System-Based and Community Based Advocacy – The Need for Both

Many agencies around the country employ victim advocates within their own departments.  Such agencies include police departments, prosecutor offices and Department of Corrections.  Many victims are not aware that there are victim advocates within the community as well.  Many times I have heard why does a victim need an advocate from the community if they already have one in the system?   The reason is that advocates in police departments, prosecutor offices and Department of Corrections serve a different role than victim advocates in the community.  To understand the need for both types of advocacy, we need to have a basic idea of how System-Based and Community-Based advocates differ and how they are the same.

System-Based advocates and Community-Based advocates can be differentiated by where the advocate is employed, who they are responsible to and sometimes the nature of their duties.  System-Based advocates are typically employed by a criminal justice agency, serve as the primary contact for victims with that particular agency and facilitate the victim’s participation in the justice process.

Community-Based advocates are individuals who work in an independent, usually non-profit organization.  They provide comprehensive services to victims, regardless of whether they choose to report the crime and participate in the criminal justice process.  Community-Based advocates also provide services before, during and after a criminal case.  Services are also available when there is no criminal case at all.


The focus of System-Based advocacy and Community-Based advocacy also differ.


Additional differences between the two types of advocacy are crimes types served.  System-Based advocates predominately serve victims of violent crime.  Community-Based advocates, such as Victim Support Services, serve a variety of crime types.  Community-Based agencies also focus largely on education and awareness and providing opportunities to gather with other victims of crime through support groups, social events and crime related events throughout the year.

System-Based and Community-Based advocates/advocacy roles are different.  The need for both types of advocacy is essential because victims will not get the full, wrap around help that is needed to get back to a new normal.  For more information regarding how System-Based and Community-Based advocates’ roles are different, and how we work together, please call 1-800-346-7555.

U.S. Department of Justice. “The Role of Victim and Victim Advocate in Managing Sex Offenders”.
Lonsway, Dr. Kimberly A. “The Role of Victim Advocates”.  National Center for Women and Policing, Violence Against Women Office and Office of Justice Programs.
Center for Sex Offender Management (2000). “Comparing Community-Based and System-Based Advocates”.
Helton, Peggy & Lisa Maling.  “Defining Advocacy”.  Sexual Assault Prevention and Crisis Services; Crime Victim Services Division of Attorney General’s Office of Texas.
King County Coalition Against Domestice Violence (2007).  “FAQ’s for Defense Attorneys.  Community-Based Domestic Violence Advocates: A Resource for Battered Women Charged with Crimes”.



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"With the help of VSS, you are empowered and encouraged to fight back and be pro-active. Then your conscience can be more at peace because you know you have taken some action to protest crimes inflicted on your loved one. It is sometimes your only consolation."

“The one takeaway for me in working with VSS is that it is a necessary organization. I know they are funded by grants and fundraisers but it’s something we need to make sure as a community that they have the funding needed because what they do for people in need doesn’t happen anywhere else. This is the only place that this happens and VSS helps with so many things.”

David Rose

Anchor, Q13 News and Host, Washington’s Most Wanted

“VSS is there when the unthinkable happens.  When a police officer knocks on your door and gives you tragic news, VSS helps navigate the court system, which can be very confusing. VSS is compassion, caring, and commitment. Commitment to once justice is done that victims and their families can move forward with their lives.”

Jennifer Gregerson

Mayor, City of Mukilteo

“VSS has been our partner in recovery and healing and a key part in what makes Mukilteo Strong. VSS has been a trusted advocate for the victims that have suffered so much in the community.  I’m so grateful to VSS as our partner in strength.”

Jon Nehring

Mayor, City of Marysville

“VSS is there for people in their darkest hour. At a time when they need an advocate and friend, VSS steps in to fill that gap and help them begin their journey back to some sense of normalcy.” 

Myrle Carner

Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound

“This thing about closure. There is never really closure in a victim’s life but VSS helps individuals to get closer to that and that’s critical because the cops and the judicial system just move on to another case because they don’t have time. Victims live with this trauma forever so VSS is with them for as long as they need the services. VSS takes the time, more importantly, they really care."

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