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Participation in the judicial process helps many victims and survivors of mass terrorism to heal their emotional wounds. Some courts have ordered the closed-circuit transmission of trial proceedings to multiple locations for the benefit of large numbers of victims in mass violence and terrorism cases. This e-publication presents a protocol that communities can follow in creating an independent coalition to coordinate available area resources in a Safe Haven setting at or near multiple closed-circuit television (CCTV) sites.

Services at a Safe Haven should promote healing, minimize traumatization, and give victims the opportunity to gather with others who share the same emotional experiences. Communities can adapt the protocol to meet their special circumstances. In cases in which insufficient time is available for creating a community coalition, the protocol provides guidelines for a limited service model.

About This Publication

Providing Services to Victims Viewing a Trial at Multiple Locations presents a protocol that can be used to provide standardized quality services to victims of mass violence and terrorism during the trial, sentencing, and other court proceedings involving the person(s) charged with committing the crime. It emphasizes the need for coordinating community services through a coalition of providers such as community leaders, criminal justice system and community-based victim/witness advocates, law enforcement officers, school personnel, funding resource representatives, prosecutors, and other professionals and volunteers. Crime victims benefit when comprehensive services are made available by community coalitions; however, a limited service model for communities lacking time or resources to build a coalition is also provided.

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
810 Seventh Street NW.
Washington, DC 20531

Alberto R. Gonzales
Attorney General

Regina B. Schofield
Assistant Attorney General

John W. Gillis
Director, Office for Victims of Crime

Office of Justice Programs
Partnerships for Safer Communities

Office for Victims of Crime

NCJ 212293

Preparation of this document was supported by grant number OJP-2001-223F awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The Office for Victims of Crime gratefully acknowledges the members of the criminal justice system, writers, researchers, and other victim service professionals who, through their participation in previous trials, made important contributions toward the development of this publication. The opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in this document are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Office for Victims of Crime is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Message From the Director

Over the years, Americans have been forced to endure the scourge of acts of international and domestic terrorism. The litany of criminal violence includes the yuletide bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988; the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York; the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City; the 1996 bombing of the military barracks at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia; the 1998 bombings of United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; and the September 11, 2001, attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon and the downing of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The aftermath of these tragic events brought forth the troubling realization that no protocol was in place to respond to the needs of victims of large-scale domestic terrorist attacks. What resulted from this realization was an impetus for the Federal Government to shoulder an ever-greater responsibility in mitigating the emotional and psychological losses that emanate from acts of massive criminal violence. For example, the response to the Oklahoma City bombing provided a foundation for recommendations to improve the planning and response to victims of future terrorist acts. The Office for Victims of Crime's (OVC's) preparations in 1996-97 for the Oklahoma City bombing trial in 1997-98 are depicted in Responding to Terrorism Victims: Oklahoma City and Beyond, which was published by OVC in October 2000. The report identifies steps necessary to protect the rights of victims of a massive terrorist attack, and it provides a treatise on fulfilling short- and long-term emotional and psychological needs.

The publication released today—Providing Services to Victims Viewing a Trial at Multiple Locations—builds on the Oklahoma City report and lessons learned from both the Lockerbie and the first WTC bombing trials and enumerates a coordinated service protocol. Such a protocol requires the development of a community organization, establishment of numerous local Safe Havens, delivery of uniform services at all sites, cultivation of a media plan, development of task forces, sensitivity to confidentiality and liability issues, management of volunteers, and an alertness to special victim-related circumstances that may arise during legal proceedings.

One of the benefits of a coordinated service protocol is the ability to adapt and customize it for special circumstances and unique cases. Trials for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the 1993 WTC bombing, and the Oklahoma City bombing demonstrated that when public interest in a case is high and a community is faced with hosting victims from another geographical area in a courtroom or at a closed-circuit television (CCTV) site, a coordinated community response is essential for providing quality victim services.

This protocol will further address the unique issues presented by mass violence and terrorism trials that involve CCTV sites, namely the value and need for a broad collaboration among multiple viewing sites. It encourages cooperation among disparate communities to ensure a uniform delivery of victim assistance services.

John W. Gillis

Getting Started—Meeting a Need

Prior to the Oklahoma City bombings, no protocol existed for responding to the needs of victims of large-scale terrorist attacks. The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) provided funding to several organizations through its Emergency Reserve Fund to assist victims with crisis intervention, death notification, travel expenses related to changes in trial venue, and closed circuit viewing of trials, among other services.

Local victims' groups and the U.S. Department of Justice realized that a single coalition should be formed to coordinate victim services. Thus the Colorado Oklahoma Resource Council (CORC) was formed as a collaboration among local and federal officials, relief organizations, and advocacy groups. CORC ensured that a Safe Haven was provided for victims locally. OVC identified further responsibilities for CORC. The resulting Colorado Oklahoma Resource Council (CORC) model (see sidebar below) was used to address the need for services for victims at multiple viewing locations. Since then, it has been adapted for use in other mass fatality trials. This publication represents the refinement of this protocol, which has evolved with each act of terrorism on American soil.

Colorado Oklahoma Resource Council Model

The Colorado Oklahoma Resource Council (CORC) model1 was created in 1996-97 to assist and support the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing during the trials in Denver in 1997-98. The protocol, which is based on program evaluations and victim/participant feedback that the Colorado Oklahoma Resource Council Model developed for the Oklahoma City bombing trials2 and the Pan Am Flight 103 trial3, addresses numerous unique issues:
  • A large number of victims, which may overwhelm existing resources.
  • A trial that has a change of venue.
  • Multiple closed-circuit television (CCTV) sites across a broad geographic area.
  • Transportation demands.
  • A need for quality services across all sites through careful coordination of resources.

