FBI Division Ensures Crime Victims Get Support
Every day, the FBI works to protect the American people, but did you know the FBI has an entire division dedicated to assisting victims of crime and their families? The Victim Services Division (VSD) plays a key role in protecting the public by ensuring victims of crime receive the assistance and resources they need and are entitled to by law. VSD assists in all types of investigations, including crimes against children, civil rights, human trafficking, terrorist attacks, violent crime, cyber crime, and financial fraud. VSD engages with each victim individually to determine what types of services and resources they need.
“How the FBI treats victims is a direct reflection of our core values, and when we place a high priority on identifying and addressing their needs, it is beneficial in so many ways,” VSD Assistant Director Regina Thompson explained. “It not only promotes victim safety and recovery and reduces future victimizations; it also plays a very important role in obtaining positive investigative and prosecutorial outcomes.”
The FBI’s victim assistance program was created 20 years ago to ensure victims of crime and their families receive professional assistance throughout the duration of an investigation. Since then, the program has grown into a division that includes victim specialists, child/adolescent forensic interviewers, victim services coordinators who specialize in terrorism and mass casualty investigations, operational psychologists, and staff that manages the complex administrative functions of the division.
Since its inception, the FBI’s victim assistance program has provided services—such as crisis intervention, emergency travel assistance, and local referrals for counseling, housing, and other services—to over 2 million victims and has conducted over 14,000 child/adolescent forensic interviews.
VSD also provides a multitude of specialized resources, to include support for U.S. citizens taken hostage overseas and their families, a Victim Services Response Team that deploys to crisis and mass casualty events, and crisis response canines who deploy to support victims and families following violent crime, mass casualties, and other crisis events. In addition to supporting FBI investigations and crisis responses, VSD also supports state, local, federal, tribal, and international partners upon request.
To further the victim service capabilities of domestic and international partner agencies, VSD provides training and support to law enforcement and other professionals to enhance their victim assistance programs. These trainings include how to build victim services programs, enhance child/adolescent forensic interviewing skills, deliver death notifications without further traumatizing family members, and conduct victim and family briefings following mass casualty events.
Many of the services and resources VSD provides are used in tandem—especially when the need arises to surge support for a particular case or area. This includes the FBI’s response to last summer’s Supreme Court ruling that a large segment of the eastern portion of the state of Oklahoma would return to federal/tribal reservation land, which added many additional cases under the FBI’s jurisdiction. For VSD, this led to approximately a 1,130% increase in victims requiring FBI assistance in that area. The FBI has responded by surging resources, to include victim services assets, to Oklahoma to support the local communities. VSD has been providing services, resources, and forensic interviews to victims as well as training law enforcement personnel on providing culturally sensitive death notifications and assisting in setting up multi-disciplinary teams to coordinate across local agencies during investigations.
As the country marks National Crime Victims’ Rights Week this week, take a moment to learn more about the assistance and services the FBI provides victims of crime and their families.