Victim Assistance and Cyber Crime in America-NOVA

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Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, back at our microphones, Will Marling. He is the Executive Director for the National Director for Victim Assistance,, We’re going to be talking about a variety of topics in terms of victim assistance in America. Will, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Will Marling: Len, thanks so much. You know this is one of my favorite things to do. I just really enjoy our time.

Len Sipes: Well, the remarks that I get from Linked In and the other social media sites plus our own website seems to indicate that you’re very popular. Every time I bring you on we get nice comments, so we want to start off with a constitutional amendment for victims. One of the things that always boggles the minds of everybody is that the overwhelming majority of the criminal justice system is there to protect the rights of defendants, but very few rights are there to protect the rights of the victim and we have a variety of states, somewhere about 30 that do have state constitutional rights to protect victim rights, but what we’re talking about a federal law to establish a strong victims’ presence in the courtroom and then law enforcement and the rest of the criminal justice system protecting victims’ rights when a federal law is violated. Correct?

Will Marling: Well, that’s right. I mean we’re talking about the highest law of the land, which is the United States constitution, our founding document. So this represents an amendment to that founding document to affirm rights for victims of crime specifically.

Len Sipes: And how is that coming?

Will Marling: Well, it’s moving. We’re moving forward, you know, a lot of folks that listen to your program; things like this aren’t clearly visible because there’s a lot of activity. There can be between 10 and 12,000 bills introduced into Congress during the course of a two-year session and so you know, there’s a lot of noise, as I might say it, in the bills but we are continually educating house representatives specifically. It’s House Joint Resolution 40, and the main thing that we’re doing apart from just educating them is asking them for their co-sponsorship. They can literally put their name on an official support list and said yes, I will co-sponsor House Joint Resolution 40 and so it’s a continual effort to build momentum, to educate, and to move it forward.

Len Sipes: How could you not support victims’ rights? I mean, I would think the entire Congress would get behind this.

Will Marling: Well, we agree. The reality is that when people are asked on the street, should victims have rights? It’s an overwhelming response in the affirmative. And most people, even those who might resist this would affirm victims’ rights. There are some folks who are purists and we shouldn’t amend the constitution and you know, I agree, maybe not very frequently, but the reason it’s to be amended, is because it needs to grow and change. There are some that are concerned that it would impact the rights of the accused or defendants, and we simply respond that is not true either. We affirm that those rights need to be there and the Bill of Rights, the amendment is designed to protect those accused of a crime need to be vigorously upheld. We’re only saying that victims of the crime of which that person is accused, they need to be able to have standing under the law to affirm dignity, affirm the right to information, the right to restitution if this follows through, and the right to be part of the process officially. That’s really what this means.

Len Sipes: Well you have a lot of federal crimes that are in the news lately in terms of the military. So what you have is a situation where a lot of women in the military are basically that they were sexually assaulted, and advocates have stated that they have been ignored, that their rights have been ignored, this would provide them with the rights they seek, correct?

Will Marling: Yeah, it would, because an American under the constitution can affirm rights that are inculcated in the constitution. We say inalienable rights and what we mean by that is there are some things we just know are true. The average person knows they’re true. But we still have to state them in the constitution, they have to become part of a written document, so that someone can say hey, right here, we’ve said this. And in the military context, that’s especially true under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, historically, there really are no rights as such for victims of crime. Now, I will say, that in the latest National Defense Authorization Act, the NDAA coming out, there have been some very positive progress with the affirmation of protections for victims. But nonetheless, this is, as I like to say, an amendment would cover a multitude of sins. It would address this issue of victims’ rights, crime victims’ rights, but also it would affirm at large, even those people who don’t engage in the criminal justice process as victims, it would create a national discussion about what rights are, what rights should be and hopefully raise the level of prominence, the needs that people have when they are harmed by others.

Len Sipes: And about 30 states or so have these rights, and the process in those states that do have a constitutional right, a state constitutional right, guarding the rights of victims of crimes, it’s worked in those states, it’s been a sea change. My experience has been that everybody is now very much attuned to the rights of victims because it’s the law. And in some cases you’ve got to spell it out and in some cases you’ve got to make it crystal clear. That’s what others have said to me. Is that correct?

Will Marling: That’s exactly right. Now I will affirm that of the 33 states that we know have crime victims’ rights in the state constitutions, the affirmations in the state constitutions vary from place to place. In other words, what they affirm as a right can be different in another state. But let me give you the example of Arizona, that has had victims’ rights for 20 years and they’ve been able to demonstrate that the process can be safely adjudicated so that the rights of the accused are not impinged upon, and the rights of the victims can be affirmed so that a process can pursue justice. And equitable justice. We know that there are inequities in the system, in many ways, and I recognize that even in my victim advocacy role that the accused many times, can be shortchanged from anything the defense attorney that they’ve been assigned or whatever. But we want to and vigorously want to affirm that the rights that everybody should have and we also say, victims want a good and healthy process for everybody. They don’t want a process where the accused is getting shortchanged, because commonly that just means an appeal, another trial, more and more pain and suffering for them. So you know, that’s really why a fair and balanced system can serve everyone.

Len Sipes: But speaking of pain and speaking of a sense of injustice, the average person going through the criminal justice system before a state constitutional amendment would often times say that it’s the criminal justice system itself that acts as an inhibitor to the healing process. If the state criminal justice system or the federal criminal justice system is going to be so difficult to deal with and where rights are not respected, can you imagine a person going through a violent crime and a family member is a victim or a violent crime and then now, they find that it’s just an impossible process in terms of getting the information that they need, getting the information that they seek, getting the respect that they deserve, and having their day in court, if that was not recognized, if that was not embraced. Then that victim is almost re-victimized, and I’ve heard that from crime victims before the constitutional amendments over and over and over again. The criminal justice system re-victimizes me by not respecting my rights.

Will Marling: You’re exactly right, and it’s one of the many reasons I like you, because you’re in tune with many different facets of the criminal justice system. What we hear as well is re-victimization, re-traumatization, common themes. Why? Because the system itself is a system. It’s a machine. It’s designed with sometimes harsh mechanisms that are without respect for humanity, that’s the system. But the people in the system are the ones that affirm the dignity and compassion that need to be affirmed for people who have suffered so egregious losses. And so, that’s all we’re doing, we’re wanting to affirm those things and we’d love for people just to do that automatically. We’d love for people in the system to affirm inalienable rights of crime victims, that actually many people believe are already there. They have no idea that they’re not there. But we know that those need to be affirmed. So that a victim can say I have the right to this, and I want to assert that right and I want that right protected.

Len Sipes: If you’re interested in additional information or if you would like to support the National Organization for Victim Assistance in terms of this endeavor,, Will, we’re going to move on to the next topic, distance learning with the victim assistance academy. You guys are doing an awful lot of training. You were doing training for the Defense Department in terms of training the trainers, if I remember a previous conversation. All throughout the history of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, you all have been involved in training victims’ advocates throughout the country, throughout the world. Then the next big step, a little while ago, last year was your work with the Defense Department and now you’re talking about a distance learning victim assistance academy. Talk to me about that please.

Will Marling: Yeah, thanks. Just stepping back a little bit just to you know quantify what we’re doing. You’re exactly right, we do a lot of training and it’s in particular in this area of victim advocacy and our side of house with crisis response. Lot of these things revolve around the skills necessary to advocate for people but also trauma mitigation, trauma education in working with those harmed by crime and crisis. With the Department of Defense, we are actually the secretariat for the SAC-P. The Department of Defense Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program. So we’ve actually collected subject matter experts and they are part of a committee built upon the national advocate-credentialing program that certifies victim advocates specifically in the United States military, all branches. And that’s been a wonderful experience for us of course and we’ve been grateful for the privilege of serving in that way, but also encouraged by steps, small and large, that are being taken in dealing with sexual assaults specifically in the military. And out of that kind of context of seeing needs and the like, we hit on this issue of a distance learning victim assistance academy. Now let me explain that one. Since the mid 80s, when we actually have the vocation of victim advocate emerge, there are a number of states who have developed their own victim assistance academies. And it’s kind of a standard approach, standardized approach, with a 40-hour basic training that touches very skill-based aspects of advocacy. And it’s a very important training, in fact, it’s foundational if you’re going to be a national advocate, nationally advocated credentialed person, you’re going to have at least a 40-hour basic, and what we discovered in our work was that not only are there a number of states that don’t have academies, but are a number of people who are far-flung who don’t have access to that kind of training very readily. And so we have recently launched NOVA’s national victim assistance academy, and it’s a distance-learning concept. In other words, it’s real time, with an instructor, using technology, so that there’s a classroom and people are logging in, in their remote sectors and they’re seeing the instructor as well as seeing a presentation and they can talk to the professor. In fact, we encourage that; we encourage live audio Q&A interaction. And the powerful thing about this is that distance learning dimension means that distance is removed. People are actually taking this training in all parts of the world. All across our country, they’re in Asia; they’re in Europe, and other parts. So we are not only pleased and honored by this, we find that people are extremely receptive to this, plus the instructors we’ve lined up are heroes in this field. Incredible subject matter experts, and many people simply wouldn’t get access to them otherwise, you know, we just can’t ship them around. So it’s a great step for us.

Len Sipes: So the bottom line is that anybody, anywhere in the world can receive this training and you have been on a previous program, we talked about the fact that you’ve been interacting with other countries throughout the world in terms of you know, this whole concept of a constitutional amendment. This whole concept advocating for victims, it’s not just an issue within the United States. You’ve been interacting with people all throughout the world.

Will Marling: Indeed. In fact, we’re starting really a consortium non-profit international and enterprise called Victims of Crime International and I know that isn’t especially creative, but what it does represent this true focus of many people in other parts of the world understanding that victims, victims of crime specifically need support, they need resources, and their voices need to be amplified to their national, their local and national leaders. And that’s what this enterprise is about, specifically Victims of Crime International. And I think the training is going to contribute to that, hopefully as we give people, basically anybody that can get access online can be part of this.

Len Sipes: We’re halfway through the program. I want to re-introduce Will. Will Marling is the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance,, Will, I do want to ask you in terms of your interactions with people in other countries; I would imagine everybody has the same issue. I would imagine there’s not a lot of difference between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Katmandu. I would imagine when you’re victimized; I would imagine the criminal justice system is often times not the most receptive place to, not the most supportive place in terms of dealing with victims, dealing with their trauma, dealing with the emotional aspects of being victimized, dealing with their informational needs. I would imagine those problems exist wherever you are in the world.

Will Marling: I would agree. There can be varying reactions to, and you can understand that from the standpoint of even countries that maybe aren’t strong on human rights, we’re experiencing that. I think it’s kind of funny, you name two places, I actually have talked to people about this very issue. Katmandu and New Mexico, of course all across the country there are incredibly gifted and committed people, and even in Katmandu, it’s fascinating the young lawyer that I talk to there, who is really trying to propel the notion of victims’ rights in the context of humans’ rights and he’s just an amazing fellow. The challenge that we do face in varying ways, and I say we, because the human collective represents a commitment to justice anywhere and everywhere. And what we see is sometimes there’s a difference in resourcing, that can be an issue. And that can be here, you can find remote locations in the country where there aren’t as many resources to assist victims of crimes, or you can find locations here where people aren’t maybe well oriented as professional to the needs that victims face, but certainly that is in other parts of the world. That’s why we’re really trying to propel a global voice and a global concept for folks, so that we can shout on behalf of other people in other places that their voice should be heard, we believe that can be beneficial for them. As well as for victims here.

