Policies and Procedures

Policy on 3rd Party Victim-Survivor Representation

Consistent with DIVO’s ethical principle of client self-determination, a Victim Outreach Specialist will not withhold the offer of services nor withdraw an offer of services based on the request of a third party unrelated to the victim survivor client.   This policy extends to and includes other victim service providers working in a system-based or non system-based capacity.

Discussion:  Social services codes of ethics universally recognize and protect client self-determination and self-direction.  The principle of client self-determination can be found in the National Organization of Victim Assistance (NOVA) Code of Professional Ethics for Victim Service Providers, the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics, and the Texas Victim Services Association Code of Ethics.  In support of this principle as well as the desire not to retraumatize the victim survivor, initial DIVO contact describes DIVO services in detail and gives the victim survivor client multiple ways to communicate with the Victim Outreach Specialist either to accept or decline services.

DIVO’s goal is to provide additional options for input and information throughout the criminal justice process.  Since that process is already an adversarial one, a victim service provider who works for the prosecution and who potentially has an agenda that is contrary to that of the defense cannot serve in a dual capacity of working for the prosecution and presenting or describing defense outreach services to the victim survivor client.

Victim centeredness is not synonymous with victim ownership.  Neither the government nor the defense “owns” the victim and therefore neither party should engage in behavior that seeks to control a client’s access to services.

Although DIVO policy does not allow for the recognition of third party representation as it relates to accepting or declining DIVO services, DIVO seeks to be collaborative and transparent with other victim service professionals with whom the client may be working.


Code of Ethics

Mission:

DIVO’s mission is to build a bridge between the defense and victim survivors of crime in order to create additional options for input, information, control and empowerment.

DIVO PRACTICE

Preamble:

Victim Outreach Specialists serve as a bridge between victim survivors and defense counsel in criminal cases in order to create a mechanism by which victim survivors, if they choose, may have access to the defense and the defense in return can give consideration to requests and questions from them.

Victim Outreach Specialists recognize that they work within an adversarial system but believe that the deleterious effects of such a system can be lessened through the application of restorative justice principles.  Victim Outreach Specialists maintain that neither the prosecution nor the defense “owns” the victim survivor and that victim survivors should be empowered through access to all parties within the criminal justice system.

Victim Outreach Specialists engage in their work on principles of self-determination, fairness, confidentiality, and transparency and while they seek to model the application of these principles throughout the criminal justice process, also recognize that they are not ultimately responsible for the behavior of other parties or the operations of systems of justice.

Core Values:

Competence

Victim Outreach Specialists maintain high standards of competence, recognizing their own particular capabilities, specializations, and limitations in expertise.  They only provide services and use techniques for which they are qualified by education, training, or experience.  In those areas in which recognized standards do not yet exist, Victim Outreach Specialists exercise careful judgment, seek consultation, and take appropriate precautions to protect the welfare of those they serve fundamentally guided by the principle of “do no harm.”  They continually strive to increase their professional knowledge and skills and to apply them in service provision.

Integrity

Victim Outreach Specialists promote integrity in all facets of their practice as well as in larger professional contexts.  In these activities, Victim Outreach Specialists are honest, fair, and respectful of others.  In describing or reporting their qualifications, services, products, affiliations, roles, and fees, they do not make false, misleading, or deceptive statements.  They make every effort to clarify for relevant parties the roles they are performing and to function in accord with those roles.  Victim Outreach Specialists avoid improper and potentially harmful dual relationships such as those that blend personal and professional roles.  In addition, Victim Outreach Specialists who are competent to perform other criminal justice functions abstain from doing so in cases where they serve as the Victim Outreach Specialist.  Victim Outreach Specialists scrupulously maintain confidentiality in all facets of their work including identification of defense counsel, defendant, and all matters related to the case including communications with the victim survivor.  Finally, Victim Outreach Specialists are sensitive to real and potential differences in power between themselves and others.  They refrain from misusing their position, access to information, and the interest others might have in their work.

