U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

New Directions From the Field: Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century - Mental Health Community

NCJ Number
Date Published
20 pages
Millions of Americans of all ages suffer from crime-related mental health problems; mental health professionals must join with victim assistance professionals to ensure that every crime victim has access to effective mental health services at every stage of the criminal justice system process.
Crime victims suffer a broad range of psychological and social injuries that persist long after their physical wounds have healed. Intense feelings of anger, fear, isolation, low self-esteem, helplessness, and depression are common reactions. The emotional damage and social isolation caused by victimization can be compounded by a lack of support. Further, when victims seek help, they are sometimes met with insensitivity and feel revictimized by the criminal justice system process. Progress in addressing victim rights and providing appropriate victim services has been made since the 1982 President's Task Force on Victims of Crime. New directions related to victim rights and services are being explored that focus on the importance of understanding and treating crime-related psychological trauma, crisis reactions and short-term trauma, long-term psychological trauma, counseling and mental health interventions, and cultural competency in mental health counseling. Emerging mental health issues for crime victims are examined, such as repeat victimization, chronic victimization, the cycle of violence, the high prevalence of crimes perpetrated by acquaintances, the victimization of children and adolescents, and confidentiality of communication between victims and their counselors. The impact of health care reform on the availability of mental health counseling for crime victims is discussed, innovative programs that have been developed to provide effective mental health services to victims with crime-related psychological trauma are briefly described, and the efficacy of victim support groups and victim activism is considered. Recommendations for the mental health community on how to treat crime victims are offered. 44 endnotes

Date Published: January 1, 1998