Why Collaborate?

Collaboration among multidisciplinary agencies and individuals is critical for the local communities hosting a closed-circuit television (CCTV) trial broadcast to ensure that standardized quality services are provided among all the sites. Preparing to host a Safe Haven at or near the CCTV sites has the potential to create tension among community and agency leaders who are invested in the project's success. It is important to quickly identify leadership that can funnel a community's energy and enthusiasm into an efficient and organized community coalition to minimize the disorganization that may accompany an ad hoc effort.

Benefits of Collaboration

Victims, service organizations, and the community benefit from a collaborative approach to providing victim services in a Safe Haven. Among the many benefits of community collaboration are—

  • Existence of a common mission and goals.
  • Minimization of victim confusion through a single point of contact or source of information.
  • Coordination of effective services and resources.
  • Development of community relationships that benefit the community as well as the victims being served.
  • Promotion of positive relationships among agencies that would not otherwise work together.
  • Generation of community goodwill.
  • Collaboration of people and organizations that have various skills, resources, and information.
  • Ability to address a broader diversity of victim needs.
  • Collective participation and investment among community agencies.

Working with multiple professional disciplines provides educational opportunities on the issues of victimization, which can have long-term benefits such as—

  • Heightened public awareness.
  • Increased program funding.
  • Positive public policy changes.
  • Increased multidisciplinary services for victims of crime.
  • Revitalized sense of teamwork.
  • Commitment and investment in a project's success.

Consequences of Failing To Collaborate

Lack of collaboration among service providers and community organizations can be detrimental to victim services at a Safe Haven. Consequences may include—

  • Inability to coordinate and manage basic victim services.
  • Conflict among services and resources initiated by service organizations, the media, and individuals.
  • Confusion or diverse points of view among the victim population about how participation should be facilitated.
  • Underuse of resources.
  • Duplication of services.
  • Gaps in services and resources.

Benefits of Resource Coordination

It is important that a Safe Haven be coordinated at or near CCTV sites so that eligible victims receive support services regardless of the location from which they choose to observe the trial. Resource coordination can ensure that quality, standardized services will be available at each Safe Haven. The most significant benefits of resource coordination are—

  • Consistency in the types of victim services provided.
  • Quality control among CCTV Safe Haven sites.
  • Provision of equitable services that recognize each community's unique qualities and varying resources.
  • Provision of a single source of information for victims throughout the Nation who want to attend the trial.
  • Minimization of duplication and gaps in services.
  • Provision of efficient and effective services.
  • Availability of the appropriate level of resources.
  • Use of localized and focused community efforts.

Coalition Roles and Responsibilities

An effective coalition depends on many people—federal representatives, trained volunteers, and others—to successfully provide Safe Haven services to the affected victims. Coalition leaders include the—

  • U.S. Attorney's Office: An Assistant U.S. Attorney is assigned to ensure compliance with legal responsibilities to the victims and to serve as a contact among victims, the prosecution team, and the coalition.

  • Federal Security Administrator: The CCTV sites may be designated extensions of the courtroom, so the U.S. Marshals Service may be responsible for providing protection to the victims. This representative should be an integral part of security planning, along with local law enforcement agencies.

  • Local Site Coordinator: This person has the primary responsibility for implementing the service plan. He or she is the main point of contact for coalition members, volunteers, victims, the court, and the media. The coordinator establishes task forces to implement aspects of planning, as needed.

Getting the Most From This Publication

This electronic publication, or "e-pub," has been designed to provide comprehensive information in a convenient form, with basic information about establishing a coalition and carrying out a plan to serve victims in successive steps. Supporting information, attachments, and forms are linked to these sections where appropriate.

This overview is followed by a section that explains the value of providing "Safe Havens" to victims of mass crime. The following section on building a coalition explains the steps to creating an effective coalition, from naming major roles to securing financial support. The next two sections are devoted to recruiting volunteers and setting up task forces to carry out the work of the coalition.

Although an effective community coalition is highly recommended, a limited service model is included that describes a strategy for providing services when there is not time to plan and develop a coalition.

Users are encouraged to provide feedback to OVC about this publication's usefulness regarding both its content and format.

Setting Up a Safe Haven for Victims

All of the wonderful services, from the food to the support, made our stay so much easier. It was wonderful to have a safe place to go where you can talk freely. It made a difficult time meaningful.4

For many victims and survivors, participating in the judicial process is a necessary element of their healing process. Other victims, however, may be retraumatized by the experience. Viewing the trial can be difficult in many respects—

  • The testimony and other evidence may force victims and survivors to relive the horror of the tragedy.
  • The defendant has all the benefits of the U.S. Constitution and the presumption of innocence.
  • The defendant may use the trial as a forum for expressing his or her political views.
  • Victim-impact testimony can be highly emotional and occasionally graphic.

For these reasons, a victim service protocol that focuses on providing services in a Safe Haven facility can be very successful during high-profile trials involving victims of large-scale terrorism.

What Is a Safe Haven?

A Safe Haven is a space located near a courthouse or a closed-circuit television (CCTV) site that is designated for use by victims viewing a trial and the support teams providing victim services. A Safe Haven provides victims with access to immediate support from professional service providers and other victims. Safe Haven personnel also prepare victims for what they can expect in court and for the emotional reactions they may have to the court proceedings.

