we... I think those of us who... oh, have sought out the NOVAs in this world as the place to go beyond your day-to-day work, are carrying that. We... our successes are gonna figure out how to deal with um, deal much better with whole populations that have been brutalized. We didn't know how to respond to the kid who's been scalded by a drunken parent better. And I think we're gonna some day see a merger of our concern about victims versus to with... with crime and violence and mayhem prevention. And down the road, it'll be natural for us to... to to take that there, and of a cause of reduce... you know, making my neighborhood more peaceful, and with victims this is part of the natural response to peace... peacemaking in that sense. But I don't think any of this is automatic. I give Marlene a lot of credit for reminding us of our... of our larger duties to the world. She was involved in the world society of victimology at the same time she started NOVA, and you know, it's Board, and it's responded to the Kobe earthquake in Japan at their invitation, and... and responding to a request to come to Rwanda to help deal with the after-effects of... of killing many people there in the pace faster than the worst days of holocaust in... in Europe. So I'm, you know, again, I think part of my vision has been sustained by the accident of this... this woman.

timecode Marlene: Well, I think avoiding that, in response to that, well, I think it is true that and John reminded me of this, when I say rights and services for victims, we've always included in the NOVA vision violence prevention. One of the things... one of the early Board members, Irvin Waller always said is that when... when we talk about right to protection, while it may not be able to be legislated, the first right that a victim should have is, or before they're victimized, a right to protection from violence and that means violence prevention and that's a societal goal, and I think that should be an international goal as well. I think one thing to note in sort of constructing this vision when I talk about sometimes people will say to me, well, that's impossible, you know. Well, I know we're not gonna get here... there in my lifetime, but we can set the foundation. But it's true there has been already steps taken, for instance, based on what the United States in establishing State Bills of Rights in 1980 and 1981 and then through the years, that was the genesis of the passage of the International Declaration on the Principles of Justice for the Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power. That's a huge impact on the world. I mean, that document itself became the uh... and the efforts to implement it is the reason why New Zealand has a great set... set of services today is because they were trying to implement that International Declaration. It's the reason that motivated Australia to do that. There were services in the United Kingdom in the '70s, the same as in the United States, but a lot of the programs in Europe came on board because of that International Declaration. So there's a huge power that we can start things in process. There's already an effort to do it... develop networks and to even have possible international exchanges between victim service providers here and victim service providers there, because we can learn a lot from each other.

timecode One of the things that in looking at how we see the victims' role in the criminal justice system that helped me clarify some of the things that we could ask for as victim rights, was learning about the party Seville in France, was recognizing in Finland, that one of the reasons that I had trouble talking to my Finnish colleagues when I was talking to them about victim impact statements, is they have a routine right in Finland for the victim to speak. And that's why they couldn't understand my passionate plea for victim rights impact statement. What are you talking about? I finally... I came over that barrier. They've already had it. So those kinds of things can be really mutually beneficial and also help us with constructing this long-term vision, and the same is true in violence prevention. A lot of other countries have better ways of dealing with violence, and we can learn from that. Combined together we, I think, can complete this agenda in some generation.

timecode John: I've... here is a thought on... on my part. You know, we're sort of culturally bound to say, gee, giving the victims a voice at sentencing is an exciting new idea when it's built into many justice systems reminds me of another issue. In the United States we assume that prosecutors have discretion over whether or not to file charges. That's not a presumption shared in Britain... or the Continent. There is... there's a reach of victim rights which we won't be able to get to in our generation, but is... will be on the agenda. I think victims should have a right to a decent confident law enforcement response to a reported crime and they don't get it all the time. They don't have a right to see to it that charges are filed and brought where there's a threshold of probable cause that a crime took place. We don't have that now. I was talking with former prosecutors on our Board this past few days and he was reminding me from his own experience and I was reminded, Marlene and I did a tour of victim service programs in the mid '80s and went to Indianapolis where we... we came up... came to the victim service program at the police department... morning when two of the advocates who had been up all night were reporting to the boss, it was in the meeting, and they think they did a nice job with the rape victim they'd been working with that night, but they were close to the point of tears because they knew that her assailant who was identified by... and then arrested by the cops, who was not gonna be prosecuted because she was a prostitute and he was the job, and the prosecutor at that time just didn't prosecute those cases for fear that the jury would let them walk and bring down his 98 percent conviction record. Well, some of that still goes on, less now thanks to the victims movement but I think part of our vision is to say, decent prosecution, decent law enforcement investigations, decent conduct on the part of the justice system in addition to giving victims consideration.

timecode Marlene: And I, just as a final note from me, but it's, I think what the other part of when we say quality victim services and rights internationally involves not only training and educating and working with prosecutors and police and all this, but... and... and providing violence prevention, it also means as the world turns, if you will, that we have to enlarge our vision of what those rights should be and probably enlarge our vision of who... what victims we're going to serve. I mean, we wouldn't have probably predicted 15 years ago or maybe 20 years ago that we would be dealing in an age where there's a real need to begin to look at victims of cyber crime. You know, we didn't envision that. That's an evolution, so there... we may be looking at more and more depending on how the political philosophy goes in the world, but what about victims of environmental crime who can be damaged by, you know, disasters or oil spills or whatever. They're victims of... of crime or can be, or certainly are victims of crisis. So I think that sort of, well, not just generally sort of applying "victim" to anything when life goes bad but looking at that declination and recognizing that it may change with the times. It... and that we have to keep refiguring that, so that we have an understanding of that and also looking at the rights that may be there, what they should be. I've argued for years, first much to the humor of my colleagues, but I said from the very get-go with victim rights that a victim should have a right to counsel. And I didn't mean counseling, a right to counsel.

timecode It's they should have a lawyer available to them and they should have the... a lawyer available to them in the criminal case because the victims' issues are often different than the prosecutors and while good prosecutors will look out for those issues, I think when the judge is making a sentence, if the victim wants, they should have a lawyer there to represent them and that lawyer should have a right to be heard. Now, when I first started talking about that, I was laughed out of existence because people said, well, that's... we can't have three parties in the courtroom. It's gonna, you know, change, you know, be... never be available and prosecutors were horrified to think that there'd be another lawyer there. Well, right now we have an International Criminal Court being established where there's gonna be three parties with legal representatives, representation -- a defense lawyer, prosecutor lawyer, and a victim's lawyer. Well, I think it shows that we can do something like that, first kind of case... first thing in... time in history that we... if we... just said, you know, 20 years ago, let's stay in our box of what our rights should be, then we would never have gotten to a place where a criminal court would even think of it and that's what we have to do as part of the vision is not just say let's establish what we have today throughout the world but let's establish what we have today throughout the world but also recognize the enhancements that we may find along the way.