Inspiring Examples of Victim Activism

Inspiring Examples of Victim Activism

Mobilizing against drunk drivers

A mother whose teenage daughter was run over by an intoxicated driver starts a group that successfully changes public attitudes about mixing drinking with driving and persuades criminal justice officials that people injured in drunk driving collisions are victims of crimes—not accidents.

Assisting law enforcement agencies to track down fugitives

A father whose son is kidnapped and decapitated by a killer who is never caught hosts a television program that broadcasts cases from police departments’ “most wanted” lists so viewers can phone in tips to capture these suspects.

Covering trials of the rich and famous from a pro-victim angle

A novelist and journalist whose actress daughter is murdered by her ex-lover writes a book about attending her killer’s trial and then hosts a television program that focuses on powerful and privileged people who get in trouble with the law and the people they harm.

Assisting the search for missing children

A father whose 12-year-old daughter was abducted and mur- dered establishes a foundation that helps locate missing children.

Setting up a foundation to protect children from kidnappers

A young woman who was abducted by a husband and wife team and repeatedly raped during her nine months of cap- tivity finally is rescued, goes to college, gets married, writes an autobiography, and establishes a nonprofit organization that teaches children how to take defensive measures to resist a stranger’s aggression.

Establishing one of the first victims’ rights organizations

A wealthy woman may have been poisoned by her husband (his original conviction for attempted murder was overturned and he was acquitted after a second trial; she remained in a coma for 28 years before dying in 2008). Her son and daughter, convinced that their mother’s coma resulted from a crime, use a portion of her fortune to found one of the first organizations that helps all kinds of victims.

Compelling college administrations to publicize information about crimes on campus

The parents of a daughter whose murder in a dormitory was initially downplayed by college authorities set up a watchdog group that convinces Congress to impose crime reporting requirements on image-conscious university administrations.

Campaigning for restrictions on gun availability

A White House press secretary, who was shot in the head by an assassin aiming to kill the president, becomes a leading

208 CH APT ER 7

Copyright 2016 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. WCN 02-200-203

medical personnel on board to treat those who suf- fer sexual assaults and to stockpile rape kits to col- lect and preserve evidence. The industry had to install stronger room locks and peepholes on cabin doors, and surveillance cameras in corridors and lounges, to reduce the risks of crew-on-passenger and passenger-on-passenger interpersonal offenses, and to help solve the crimes that did take place during the journey. Cruise ships also must establish and publicize crime reporting procedures to notify the coast guard and the FBI about incidents at sea when they return to American ports. After the law was passed, the House of Representatives held hearings on whether the act was being effectively implemented, as well as about additional ways to

safeguard the millions of vacationers that the ships carry from port to port each year (Anglen, 2014). Apparently, the crime statistics released voluntarily by the giant corporations operating various cruise lines under differing names understate the true scope of the problems at sea and in ports. Only homicides, suspicious deaths, attacks resulting in bodily injury, sexual assaults, and thefts in excess of $10,000 have to be reported to the authorities, and the coast guard only discloses information about incidents that are no longer being investi- gated by the FBI. Congress discovered in 2013 that only accounts of about 30 crimes were made public out of 950 received, a highly unsatisfactory situation according to the U.S. Government

figure along with his wife in legislative efforts to make it more difficult for emotionally volatile and mentally disturbed people to buy handguns.

A nurse whose husband is shot dead and whose son is severely injured by a man who goes berserk on a commuter train and shoots passengers at random testifies so dramati- cally for stricter controls over handguns and assault weapons before Congress that she is later elected to the House of Representatives.

A college student who survived a campus massacre produces a film about it and campaigns for an improved National Instant Criminal Background Check System to prevent guns on sale in stores from getting into the wrong hands.

Working to help poverty-stricken teenagers

A social worker whose son was riddled with bullets in a senseless street killing becomes an advocate for at-risk teens from abusive and neglectful families similar to those of the two men who murdered her child.

Mobilizing for community notification laws

The parents of a seven-year-old girl who was raped and murdered by a recently released pedophile living across the street help gather support for state and federal legislation that authorizes criminal justice officials to alert the public whenever a convicted sex offender moves into their neighborhood.

Lobbying for additional DNA testing

A woman whose rapist was finally caught after six years because of a DNA cold hit (match) sets up a group that lobbies for more federal funding to pay for the testing of forensic evidence collected from rape victims. Her advocacy efforts are so successful that Congress places her name on legislation intended to eliminate DNA testing backlogs.

Establishing a support group for parents of murdered children

A mother and father whose daughter was slain by her boyfriend set up a self-help group for grieving families that not only serves their emotional needs during their bereavement but also promotes violence prevention activi- ties and lobbies for greater rights for the next of kin within the legal process.

Organizing a national coalition of victim activists

A murdered young woman’s parents establish a network of survivors and activists that pledges to be “of the victims, by the victims, and for the victims” in its support and crime prevention actions.

SOURCES: Weed, 2005; Rondeau and Rondeau, 2006; National Coali- tion of Victims in Action, 2008; Nemy, 2009; Tobias, 2009; Goodman, 2012; Gross, 2013; and Maloney, 2014.


Copyright 2016 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. WCN 02-200-203

Accountability Office as well as a victim’s group (Hill, 2014). Over the years, the scope of this orga- nization has broadened from seeking improvements in the safety, security and protection of not only passengers but also of members of the crew, and not only from crime but also from medical emer- gencies (Business Wire, 2014).

The victims’ rights movement has institutional- ized this self-reinforcing cycle of calling attention to a festering problem and then mobilizing a coalition to bring about reforms by setting aside special days, weeks, and even months each year to attract media attention. Events are held to raise public awareness about the plight of particular groups of victims and the rights that have been recently granted to them to ease their suffering and assist their recovery. Besides a high-profile National Crime Victims Week each April, the calendar is now filled with special events that commemorate a wide variety of persons who have been harmed by all sorts of criminals, from

drunk drivers and identity thieves to rapists and murderers (see Box 7.2).

The Quest for a Constitutional Amendment Guaranteeing Victims’ Rights

One goal for those seeking to empower victims that has not yet been achieved is to insert pro-victim language into the Bill of Rights. The Sixth Amend- ment contains provisions that specify how defen- dants are to be handled in court. Activists and advocacy groups first raised the possibility of updat- ing the Sixth Amendment after a presidential task force recommended rewording it in 1982. But in 1986, reformers decided to postpone this plan to inject additional phrases into the Sixth Amendment in favor of concentrating on a “states first” strategy of securing amendments to state constitutions. By 2011, this approach had succeeded in 33 states (NVCAP, 2011). Also, since 1980, almost every

B O X 7.2 Events That Call Attention Not Only to the Plight but also to the Rights of Various Kinds of Victims

Place Your Order Here!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *