Click on the underlined Glossary terms below for information about specific standards applicable to those terms.
Advocacy, advocate—Active support for a cause, person, or policy; to advocate is to speak or act on another’s behalf, to intercede; an advocate is one who engages in advocacy. Advocacy may be individual (for a person served) or social (directed at changing social systems, institutions, and broader functioning of society). The latter type of advocacy may also be called institutional advocacy or systems advocacy.
Assessment—A process to evaluate or measure; the process of using interviews and case information to establish the victim’s needs. In victim services, “assessment” does not refer to clinical assessment (e.g., diagnosing clinical disorders) unless the victim assistance provider is a licensed mental health provider.
Auxiliary aids and services—These are aids and services that should be made available, where necessary, to individuals with disabilities to provide them an equal opportunity to participate in services and programs. These include: (1) Qualified interpreters onsite or through video remote interpreting (VRI) services; notetakers; real-time computer-aided transcription services; written materials; exchange of written notes; telephone handset amplifiers; assistive listening devices; assistive listening systems; telephones compatible with hearing aids; closed caption decoders; open and closed captioning, including real-time captioning; voice, text, and video-based telecommunications products and systems, including text telephones (TTYs), videophones, and captioned telephones, or equally effective telecommunications devices; videotext displays; accessible electronic and information technology; or other effective methods of making aurally delivered information available to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing; (2) Qualified readers; taped texts; audio recordings; Brailled materials and displays; screen reader software; magnification software; optical readers; secondary auditory programs (SAP); large print materials; accessible electronic and information technology; or other effective methods of making visually delivered materials available to individuals who are blind or have low vision; (3) Acquisition or modification of equipment or devices; and (4) Other similar services and actions. (Source: Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services, 28 CFR Section 35.104 (2010)) (see also assistive technology).
Background checks—Process of looking up the criminal and financial history of a potential staff member or volunteer as part of the hiring or volunteer screening process. Types of background checks include: Criminal History checks via local, state, or national databases; Sex Offender Registry checks by searching online state lists of sex offender registries or contacting state or local law enforcement; Child Protective Services/Adult Protective Services records checks by submitting candidates’ names to these state entities to determine allegations of abuse; and Credit History checks to determine candidates’ credit backgrounds.
Burnout—A type of psychological stress that can present with both physical and psychological symptoms such as exhaustion, depression, frustration, and anxiety; a run-down feeling experienced by victim assistance providers due to their ongoing efforts to meet work-related demands.
Case management—Process of prioritizing, managing, supporting, and providing the services set forth in a victim/survivor service plan; this often includes assisting crime victims in coordinating tasks and following up with many different systems (e.g., criminal justice, civil legal systems, social services) to meet victim/survivor goals.
Client—An individual who presents for and accepts victim services, either through his or her own initiation of service (e.g., visiting or calling the program) or through the victim assistance provider’s initiation of service (e.g., contacting the individual by phone, letter, or in person). A person served may be a client whether or not service is provided for a fee.
Clinician—A person qualified in the clinical practice of medicine, psychiatry, social work, marriage and family therapy, or psychology.
Collaboration—Partnership between agencies and individuals committed to working together and contributing resources to obtain a common goal.
Compassion fatigue—Traumatic stress experienced from investing in and committing to one’s work with victims/survivors or other traumatized individuals. Compassion fatigue is especially common when victim service providers do not practice self-care and wellness activities.
Competence, competency—Knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to perform tasks and responsibilities necessary to victim services. Competency herein is an educational term, not a legal term; demonstrating educational achievement of a competency thereby does not guarantee legal competency to provide services.
Confidentiality—The act of protecting (i.e., not disclosing, revealing, or sharing without consent) private information relating to a person served, established through federal and state statutes and regulations, ethical principles, and program policies. Confidentiality is rarely absolute, and limitations should be fully disclosed to persons served.
Continuing education—Professional training obtained from an institute of higher education or other provider approved by a professional board; completion is typically marked by a certificate specifying number of “continuing education units.”
Counseling—Process involving a supportive relationship between a victim/survivor who is asking for help and a clinician trained to provide that help (see Clinician). Victim assistance providers are counselors only if they are degreed, licensed, or certified clinicians.
Crime Victim Compensation—Government programs in every state, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam that make funds available to help crime victims recover from financial losses resulting from their victimization. These programs reimburse victims for crime-related out-of-pocket expenses, including medical and dental care, counseling, funeral and burial expenses, and lost wages and income (this definition was updated on June 5, 2020).