Professional Responsibility

Victim Outreach Specialists maintain professional standards of conduct, satisfy their own professional roles and obligations, accept appropriate responsibility for their behavior, and adapt their methods to the needs of different populations.  Victim Outreach Specialists recognize and adhere to the limitations of their unique role within the continuum of victim services provision.  Within those limitations Victim Outreach Specialists consult with, refer to, and cooperate with other professionals and institutions to the extent possible to provide ethical services.  Victim Outreach Specialists’ moral standards and conduct are personal matters, except as personal conduct may compromise professional responsibilities or reduce public trust in the provision of services.  Victim Outreach Specialists are concerned about the ethical compliance of their colleagues and the conduct of other professionals with whom they work.  As appropriate they consult with colleagues to prevent or avoid their own unethical conduct and that of others.  Victim Outreach Specialists apply and make public their knowledge of victim issues to contribute to human welfare.  Further, they encourage and promote the development of laws and social policies that promote the welfare of victims and the general public and seek to inform and enhance the field of victim services.

Regard for the Well-being of Others

Victim Outreach Specialists respect the fundamental rights, dignity and worth of all people and actively contribute to the welfare of those with whom they work.  Victim Outreach Specialists actively support the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, self-determination, empowerment and autonomy – mindful that legal and other obligations may lead to inconsistency and conflict in the exercise of these rights.  Victim Outreach Specialists are aware of and sensitive to cultural, individual, and role differences, including those related to race, ethnicity, language, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, political beliefs, social class, economic status, education, (dis)ability, marital status, religious affiliation, and residency.   Victim Outreach Specialists strive to be aware of their own histories, belief systems, values, needs and limitations and the effect of these on their work.  They work to identify their own biases and to limit the effect of those biases on their service.  In addition, they do not knowingly participate in or condone unfair discriminatory practices.  Victim Outreach Specialists take a holistic view of the person(s) served and seek to minimize the effects of adversarial systems and institutions.  When conflicts occur with professional obligations and roles, Victim Outreach Specialists seek to resolve those conflicts and to perform their work in a responsible and ethical fashion that avoids or minimizes harm.

DIVO CODE OF ETHICS:

Scope of Service

Scope of service pertains to the professionalism of the Victim Outreach Specialist and standards of public presentation in service to others and to the larger society.  Although behaviors described in other categories within this code of ethics can impact the public image of a VOS, these ethics address standards of public presentation.

1. The Victim Outreach Specialist accurately represents his/her professional title, qualifications, and/or credentials in relationships with people served and in public representation.

2. The Victim Outreach Specialist maintains a high standard of professional competence and conduct.

3. The Victim Outreach Specialist shall engage in his/her practice without regard to biases relating to criminal justice practices.

4. The Victim Outreach Specialist clearly distinguishes in public statements those that represent his/her personal views from positions adopted by parties for which he/she works or represents.

5. The Victim Outreach Specialist does not use his/her official role to secure gifts, monetary rewards, or special privileges or advantages.  The Victim Outreach Specialist refrains from situations that would give even the appearance of such advantages.

6. The Victim Outreach Specialist does not use his/her official role for personal gain or benefit such as securing gifts, monetary rewards, or special privileges or advantages.  The Victim Outreach Specialist refrains from behaving in such a way that would give even the appearance of such personal gain or benefit.

7. The Victim Outreach Specialist reports any conflict of interest or situation that prevents him/her or a colleague from providing competent or ethical services to a client, or to work cooperatively with colleagues or allied professionals, or to be impartial in the treatment of any client, or results in personal gain or benefit as described in number 5 above.

8. The Victim Outreach Specialist reports the conduct of any colleague or allied professional that constitutes mistreatment of a client or that brings the practice of DIVO into disrepute.

9. The Victim Outreach Specialist shall not participate in, condone or be associated with dishonesty, pretense or deception.