A Safe Haven may become the focal point for all victim services and activities centered on the trial. Services may include meals, information, referrals, and emotional support provided by mental health professionals, victim advocates, and nondenominational clergy.5 Program evaluation and victim feedback support the notion that the privacy, safety, and services offered within a Safe Haven minimize retraumatization by the judicial process.

If a Safe Haven facility cannot be acquired in the available timeframe, at a minimum, legal debriefings and limited services should be provided in a secure environment by a local coordinating agency, with the involvement of the U.S. Attorney's Office. Volunteer management may or may not be needed, depending on the types of services offered and the ability of the coordinating agency to provide them.

Safe Haven Resource

  • Journey to Justice: A Community-Based Response to Victims Participating in Mass Fatality Trials

Download to read PDF documents

Locating and Managing a Safe Haven

Providing a secure, convenient, and accessible location where information and resources are available and meals are shared not only meets the physiological needs of victims but also helps address their emotional needs.

The primary criterion for a Safe Haven facility is proximity to the trial viewing location. Ideally, the facility should be one or two blocks from the courthouse or CCTV site so victims can move quickly, easily, and safely between the two venues. A Safe Haven also can be located at a CCTV site.

The space must be large and comfortable enough to accommodate simultaneous group and private activities, such as group discussions, private meetings, games, and meals. It is also beneficial to provide telephones with free long-distance service and computers with Internet access. Negotiating a formal written agreement with the Safe Haven facility manager helps address stipulations made by the facility owner or manager, the needs of the Safe Haven staff, and other possible expectations of all parties involved.

Coordinating a Safe Haven

Establishing CCTV sites for victim viewing necessitates coordinating emotional support and victim services at each viewing location. The primary responsibility for coalitions is to ensure consistent, high-quality services across all viewing sites. Specifically, this involves—

  • Supporting local councils and agencies in executing their mission through training, technical assistance, and communication links.
  • Advancing a core set of services to be available to victims at all sites and supporting local customization in methods and mechanisms for providing services.
  • Preparing local teams and volunteers to address vicarious trauma6 that may result from exposure to victims during a trial and to minimize its long-term negative effect on individuals and communities.
  • Providing coordination between local site leadership and the U.S. Attorney's Office (USAO) and a centralized method for communicating with other groups (e.g., U.S. Marshals Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, media, and donors).
  • Coordinating the design and implementation of program evaluations across all sites to capture effective practices and opportunities for followup and improvement in future efforts.

Community coalitions serve as the point of contact for the USAO for training and ongoing technical assistance that focus on—

  • Planning and implementing direct victim services.
  • Providing information to victims on their interaction with and rights concerning the media.
  • Coordinating standardized, consistent services among multiple viewing locations.
  • Providing Safe Haven security.

Special Considerations

Site coordinators should strive to accommodate, as much as feasible, the diverse range of daily and annual observances that may be important to the victims. Involving survivors in planning these observances can be therapeutic and promote further connection and support among a diverse group of victims who share a common tragedy.

Holidays and Religious Observances

In a mass violence and terrorism trial that involves individuals from diverse religions, cultural backgrounds, and national origins, court schedules may conflict with observances that are not widely recognized or acknowledged with a federal holiday. Special consideration is necessary if a trial is in session during a religious holiday or period of observance. When planning observances with victims who are displaced from home, staff, coalition members, and volunteers should consider issues of grief, depression, and displacement that may be enhanced during holidays.

Emotional Support Strategies

The traditional victim service model used by victim advocates will drive the type of assistance (e.g., information, support, referrals) provided in the Safe Haven. The model allows victims to have control of their environment and experience while attending a trial. Advocates, interfaith-based providers, and mental health professionals who are experienced with crisis response and related behaviors should prepare victims for upcoming trial events and their emotional impact.

Mental health strategies used at a Safe Haven should accommodate the different ways crime victims cope with the trauma associated with participation in the judicial process.7 Adaptation of a "defusing" (informal group discussion)8 may be a beneficial stress management tool.

Traditional social service case management or mental health evaluation is not recommended for victims during a trial because of its temporary nature. Services should be short term, with referrals for long-term care when necessary. It is helpful, and potentially critical, that victims' mental health issues be disclosed to Safe Haven service providers prior to the trial. Such information may affect the ability of volunteers to provide appropriate mental health services and anticipate potentially life-threatening situations.

In communities in which a significant number of the victims reside, the mental health professionals, victim service providers, and faith-based professionals may be overwhelmed with the unanticipated responsibilities and workload associated with the mass violence and terrorism affecting their community. This may generate a need to look outside the immediate community for service providers who are willing to assist the coalition. In addition, it is advisable that Safe Haven facility staff receive signed release forms from victims that will allow mental health providers or victim/witness staff to communicate specific mental health or medical issues that might affect services during the trial.

Evaluating Your Program

Evaluations are an important aspect of the victim service protocol. An evaluation can provide staff and other stakeholders with midcourse data to fine-tune program activities. Both volunteers and victim participants should be surveyed.

To collect comprehensive, helpful data, one evaluation tool should be developed by the primary trial site coalition and used by each of the CCTV sites. A comprehensive evaluation can require significant financial resources or the assistance of an educational institution.

Volunteer Evaluation

Considerations for a volunteer evaluation are—
  • Demographics of volunteers.
  • Scheduling.
  • Effectiveness of services rendered.
  • Overall experience.

Victim Participant Evaluation

Considerations for a victim participant evaluation are—
  • Demographics of participants.
  • Convenience, security, and comfort of the Safe Haven facility.
  • Communication and information.
  • Effectiveness of specific services.
  • Overall satisfaction.