Crisis intervention—Methods of communication and action designed to protect, stabilize, and mobilize individuals who are experiencing an event or a situation that they perceive is intolerable and which exceeds the person’s current coping mechanisms
Cross-disciplinary—Spanning across several disciplines or specializations (e.g., joint law enforcement/victim assistance response to reports of domestic violence).
Cross-training—Brief training in the core concepts of a discipline or specialization other than one’s primary specialization (e.g., a rape-crisis provider trained in concepts from prosecution or advocacy). Cross-training is intended to broaden one’s base in victim service knowledge and help one adapt to multidisciplinary response teams.
Cultural competence—The ability of an individual or organization to interact effectively with people of different cultures. This includes drawing on knowledge of culturally based values, traditions, customs, language, and behavior to plan, implement, and evaluate service activities. Some organizations use the terms “cultural accountability” or “cultural responsiveness.”
Diversity— Recognition of the vast array of different groups, including those of different races, ethnicities, genders, and cultures, that may have varying behaviors, attitudes, values, beliefs, rituals, traditions, languages, or histories.
Documentation—Written evidence of events; to record information about victims of crime and provision of services.
Empathize—To imagine oneself in the subjective state of another; to attempt to feel what another person feels.
Empower, empowerment—To give authority or power; to help people by sharing information or resources so that they may help themselves.
Ethnicity—Classification based on culture and country or region of origin, regardless of race.
Evaluation—The systematic assessment of the processes and outcomes of a program with the intent of furthering its development and improvement; a collaborative process in which evaluators work closely with program staff to craft and implement an evaluation design that is responsive to the needs of the program. Evaluation of program staff performance should also occur regularly, with clear expectations and objective feedback on performance provided to staff.
Evidence-based programs and practices—A program, practice, or intervention whose effectiveness has been demonstrated by causal evidence (generally obtained through one or more impact evaluations). Causal evidence documents a relationship between an activity or intervention (including technology) and its intended outcome, including measuring the direction and size of a change, and the extent to which a change may be attributed to the activity or intervention. Causal evidence depends on the use of scientific methods to rule out, to the extent possible, alternative explanations for the documented change. For more information about evidence-based programs and practices and ratings of many justice system interventions, visit www.crimesolutions.gov or www.nrepp.samhsa.gov.
Guardian ad litem—An individual appointed by a court to protect the interests of a minor or incompetent adult in a particular matter, most commonly in juvenile, family court, probate, and domestic relations matters.
Gender identity—A person’s concept of themselves as being male and masculine or female and feminine; refers to social and psychological components of masculinity and femininity, regardless of biological sex. A person may vary in degree of identifying and expressing masculinity, femininity, both, or neither.
Harassment—A course of conduct that annoys, threatens, intimidates, alarms, or puts a person in fear for their own safety.
Identifiable information—Data included in written records that directly or indirectly make a specific individual recognizable or known; includes names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates, etc.; also known as “PII” (personally identifiable information).
Indirect victim or secondary victim—A person who is impacted by a crime but who is not the direct victim of the crime; this is often a friend, family member, or significant other of a direct victim, or a member of the victim’s workplace or community.
Informed consent—Voluntary agreement to participate in an activity and/or allow an activity or procedure to be performed based on the availability of all pertinent information and the ability to understand the consequences of the agreement decision.
In-service training—Training concurrent with service provision; may include periodic retraining or refresher training, specialized training, career development, promotional training, or advanced training for program employees.
Language Access Plan—An organizational document that contains a comprehensive set of policies and procedures that ensure that limited English proficient individuals will have meaningful access to that agency’s programs, services, and products.
Limited English proficiency (LEP)—Individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English. Individuals with LEP may be competent in certain types of communication (e.g., speaking, understanding), but have LEP in other areas (e.g., reading, writing). Similarly, LEP designations are context-specific; an individual may possess sufficient English language skills to function in one setting, but these skills may be insufficient in other settings.
Logic model—An illustration of how a program will work, using words and diagrams to describe the sequence of activities thought to bring about change and how these activities are linked to the results the program is expected to achieve. The logic model serves as a foundation for program planning, performance measurement, and evaluation.
Mandated reporting—State and federal laws requiring individuals to report certain injuries or cases of abuse or neglect to an appropriate agency, such as child protective services, adult protective services, a law enforcement agency, or a dedicated toll-free hotline. Individuals who are mandated to report vary by jurisdiction, as do the particular kinds of injuries or neglect that must be reported and about whom reports must be made. The most common mandatory reporting laws address child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, elder abuse, gunshot wounds, and abuse of vulnerable adults (e.g., persons 18 years of age or older who are unable to report abuse and protect themselves from further harm).
