About Advocacy


The Role of Advocacy

Advocacy is commonly defined as active support. It can take the form of individual advocacy, or it can refer to advocacy at a system level. When in the role of advocating for an individual survivor of sexual assault in a criminal justice context, the role encompasses:

  • Supporting a survivor and listening without judgement

  • Facilitating a victim's informed decision-making with critical and timely information sharing about the process, including victim rights information

  • Serving as liaison between agencies

  • Accompanying or staying with the survivor at various stages of the process

  • Offering crisis intervention and safety planning

An Advocate's Role on a Team

The role of advocacy in the context of a team intersects in some respects with individual advocacy, but it gives that role a system dimension. Within a team, the role of an advocate is to bring an advocacy lens to team discussions and considerations. What this looks like is an advocate bringing to the team the unique perspective s/he hold from walking through the criminal justice process at the side of victim survivors. It can be advocating for a different approach to an individual exchange, or proposing that a team protocol or practice be revisited and changed with the impact on victims in mind.

In the criminal justice context, it's important to note the distinctions between (1) community-based victim advocacy (such as rape crisis centers) and (2) system-based advocacy (such as victim services within a prosecutors' office). A community may have neither, one, or both types of advocacy services. Each typically provides direct services for individual victims and may push for reforms that serve the needs of victims. To understand the role of advocacy in the team context, it is important to be familiar with some of the distinctions between these types of advocacy:

See "Advocates & Law Enforcement: Oil & Water?" by Dr. Kimberly Lonsway & Joanne Archambault  

Or "The Role of Victim Advocacy" by Dr. Kimberly Lonsway

Important Links

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (www.nsvrc.org)

Office on the Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice 

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