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Supporting Victim Defendants

This resource details tangible ways to support victim defendants within community-based domestic violence programs, as well as the criminal legal system. The list was co-created by legal advocates participating in the fatality review for legal advocates.

  • Build a partnership with public defenders in your area to provide training on victim defendants and set-up a referral process
  • Conduct a court watch in your area and create “report cards” for prosecutor’s treatment of survivors
  • Include victim defendants and criminalized survivors in your organization’s materials
    • Brochures and website- outreach materials
    • Explicitly list services available- especially under legal advocacy supports
  • Start a support group in a jail or prison, or a group for survivors with a criminal history
  • Map resources for incarcerated people in your community and build partnerships. For instance, connect with re-entry programs in your community to provide training on victim defendant issues and set-up referral process
  • Learn more about the Survivors FIRST program and explore whether you could do something similar with a prosecutor in your community
  • Ask survivors about their experiences with being arrested and charged- this could be a small question on your intake or incorporated into advocacy over a certain time period to gather more information about the survivors you are working with
  • Write letters to incarcerated survivors- letter writing campaign or sessions
  • Work with a jail or prison in your area to set-up a way for survivors to confidentially access your services (this is guaranteed under PREA if you are a dual agency)
  • Explore training on how to quash warrants and other legal issues faced by survivors with criminal charges
  • Train your local law enforcement agency on victim defendants experiences and create a referral process
  • Work with a substance use treatment agency in your area to train them on victim defendant issues and partner with your agency for advocacy and support
  • Conduct the organizational self-assessment for supporting criminalized survivors from Survived and Punished
  • Is there a way to have law enforcement reach out to your program to provide immediate access to resources for survivors following a 911 call or police response? Brainstorm solutions within your organization’s capacity
  • Create “know your rights” resources for survivors who may be arrested or charged as victim defendants
  • Change the message in your community around who is a survivor and the experiences of victim defendants- explicitly debunk the “perfect victim” archetype in a public awareness campaign
  • If your program has “conflict out” policies for people with certain convictions or a “first come first serve” policy, review these policies and brainstorm how they can be modified to better serve victim defendants