Service Competency

Service competency pertains to the knowledge, education, experience and attitudes held by the VOS, which represent the standards of expertise required to do the work as well as the values and principles which guide that work.

1. The Victim Outreach Specialist recognizes the interests of the client as the primary responsibility and maintains this position even within an adversarial context in which the client may be used to further the interests of one or more parties.

2. The Victim Outreach Specialist works to promote the client’s right to self-determination in all situations.

3. The Victim Outreach Specialist understands his/her legal responsibilities, limitations, and the implications of his/her actions within the service delivery setting and performs duties in accordance with Texas law, legislated rights of crime victims, and in accordance with DIVO principles as practiced in Texas under the Institute for Restorative Justice & Restorative Dialogue.

4. The Victim Outreach Specialist shares knowledge and encourages proficiency and excellence in victim assistance among colleagues and allied professionals, paid and volunteer.

5. The Victim Outreach Specialist seeks and maintains a high level of proficiency in the delivery of services to clients.  Prior to engaging in the practice of DIVO the Victim Outreach Specialist has completed at minimum 40 hours of specialized DIVO training.

6. The Victim Outreach Specialist engages in DIVO practice in close consultation with the Institute for Restorative Justice & Restorative Dialogue as per its principles and procedures.

7. The Victim Outreach Specialist refrains from personal marketing of himself / herself as a DIVO practitioner and from accepting cases independent of assignment through the DIVO program within the Institute for Restorative Justice & Restorative Dialogue.

8. As feasible, the Victim Outreach Specialist will consider providing services without remuneration in cases where DIVO might not otherwise be possible.

9. The Victim Outreach Specialist respects state and federal law while working tochange those that may be unjust or discriminatory.

10. The Victim Outreach Specialist agrees to practice within the stated core values and principles of DIVO.

Direct Service

Direct service pertains to the actual provision of services in a particular case to a particular client.  “Client” may be defined both as A: the victim survivor in a particular case or B: as the party, usually a defense attorney, who has sought services in a particular case.

1. The Victim Outreach Specialist respects and protects the client’s civil and legal rights and performs duties in accordance with laws, regulations, policies, and legislated rights of persons served.

2. The Victim Outreach Specialist respects and maintains the client’s rights to privacy and confidentiality, before, during and after the course of the professional relationship, subject only to laws or regulations requiring disclosure of information to appropriate other sources.

3. The Victim Outreach Specialist responds respectfully and compassionately to each client with personalized services.

4. The Victim Outreach Specialist responds non-judgmentally to each client.  The Victim Outreach Specialist accepts and acts on behalf of the client’s statement of events and needs as it is told and refrains from behaviors that communicate blame or other judgmental sentiment.

5. The Victim Outreach Specialist refrains from entering into a professional relationship or terminates a professional relationship when a client is not likely to benefit from services.

6. The Victim Outreach Specialist does not engage in personal relationships with persons served that exploit professional trust or that could impair the Victim Outreach Specialist’s objectivity and professional judgment.

7. The Victim Outreach Specialist does not discriminate against a client or colleague on the basis of race/ethnicity, language, national origin, sex, gender, age, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, social class, economic status, education, marital status, religious affiliation, residency, or health status.

8. The Victim Outreach Specialist adheres to all components of the Memorandum of Understanding entered into in each case.

9. When seeking to hire a Victim Outreach Specialist the attorney shall be informed of all costs and fees involved.

System-based Service

System-based service pertains to the VOS’s relationship with and service provision within the larger criminal justice system.

1. The Victim Outreach Specialist understands that he /she operates within the larger criminal justice system and practices in accord with the laws, regulations, policies, and legislated rights of persons served.

2. The victim assistance provider conducts relationships with colleagues and other professionals in a way that promotes mutual respect, public confidence, and improvement of service.

The victim assistance provider serves the public interest by contributing to the improvement of systems that impact victims of crime.