Building Your Coalition

The structure for a community coalition is far different from that of a nonprofit organization, government agency, or private business because of the temporary nature of most coalition projects.

The optimal timeframe for building a community coalition (between the announcement of the closed-circuit television (CCTV) broadcast locations and the trial's start date) is 2 to 3 months to develop the coalition and another 2 months to implement the protocol.

A community coalition can function as a working advisory board made up of professionals who provide their advice, skills, and knowledge but do not have fiduciary responsibility for the project. The unofficial organization structure allows for the flexibility and quick adjustments needed for a fast-paced, short-term effort and alleviates any legal liability that other agencies may incur. The coalition also may consider organizing itself as a special project of an umbrella nonprofit organization that is preferably a coalition member. The nonprofit organization would then be fiscally responsible for the project, including holding funds and paying expenses. The organization, however, would not have any more authority or decisionmaking power than the other participating agencies.

Each community needs to identify professionals and agencies willing to take leadership roles in establishing a coalition or identifying stakeholders. Once a community coalition has been formed, it should develop a common mission, goal statement, and statement of objectives to promote uniformity of services among multiple CCTV sites and Safe Havens. Smaller working task forces will perform most of the work of the coalition.

Identifying Community Stakeholders

Stakeholders are professional and agency leaders who have a vested interest in the successful outcome of a community-based project that provides quality victim services. To ensure uniform services among multiple CCTV sites, national organizations that have local chapters in communities throughout the country (e.g., United Way of America, Catholic Charities, and Lutheran Disaster Relief) are logical choices to assume an initial coordinating role. Such organizations can provide vital local contacts with service providers in communities that are hosting a CCTV broadcast. Official letters of support for the community initiative among agencies can assist in promoting local collaboration and participation.

The coalition should consist of agencies and organizations that normally have statutory or functional responsibilities to victims of crime and those that can provide necessary resources. Individuals representing coalition agencies should have decisionmaking authority on behalf of their agencies on issues related to the coalition. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) or interagency agreement (IAA) (PDF 50.15 kb) may be helpful in binding the group to common ground rules.

Professionals and community members who may assume responsibility to independently manage and organize services for victims attending a CCTV broadcast include—

  • Mental health professionals.
  • Nurses and doctors.
  • Victim advocates.
  • Emergency workers.
  • City officials.
  • Clergy and church members.
  • Students.
  • Nonprofit leaders and foundation officials.
  • Members of the media.

Download to read PDF documents

Sample Mission, Goal Statement, and Objectives for Community Coalitions

Mission, goals, and objectives may vary, depending on the needs of the community and dynamics among coalition members. The following furnishes a sample of each.


The coalition's mission is to provide comprehensive services to victims and survivors during the judicial process.


The coalition's goal is to minimize retraumatization of victims and survivors who participate in the judicial process.


The coalition's objectives are to—

  • Provide multidisciplinary services in a safe and comfortable environment for survivors and victims who are eligible to view the CCTV broadcasts.
  • Offer standardized victim services at multiple CCTV sites, with consideration for existing community circumstances.
  • Develop a communication plan to address victims' needs in relation to the services being provided by the coalition.
  • Collaborate with the U.S. Attorney's Office to assist victims with travel and transportation to the trial site.

Major Roles

It also is critical that the lead coordinating council member from the coalition and the U.S. Attorney's Office (USAO) form a cooperative and supportive relationship. The coalition should complement, not replace, the victim services that a USAO victim/witness unit provides. As with the Oklahoma City bombing trials, CCTV sites may be designated as extensions of the federal judge's courtroom, making it necessary for federal as well as local law enforcement agencies to be involved in the community coalition's security planning efforts.

U.S. Attorney's Office
Federal Security Administrator
Local Site Coordinator

U.S. Attorney's Office

Each of the 93 USAOs has a unit dedicated to victims and witnesses to provide victim/witness services and inform them about their specific rights under federal law.

In the Oklahoma City bombing and other federal trials, an Assistant U.S. Attorney was assigned to work in conjunction with the federal victim/witness unit to ensure compliance with the legal responsibilities to the large number of victims involved. Each Assistant U.S. Attorney in those cases served as a contact among the victims, the prosecution team, and the community coalition.

To ensure compliance with the statutory responsibilities to victims, the USAO will most likely maintain a secure and confidential victim database. This database would be used to notify victims about available resources, including information about Safe Haven services at multiple CCTV sites.

The trial courts in other mass violence and terrorism trials have authorized the USAO to assist the court in determining the eligibility of victims, survivors, and family members who wanted to view the trials. The eligibility of an applicant was determined using the definition of victim provided in the statute mandating "the use of closed circuit broadcasts to convenient locations." Victims who met the eligibility criteria were credentialed to enter the CCTV site. These same credentials can also be used as criteria for entry into a nearby Safe Haven.

Limited Timeframe

When the community does not have the time to create a coalition, the USAO's responsibilities do not change. Its relationship instead will be with the victim services or nonprofit organization that takes the lead in the community where the CCTV site is located.

Rights of Crime Victims

Victims of federal crimes have specific rights under federal law. Federal codes conferring rights upon victims reflect the principle that victims should play a central role in the criminal justice system. Among the rights of federal crime victims are the right to—

  • Receive information about the prosecution of each individual charged with the crime, including his or her conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release.
  • Be notified of court proceedings [18 U.S.C. 3771 (a) (2)].
  • Be heard in the criminal justice system, which includes submitting victim impact statements and speaking at sentencing hearings [H.R. 5107, Public Law 108-405].
  • Confer with the attorney for the Government [18 U.S.C. 3771 (a) (5)].
  • Receive restitution [18 U.S.C. 3771 (a) (6), 18 U.S.C. 3663 A].