Mediation—Intervention between conflicting parties to promote reconciliation, settlement, or compromise.
Mentor, mentoring—Advisor or senior colleague who supports the education of another through instruction, demonstration, and support; advising or training someone, particularly a younger or less experienced colleague.
Multidisciplinary—A planned and coordinated program of care involving two or more specializations (e.g., law enforcement and a nonprofit service organization) for the purpose of improving services as a result of their joint contributions.
Needs assessment—A systematic effort to gather information from various sources that will help identify the needs of victims in the community and the resources that are available to them.
Outreach—Efforts toward identifying a population with unmet needs and providing information or resources to persons who might otherwise not receive service.
Policy—A written guideline that is a broad statement of program principles; a framework for developing procedures, rules, and regulations.
Polyvictimization—The experience of multiple victimizations of different kinds, such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, bullying, witnessing family violence, and exposure to community violence. Also known as complex trauma, polyvictimization has been linked to a wide range of physical, psychological, and emotional problems. For more information, visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
Pre-service training—Training required of an individual prior to that individual being permitted to deliver services.
Prevention—Theory for and practice of reducing victimization and its harmful effects through interventions based on a set of risk and protective factors. Primary prevention objectives are to protect individuals prior to victimization (i.e., stop the violence before it occurs.)
Privacy—Freedom from unauthorized intrusion; a victim’s right to control who has access to his or her own story and personal information.
Privacy audit—An internal or external review of an organization’s privacy procedures, policies, and controls; the review team will identify privacy risks and will develop an action plan to mitigate such risks in an effective manner.
Privilege—Protected communications between certain professionals and victims as defined by statutes. Even if it is relevant to a case, a privileged communication cannot be used as evidence in court. The established privileged communications are those between wife and husband, clergy and communicant, psychotherapist and patient, physician and patient, and attorney and client. In some states, communications with domestic violence and sexual assault counselors are included.
Program—Agency or division within an agency that performs a distinct and specified function. In victim services, many nonprofit victim service programs are independent agencies, while government-based victim service programs often exist within larger agencies (e.g., law enforcement, corrections).
Professional development—Wide range of activities designed to improve a variety of abilities, skills, and capabilities that may apply across victim service programs, including continuing education, formal and informal training, and leadership coaching.
Protocol—A written document that provides standard procedures and role delineation for a particular process. Protocols are reviewed and updated periodically to reflect changes in policies and practices.
Referral—An act, action, or instance of referring a victim to another program in the community for the purpose of matching a victim’s unmet needs with organizations that can provide services to meet those needs (e.g., giving a patient a referral to a specialist).
Resilience—An adaptation that results in positive outcomes in spite of serious threats or adverse circumstances. Resilience is not unusual or special; it is the normal process of human development and adaptation that occurs in both children and adults.
Restitution—The amount of money that a judge orders an offender to pay to the victim as part of the offender’s sentence.
Restorative justice—An approach to achieving justice through voluntary and cooperative processes that include those who have a stake in a specific offense. These approaches create opportunities for empowerment of crime victims to identify their own needs and requirements for justice, and those who have harmed have an opportunity to take action to repair the harm caused by criminal behavior.
Re-traumatization—Intense physical and psychological reactions that occur when a victim’s emotional wounds are re-opened or when they anxiously anticipate the re-opening of these wounds. This distress may occur when persons are exposed to additional traumatic events or when they find themselves in situations that trigger painful memories of past traumatic events. Re-traumatization may also occur when victims re-tell their stories. Victim-centered and trauma-informed approaches are implemented in an attempt to avoid re-traumatizing victims while delivering services.
Safety plan—A personalized, practical plan that can help individuals anticipate dangerous situations and develop ways to keep themselves safe when they are in danger.
SANE-SART—A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) is a nurse who has been specially trained to ensure that examinations of, and evidence collected from, sexual assault victims are forensically sound and sensitive to victims’ needs. A Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is a multidisciplinary team (comprising, e.g., law enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates, DNA analysts, and SANEs) that collaborates to provide coordinated, interagency responses that prioritize victims' needs, hold offenders accountable, and promote public safety. For more information, review OVC’s SART Toolkit and the International Association of Forensic Nurses website.
