Crime Victim Advocates See Racial Disparities In Support Services

A group of crime victims have joined forces with a criminal reform advocacy group to urge state officials to increase victims’ support and services, and do more to make sure they’re available to people of color.

With this effort, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition is trying to highlight the connections between crime victims and offenders.

“As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I want to point out that women who are incarcerated, over 90 percent of them, are survivors of childhood abuse or childhood sexual assault,” said Aubrey Valencia, who lives in Aurora, and is a volunteer and advocate for the coalition. “No one is advocating that we let violent people out of prison .. But we need to address that original trauma to prevent people from ever going down that road.”

The organization wants better data collection around victimization and crime trends at a local level. It also recommends federal funding for victims services should not be tied to any requirement that the victim participate in the prosecution of the crime.

The group recently commissioned a survey of 500 crime victims in the Denver area. A quarter of the self-reported victims said they had also been convicted of a crime.

The same survey found black and male victims were least likely to receive help after they were victimized, which many said led them to be less likely to report later crimes to law enforcement.

Those surveyed had been a victim of at least one crime in the past 10 years -- 83 percent were victims of property crime and 46 percent were victims of at least one violent crime.

“This campaign is set to challenge the common misperception that crime victims support, lengthy prison sentences and incarceration is the key to crime prevention,” said Juston Cooper, a deputy director with the organization. “In reality, most crime survivors prefer that our state focus more on rehabilitation and less on punishment."

The CCJRC also wants to partner with law enforcement and prosecutors, but no one has come on board.

“We have reached out … They do play a significant role in providing victims services. We are looking to partner,” Cooper said. “Unfortunately what tends to occur, once the criminal proceedings have ended, the victims services end with that … We welcome partnerships.”