Federal officers engaged in the detection, investigation, and prosecution of crime are required to make their best efforts to see that victims are afforded their rights as codified in 18 U.S.C. 3771 (a).9 The law enforcement agency handling the investigation or prosecution of federal crimes is also charged with the responsibility of informing victims about medical, social, and counseling services available to them and of assisting them in contacting persons who are responsible for providing such services.

Federal Security Administrator

In the Oklahoma City bombing trials, the CCTV sites were designated as extensions of the federal judge's courtroom, thereby giving the U.S. Marshals Service, as the custodial agency, the statutory responsibility of providing protection to the people at the sites. Therefore, federal as well as local law enforcement agencies should be an integral part of the community coalition's security planning efforts.

Limited Timeframe

With limited planning time, federal agencies will most likely welcome an opportunity to coordinate efforts with a victim service project for the time that victims move between the debriefing area, which may be on federal property, and the CCTV facilities. If the debriefing area is not on federal land, local law enforcement agencies should be included in planning and coordination.

Local Site Coordinator

With the establishment of a community coalition and a signed memorandum of understanding, a local site coordinator should be identified to assume the primary implementation responsibilities for the coalition. A full-time coordinator should—

  • Facilitate the coalition's work in establishing the Safe Haven.
  • Find financial resources.
  • Coordinate volunteers.
  • Organize public information efforts.
  • Coordinate direct victim services during the trial.
  • Respond to specific community needs.
  • Consider special circumstances, such as holidays and religious observances.
The local coordinator will serve as the single point of contact for victims, coalition members, volunteers, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the court, and the media.

Limited Timeframe

When the community does not have the time to create a coalition because of the limited timeframe, a local coordinator should be identified as soon as possible to begin implementing victim services. The local coordinator will take primary responsibility for coordinating and delivering services.

Getting Financial Resources

Adequate funding to cover costs associated with providing Safe Haven assistance to victims is essential to the success of the outreach. Although many people committed to the work of the coalition may be able to volunteer their services, others will need to be paid. At a minimum, there will be costs associated with volunteers' expenses, meals, and other services, as well as necessary costs associated with the facilities, even if rent is not required.

One of the most important roles of the site coordinator is to estimate the cost of providing this community service and identify funding possibilities.

Funding Sources

A number of grants and other potential sources of funding should be considered:

  • Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants.
  • Local, state, district, county, and victim program funding.
  • Foundation grants.
  • National victim funds specifically designated for a particular group of victims.
  • Special appropriations from Congress.

Non-Cash Contributions

Contributions in the form of equipment, supplies, meals and snacks, furniture, and other needed materials, called in-kind donations, may be solicited if the coalition determines this is appropriate. This may be especially useful if the budget falls short of anticipated expenses, or if the project is proceeding on a limited basis, with a nonprofit organization providing major support.

A staffing option to consider—particularly for key personnel—is making a request for a "loaned" employee from a member organization of the coalition. In this situation the employee is paid as usual by his or her organization, but works on special assignment—in this case, the trial project. To avoid confusion, it is important to establish an understanding that the loaned employee is not working on behalf of the loaning organization, but on behalf of the coalition.

Working With Volunteers

Many volunteers are needed to provide a consistent level of quality services to victims of mass violence and terrorism during a trial. The work of these volunteers is as important as that of staff in achieving the project mission. It is essential to view volunteers as important members of the team who are worth developing and nurturing. Volunteers need to be recruited, trained, and credentialed. They also need to be apprised of confidentiality and legal liability in working with victims.

Volunteers may work one time at the Safe Haven or commit themselves full time to the project. For the professional support team, however, it is difficult, if not impossible, to dedicate resources to a formal team-building process with volunteers who will work on a project only once or twice. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that volunteers commit to a minimum of 3 to 5 continuous days. This recommendation is based on the availability of competent and skilled professionals who are willing to donate their time.

Volunteer Management Resources

Download to read PDF documents

Volunteer Recruiting, Training, and Credentialing


Volunteers can be solicited through the task forces assigned to the various disciplines or through a general volunteer task force. Task forces can contact organizations that have access to experienced professionals who may want to volunteer.

Once recruited, volunteers must be screened and interviewed (PDF 14.8 kb). Although many well-intended individuals would like to donate their time and services, not all have the necessary qualifications. All volunteers should complete an application (PDF 19.5 kb), which includes gathering the information needed to obtain a criminal history.

Download to read PDF documents


Professional volunteers from crime victim service, mental health, and interfaith communities should be trained together on the following topics:

  • Team development.
  • Crisis intervention.
  • Factors of mass violence and terrorism trials.
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Victim issues during a trial.
  • Safe Haven protocol.
  • Vicarious trauma.


To maintain security, volunteers must be credentialed. Approved and scheduled volunteers receive special identification to allow them access to the Safe Haven. Depending on the court's determination of who has access to CCTV sites, credentialing should be coordinated with the U.S. Attorney's Office, law enforcement agencies, and the court clerk. If volunteers are not allowed access to a CCTV site, credentialing should, at a minimum, be coordinated with law enforcement agencies. To avoid the potential problem of the public or media gaining access through fraudulent credentials, tight control of access mechanisms must be maintained. In a mass violence and terrorism trial, large groups may be arriving and departing at different times, so periodic changes in access credentials are advisable.

