Incorporate racial justice concerns in victim and survivor advocacy efforts.
Longstanding, routine, and often invisible racial and ethnic biases continue to exist in the criminal justice system. Uneven social and economic opportunities and outcomes for communities of color have exacerbated this situation.
If racial inequality is not consciously addressed by victim and survivor advocates, oppression can be inadvertently replicated, reinforced, or perpetuated. Thus, advocates should interweave the goal of fostering racial awareness and justice into their victim and survivor response and prevention policy work. Without this commitment, victims of color will never receive true justice.
Furthermore, for crime victims of color, this dynamic can negatively affect their trust in the justice system and make them less likely to report crime and cooperate in its prosecution. Recent high-profile cases have illustrated the deep mistrust of law enforcement prevalent in many communities. And the Secure Communities policy pursued by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, relying on local police to enforce immigration law, has exacerbated the fear many immigrant victims have of law enforcement, raising the risk that crime will go unreported.
The lack of culturally specific services for racial and ethnic populations can keep some victims from receiving the assistance they need to recover from crime or abuse. To effectively serve victims who have suffered racial bias, victim services should be specifically designed to meet the needs of such victims. In addition and to the extent possible, the leadership and staff of victim and survivor organizations should reflect the communities they serve.
To further this policy priority, we must:
- Engage in open conversations about institutional bias, our individual biases, historical trauma, and privilege—and how those issues affect our justice efforts. Such conversations must include the voices of marginalized racial and ethnic communities.
- Develop public messaging and communications with an eye to ensuring that the terminology, visual representations, spokespersons, and stories we use reflect that crime can happen to and be perpetrated by anyone.
- Work with criminal justice allies to reexamine institutional practices and biases that can inhibit access to justice by communities of color and other marginalized populations.
- Examine our policy positions through a racial justice lens, to be sure we are not further marginalizing communities of color.
- Work to support racially and culturally specific services.
- Seek the guidance and promote the leadership of organizations led by people of color.
Convene a national meeting to identify concrete actions to ensure that victim advocacy work meets the needs of victims of color.