MENU
Mental Health Professionals

Understanding Victim Advocacy

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Understanding Victim Advocacy

Advocacy is a term and process taken from the legal model. It is defined as “one who pleads the cause for another,” as in individual advocacy, or “one who argues for, defends, maintains, or recommends a cause or proposal,” as in the case of political advocacy.

As a mental health professional serving clients who have experienced sexual assault and may also be connected with an advocate, it is important to understand victim advocacy is distinct from counseling or therapy.

While victim advocates do receive specialized training in sexual assault and trauma, there is typically no requirement they have an advanced degree or professional licensure. The role of an advocate is to provide information and support so survivors can access resources and systems to help them in their healing process. The role of a therapist is to help the client, or in this case the survivor, process their trauma. The two roles are distinct but complementary.

There are two types of victim advocates your client may encounter:

Community-based and systems-based advocates. They often work in partnership to support the survivor as they move through their healing journey.

System-Based Advocates

System-based advocates are employed at law enforcement agencies, district attorney’s offices, or other public agencies.

  • Non-confidential advocacy
  • Support to law enforcement and district attorneys
  • Give victims information about their rights and resources under Colorado Victims’ Rights Act (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-4.1-301)
  • Give victims information about the case and criminal justice process
  • Referrals for support groups, counseling, and therapy
  • Assistance in applying for Colorado Crime Victim Compensation
  • Education for the victim’s loved ones regarding the effects of sexual violence
  • Referrals for civil legal issues (civil protection order, school-based accommodations, etc.)
  • Provide emotional support and trauma-informed response

Community-Based Advocates

Community-based advocates often work at sexual assault advocacy centers or dual domestic violence and sexual assault programs. Not every community has this type of program. To learn more about what is available in your area, please visit the resource map on our site.

  • Source for confidential advocacy
  • Support group, counseling, therapy services, or referrals to other agencies that provide these services
  • Education for the victim’s loved ones regarding the effects of sexual violence
  • Victim assistance with civil legal issues (civil protection order, school-based accommodations, etc.)
  • Support for needs outside the criminal justice system, as well as ongoing support after the criminal justice system resolution
  • Provide emotional support and trauma-informed response

Ways to Report