Volunteer Confidentiality and Legal Liability

Volunteers who work in a Safe Haven will be privy to conversations that victims will want to keep private. To maintain victims' trust and respect, volunteers should sign a confidentiality agreement (PDF 46.7 kb). Both inside and outside of the Safe Haven, volunteers should avoid discussing Safe Haven conversations and activities with anyone other than those who have a similar support role at the Safe Haven. Comments can be overheard and used to harm victims or, at a minimum, give the impression that privacy is not valued.

Furthermore, because the trial is likely to have a high profile, discussions in the Safe Haven are likely to be of interest to the media; they need to be protected if victims are to feel comfortable accepting services from a community coalition. As a general rule, volunteers should not speak to the media about the case, the victims, or the services being provided. It is critical at the project's onset to communicate the procedures for how volunteers should handle queries from the media.

Legal Liability

It is common for organizations to require volunteers to sign liability release forms (PDF 46.7 kb) to help insulate the organizations from any financial repercussions that may result from a volunteer's negligence or deliberate misconduct (e.g., a volunteer inadvertently makes a comment that causes a victim emotional distress) and to protect them from legal action that may result from a physical injury a volunteer may incur while performing his or her duties. The Volunteer Protection Act10 grants immunity from personal, individual liability to those who volunteer for nonprofit organizations to ensure that they are not held legally responsible for any harm they may unintentionally cause. The law, however, offers protection only if volunteers are acting within the scope of their volunteer activity, the harm caused was not deliberate, and the harm did not result from the volunteer operating a vehicle.

Download to read PDF documents

Although the law protects volunteers, it does not protect organizations. Therefore, a signed release form is still valuable. Ultimately, individual state laws determine enforcement of the agreements. An attorney should be consulted when developing a liability release form. To help ensure enforceability, the liability release should specify the risks, such as acts of nature or equipment failure, that volunteers may incur while performing their duties. It should also state that the volunteer has had the opportunity to read and understand the release and understands that by signing the document, he or she will lose certain legal rights in the event of injury.

Developing Task Forces

The development of small, working task forces before, during, and after the trial is essential to a community coalition's ability to provide high-quality services. These task forces should be developed based on the—

  • Skills of the coalition members.
  • Demands of the project.
  • Need for technical assistance at all closed-circuit television (CCTV) sites.

Potential task forces that each CCTV community might employ address—

Similar responsibilities may be combined into a single task force. Some task forces will overlap. In addition, the Safe Haven task force will eventually encompass all of the issues being addressed by other task forces. Therefore, at least one member of each task force should also participate in the Safe Haven task force.

Chairpersons for each task force should be responsible for ensuring—

  • Uniformity and coordination among all CCTV sites.
  • Completion of the task force's work.
  • Coalition members are kept informed of the task force's activities, accomplishments, and any barriers encountered.

If the trial has been moved as a result of a change of venue, it may be valuable for the hosting coalition to consult with service providers from the victimized community. For example, mental health providers who previously worked with victims and their families may have an understanding of issues that new service providers may not anticipate. It may also be beneficial to consult with national experts on various victim support issues.

Victim Advocacy Task Force

The victim advocacy task force is responsible for recruiting, training, identifying, and screening experienced community-, prosecution-, and law enforcement-based victim service providers.

The victim advocacy task force coordinates volunteer training with the other task forces. It should develop interview questions and create a short application form for prospective volunteer service providers. Victim advocates should provide a supervisor's or sponsor's letter of recommendation with their application. If they work for a government or community agency, they should also include a supervisor's letter indicating support and approval of their volunteer commitment to the Safe Haven.

Resources for Victim Advocacy Task Forces

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Mental Health Task Force

The mental health task force recruits and schedules mental health professionals who have experience with crisis intervention and are comfortable with a nontraditional, informal, nontherapeutic role in providing mental health care. Mental health care volunteers should meet professional standards to provide services in the jurisdiction in which the care is administered. Mental health professionals, as with other volunteers, should be vetted and credentialed to work with victims. (Refer to Working With Volunteers for additional information on screening and credentialing.)

The mental health task force should ensure that formal professional confidentiality mandates apply to all relationships between victims and professional mental health volunteers established at the Safe Haven. Victims, however, should be informed that no formal therapeutic relationship exists between mental health professionals and victims. The task force should make certain that the volunteer release of liability and confidentiality agreement (PDF 46.7 kb) adequately covers all situations and relationships related to the Safe Haven as covered in the Volunteer Protection Act.11 The task force should also develop an emergency plan that details procedures and legal responsibilities for voluntary and non-voluntary mental health intervention and hospital admission or "hold" for victims at the Safe Haven.

Mental health professionals should use a victim service model in providing victim care and should provide insight and consultation about victims' reactions during the trial. A variety of counseling and support options should be offered, including one-on-one and group sessions. Information obtained from victims attending the Oklahoma City bombing trials indicated that a mental health framework including peer support, an offsite retreat, and group support were beneficial to the healing process.

Peer Support

The support that victims of a mass tragedy receive from one another is invaluable. Because they have universal issues of grief and loss, they may have a sense of being "different" from others who do not share their experience. Peer support allows victims to feel connected with others and feel validation of their grief and sadness.

Offsite Retreat

The same benefits achieved in a traditional retreat situation are found when victims attend a trial away from where they live. The concentrated time and contact with others who share a common experience of loss and tragedy allow victims to focus on their victimization and loss, thereby promoting the emotional healing process.