Secondary Traumatic Stress—The physical and emotional stress of working with traumatized individuals; a psychological phenomenon in which the caregiver experiences many of the common feelings and symptoms associated with victimization.
Self-care—The intentional practice of stress reduction and resilience-strengthening techniques by staff who work in highly stressful situations or who are at risk for experiencing vicarious trauma.
Self-determination—The act of making up one’s own mind about what to think or do without
outside influence or compulsion.
Sexual orientation—Describes the focus of a person’s romantic or sexual attractions, behaviors, and identity. Individuals may vary in their attractions to and sexual experiences with other people, as well as in the degree to which they identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, asexual, or something else. Sexual orientation may change over time.
Significant others—Romantic or sexual partners, family members, or others on whom an individual depends for meeting part of his or her mental, physical, financial, social, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Specialized, specialization—A defined area of expertise in working with victims/survivors of crime. Specialization can vary by program affiliation (e.g., prosecution-based, domestic violence program), crime type (e.g., homicide, sexual assault), or victim/survivor characteristics (e.g., older victims, ethnic minority victims).
Spiritual—Relating to spiritual belief systems; those that acknowledge and appreciate the influence in one’s life of a higher power or state of being.
Staff—A person who performs administrative or direct service tasks for a victim service program; includes both paid and volunteer workers.
Supervision—Oversight, often including direct management, of staff.
Survivor—A person who has survived an ordeal or trauma; includes both direct and indirect victims of crime. The term survivor emphasizes the strength and courage needed to survive a traumatic event.
Survivor-informed—A program, policy, intervention, or product that is designed, implemented, and evaluated with intentional leadership and input from victims/survivors to ensure that the program or product accurately represents the needs, interests, and perceptions of the target victim population.
Training—Courses or instruction, whether in-person or online, designed to teach or strengthen knowledge or skills valuable to the victim services field (See also “In-service training” and “Pre-service training).
Transgender—A person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that differs from the biological sex they were assigned at birth.
Trauma—Serious injury to the body, as from physical violence or an accident; also, emotional or mental distress caused by an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically and emotionally harmful or threatening. The event may cause the individual to feel emotionally, cognitively, and physically overwhelmed and unable to cope. The adverse effects of a traumatic event may occur immediately or over time. Communities may collectively react to trauma in ways that are very similar to the ways in which individuals respond, and may experience the adverse effects of an event for generations. Many people who experience trauma readily overcome it, particularly with support; however, others may experience significant disruption in their lives and/or a long-term impact on their physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Trauma-informed—Approaches delivered with an understanding of the vulnerabilities and experiences of trauma survivors, including the prevalence and physical, social, and emotional impact of trauma. A trauma-informed approach recognizes signs of trauma in staff, clients, and others and responds by integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, practices, and settings. Trauma-informed approaches place priority on restoring the survivor’s feelings of safety, choice, and control. Programs, services, agencies, and communities can be trauma-informed.
TTY—Teletypewriter or telecommunications device for individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
Vicarious trauma—Negative psychological, behavioral, and physical consequences suffered by a service provider through exposure to another person’s pain and suffering; the net effect on the service provider of working with victims/survivors of traumatic life events. Vicarious trauma has also been called compassion fatigue, empathic strain, and secondary trauma.
Victim—A person who experiences mental, physical, financial, social, emotional, or spiritual harm as the direct result of a specified crime committed on his or her person or property; family members, significant others, community members, and others impacted indirectly by the crime are regarded as “secondary” victims. The term survivor is also used to describe a direct victim who has survived a violent crime or a significant other who has survived a deceased crime victim. Victim assistance providers should consult state, tribal, and federal laws for statutory definitions.
Victim-centered approach—Placing the crime victim’s priorities, needs, and interests at the center of the work with the victim; providing nonjudgmental assistance, with an emphasis on client self-determination, where appropriate, and assisting victims in making informed choices; ensuring that restoring victims’ feelings of safety and security are a priority and safeguarding against policies and practices that may inadvertently re-traumatize victims; ensuring that victims’ rights, voices, and perspectives are incorporated when developing and implementing system- and community-based efforts that impact crime victims.
Volunteer—Unpaid staff, which may include practitioners, administrators, policymakers, researchers, survivors, and students, who dedicate their time and efforts toward victim service organizations.
Vulnerable adult—A person who may be unable to adequately protect him or herself from mistreatment and may be afforded specific protections under local, state, or federal law, including older adults and persons with disabilities.