Group Support

Formal group support is valuable in addressing trauma and grief. A modified group therapy format is best suited for victims attending a trial. The benefits of group therapy include—

  • Catharsis or the venting of emotions.
  • Dissolving the myth of a unique personal weakness.
  • Modeling coping behavior.
  • Sharing constructive information.
  • Creating feelings of hope.
  • Helping oneself by being able to help another in the group.12

Resources for Mental Health Task Forces

Download to read PDF documents

Spiritual Needs Task Force

The spiritual needs task force should include leaders from the interfaith community who can recruit and train other spiritual providers. A state or local council of churches or another nondenominational faith-based group can serve as an initial contact to recruit skilled providers.

Ideally, those chosen to work on a trial project should have experience working with victims of crime and trauma. When recruiting faith-based professionals, ensure that they have an understanding of and commitment to using a victim service model (information, support, and referral) in providing services. It may be difficult to find enough qualified individuals in the interfaith community to meet the needs of a long trial. Therefore, the task force should be prepared to offer faith-based professionals more extensive training in the basics of trauma and victimization before they begin working with victims.

Spiritual providers should commit to providing a nondenominational approach when working with victims during a trial. It should be clearly articulated to victims that professionals from numerous faiths are available for consultation and support, but it is each victim's choice to speak with someone. These restrictions may present a spiritual and professional challenge to some providers, so they should be offered opportunities to debrief and support one another.

Security Task Force

When developing a security plan, it is critical that representatives from all law enforcement agencies that will have a role in the trial are included on the security task force to avoid confusion over the delineation of responsibilities. The following agencies should be included in the task force:

  • Local police and sheriff's departments.
  • U.S. Marshals Service.
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • Security personnel at the Safe Haven facility.

The security task force should address the following issues:

  • Security measures at the Safe Haven and CCTV sites.
  • Safe Haven access credentials.
  • Perception of safety and security by victims.
  • Coordination with city emergency management teams.

Media Task Force

The media task force primarily focuses on the creation of a media plan. Task force members should include the following:

  • Community coalition spokesperson.
  • Public information or public affairs personnel from the U.S. Attorney's Office (USAO) and the local law enforcement agency.
  • City government media liaison.
  • Public information officer for the court.

Media Plan

Intense media coverage can have a greater impact on victims and communities than most other factors related to a trial. Therefore, it is important to be thoughtful and strategic about how a community coalition manages the press. A consistent plan should be agreed on by all closed-circuit television (CCTV) viewing sites.

Goals and objectives for CCTV sites and corresponding Safe Havens might include the following:

  • Mitigating traumatic stress on victims brought about by exposure to the media.
  • Fostering an environment that treats victims with dignity and respect.
  • Minimizing media intrusiveness on victims.
  • Coordinating all media contacts among CCTV sites.
  • Educating the community about victims' issues and needs.
  • Supporting victims' healing through use (or nonuse) of the media.
  • Protecting and enhancing the hosting community's image as a "victim supportive community."

A coordinated media plan among the various Safe Havens will help to meet the coalition's goals and objectives. The unique circumstances a community will confront will depend on the level of media interest. A coordinated media plan might include the following:

  • Identifying a single point of contact for the media.
  • Coordinating resources to evaluate information for dissemination and gauge the potential impact on victims, the community, and the USAO.
  • Recognizing the USAO's concerns.
  • Addressing the coalition's concerns.
  • Signing a community coalition media covenant (PDF 24.7 kb).
  • Developing relationships with local news sources.
  • Providing positive press opportunities that promote goodwill in the community.
  • Providing information specifically and solely for the work of the coalition and never speaking on behalf of victims or the USAO.
  • Working with law enforcement agencies to establish appropriate barriers and restrictions for the media. These restrictions should encourage victims' privacy and personal choices while respecting the media's needs to report the story.

Resources for Media Task Forces

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Additional Task Forces

Safe Haven Facility Task Force

The Safe Haven task force focuses on the logistics of finding and securing (in conjunction with the security task force) a location for the Safe Haven and identifying and coordinating necessary resources that victims may need. The task force also arranges for payment to use the Safe Haven facility and ensures that all victims, including those with disabilities, have accommodations.

Meals Task Force

The meals task force coordinates food service at the Safe Haven. Because of potential liability issues, individuals who are not connected with a formal organization or business are strongly discouraged from providing meals. Rather, faith-based and other nonprofit organizations and private businesses can ask their constituencies to provide and serve meals under their auspices. These groups include—

  • Restaurants and restaurant associations.
  • Churches, synagogues, and mosques.
  • Grocery stores.
  • Social and civic groups.
  • Senior centers.

Transportation Task Force

The transportation task force arranges and coordinates transportation between the Safe Haven and the CCTV sites. It should work in conjunction with the security task force.

Providing Limited Services

CCTV viewing sites may not be identified in time for a community-based victim service protocol to be implemented. Without adequate time to develop a community coalition, the protocol may need to be implemented by a single nonprofit agency coordinating minimal services. These limited services might include—

  • A secure meeting area near the CCTV broadcast location.
  • Legal debriefing.
  • Emotional support during the legal debriefing provided by a multidisciplinary team comprising mental health, victim advocate, and interfaith-based professionals.

With a limited timeframe for planning, adjustments in services must be made. This will require the involvement of fewer agencies than the community collaboration model, even though legally mandated responsibilities will not change.

The following persons or agencies should be involved in the planning and delivery of limited services to victims during a mass violence and terrorism trial:

U.S. Attorney's Office

Even when the community does not have the time to create a coalition, the responsibilities of the U.S. Attorney's Office (USAO) do not change. Its relationship instead will be with the victim service and/or nonprofit organization that takes the lead in the CCTV broadcast community.

Each of the 93 USAOs has a unit dedicated to victims and witnesses to inform them about their specific rights under federal law and assist them in contacting people who provide medical, social, and counseling services.

Local Nonprofit Service Agency

In lieu of a community coalition, a victim service or nonprofit organization should be identified to coordinate a minimal level of services, including—

  • Locating and securing a safe meeting space.
  • Recruiting and screening professionals as volunteers for a multidisciplinary support team during debriefings.
  • Identifying, and possibly providing, a local site coordinator who will be responsible for implementing direct services.

The U.S. Attorney liaison will most likely be responsible for coordinating with the USAO as to who will provide legal debriefings for victims attending CCTV broadcasts and accessing support services. To ensure standardized, seamless support services to victims at multiple CCTV sites, a cooperative and supportive relationship between the U.S. Attorney liaison and the local coordinating service organization is critical. Volunteer management may not be needed depending on the types of services offered and the ability of the coordinating agency to provide the services.

Local Site Coordinator

When coordinating services within a short timeframe without the assistance of a community-based coalition, a local coordinator should be identified as soon as possible to begin implementing victim services. The local coordinator will take primary responsibility for coordinating and delivering services.

Objectives for the full-time coordinator should be to—

  • Assist the local nonprofit organization with coordination and recruitment efforts.
  • Coordinate, schedule, and oversee volunteers.
  • Organize public information.
  • Coordinate direct victim services.
  • Coordinate with CCTV security efforts.
  • Collaborate with other CCTV sites that are providing victim services to ensure services are standardized among all locations.

To develop equitable, standardized services, the local coordinator should follow guidelines established in the community coalition protocol, as time allows.

A limited timeframe may not be conducive to a formal grant process. However, as time permits, potential financial resources should be explored.

Federal Security Administrator

With limited planning time, federal agencies will most likely welcome an opportunity to coordinate efforts with a victim service project to ensure victim safety, limited media contact, and security for victims as they move between the debriefing area and CCTV facilities. If the debriefing area is not on federal land, local law enforcement agencies should be included in planning and coordination.


1. Krista Flannigan and Robin Fudge Finegan, 1999, "Journey to Justice: A Community-Based Response to Victims Participating in Mass Fatality Trials," unpublished report, Denver, CO: Finegan Flannigan and Associates.

2. Krista Flannigan and Robin Fudge Finegan, 1999.

3. Dean G. Kilpatrick, Daniel W. Smith, Connie L. Best, and Sherry A. Falsetti, 2002, "Evaluation of Victim Satisfaction and Victim Assistance in the Pan Am Flight 103 Bombing Case," final report submitted to the Office for Victims of Crime, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

4. Colorado Oklahoma Resource Council Service Survey Results, 1998, unpublished document, Denver, CO.

5. Henri Nouwen, 1975, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, New York: Doubleday, pp. 71, 97.

6. Vicarious trauma is a form of countertransference whereby service providers experience, to a lesser degree, terror, rage, and despair similar to their clients (Judith Herman, 1992, Trauma and Recovery, New York: Basic Books).

7. Dean G. Kilpatrick, David Beatty, and Susan S. Howley, December 1998, The Rights of Crime Victims—Does Legal Protection Make a Difference? Research in Brief, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, NCJ 173839.

8. Defusing is what occurs when a small group of individuals who have experienced the same trauma discuss their emotional and cognitive reactions on the same day that the traumatic event takes place (Jeffrey T. Mitchell, 1995, "Essentials of Critical Incident Stress Management," in Innovations in Disaster and Trauma Psychology, Volume One: Applications in Emergency Services and Disaster Response, ed. G. Everly, Ellicott City, MD: Chevron Publishing Corporation).

9. See also U.S. Department of Justice, January 2000, Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice. These guidelines were updated in 2011 and revised in May 2012 (PDF 1.8 mb).

10. For more information on the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997, see U.S. Public Law 105-19.

11. Ibid.

12. Irving D. Yalom, 1985, The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, 3d edition, New York: Basic Books, p. 106.

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OVC Resources

Websites and online services

OVC's Web Forum—Forum for victim advocates, prosecutors, and other professionals to exchange promising practices.

Training and Technical Assistance Center—Website for OVC center that provides technical assistance and training resources to victim service providers and allied professionals.

Calendar of Events—Website integrating information on conferences, trainings, and other victim assistance-related events.

Directory of Crime Victim Services—Electronic directory for finding crime victim services.

OVC Resource Center—Information clearinghouse for emerging crime victim issues.—Site for finding funding resources from OVC.

Publications and Other Products From OVC

Justice for All Act Fact Sheet

OVC Handbook for Coping After Terrorism

Responding to September 11 Victims

Responding to Terrorism Victims

Responding to Victims of Terrorism and Mass Violence Crimes

OVC Responds to the Victims of Terrorist Attacks Against America on September 11, 2001

Resources by Topic

OVC also offers several more publications, online resources, and listings for more information on the subject. To learn more, browse through OVC's Topical Resources on—

International/Global Victims Issues


Other Related Resources

Mental Health and Mass Violence: Evidence-Based Early Psychological Intervention for Victims/Survivors of Mass Violence

Mental Health Response to Mass Violence and Terrorism: A Training Manual

Mental Health Response to Mass Violence and Terrorism: A Field Guide

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