Len Sipes: But it does get back once again to whether you call it a US constitutional amendment, or embodied within the law in different countries, if it’s not embodied in code, if it’s not part of law, if it’s not part of the training of the judiciary, the law enforcement, individuals within the court system, individuals within corrections, if it’s not embodied within law, it tends to be ignored. Or not taken as seriously as it should be taken.

Will Marling: Indeed. And in fact the European Union passed incredibly powerful legislation to affirm victims’ rights and services, and this is, it’s called an EU Directive in that context because the European nations don’t have a constitution as such, they’re a union. Essentially it’s a confederation of states. So they have to have treaties between all of the member states, the 28. And yet their highest level at this point is an EU Directive and the most, this victims’ rights EU Directive that’s being implemented over the next year specifically. There has to be a plan put in place by every member state, but then of course promoting and implementing that goes well beyond. And so that’s what we’re seeing, you know, Europe is seeing the need for this.

Len Sipes: The steam is picking up; the momentum continues to move forward. Just in the United States and throughout the world.

Will Marling: That’s exactly right. The word momentum is a great word, Len, because it represents what we’re trying to see happen and what we are see happen.

Len Sipes: Alright, we’ve talked about the philosophical underpinnings of victims’ rights in the United States; let’s get down to something very practical and very real. Target credit cards, now the National Organization for Victim Assistance has been involved in cybercrime for the last two or three years. You told me on a previous program that you’ve got so many calls from so many people regarding cybercrime that the National Organization for Victim Assistance was willing to move beyond its traditional role in terms of what I refer to as garden variety street crimes and domestic violence and sexual assaults and robberies and burglaries and those sorts of things into cybercrime because simply there was a demand for it, correct?

Will Marling: That’s right. What we were seeing was cyber of course is an extremely popular type of crime, and naturally, the cyber permeates everything we do. We’re all inter-connected. And so we’re getting victim assistance calls, we take thousands of victim assistance calls on our toll free victim assistance line and every year, and when we began to see this uptick, definitely in request for help and assistance, we said ok, we need to pay attention to this. Quite honestly, it just meant, definitely boning up on a lot of the dimensions that are impacted here. So we began to train ourselves internally. We did a lot of training with staff, so we do victim assistance that way. And the Target breach represents, quite candidly, one of many different types. It was a high profile event, and we had calls on behalf of folks who had experienced compromise there. Ironically, Target itself is considered one of the stronger security committed companies, and they have a lot of appropriate and meaningful policies in place, but when you’re talking about a breach that as I see it or understand it occurred, you’re talking about mechanisms that were able to break into basically vaults of information. So it’s very profound and it scared people.

Len Sipes: The Washington Post the other day editorialized that it’s time to embrace the European model, and from what I understand in terms of the European model is that it’s a chip and code based system. So if you don’t have the chip and if you don’t have the code, you don’t have access to the information in the card, but the really interesting factor is, is right now, if you’re victimized through your credit card, you’re not liable. You don’t have to pay those credit card bills. In the European model evidently, once they market the move over to the chip and the pin system, then suddenly you’re stuck with paying those bills if a bad guy gets a hold of your credit card information. Is that correct?

Will Marling: That’s right. Well, the chip and pin is a significant mechanism to protect information. In our country, of course, a credit card compromise like that is considered technically a crime against the bank. That’s why it gets a little complicated because people’s lives are impacted by it. When my credit card number was breached, I didn’t lose track of my card, they got the number from somewhere, the bank was the one that took on the liability. Now under federal law if you report your loss, you can be liable. It’s three days, you can be liable for $50 up to three days, between that and 60 days, your liability can be $500. I’ve never heard of any bank charging that you know to that consumer. So they consider it, I think, a cost of doing business. But what the chip and pin can do, and I used to live in Europe where the chip and pin was important, that chip and that pin have to be, you know, they have to work together. And that significantly limits the risk associated with breach. And it also means there’s, for the bank’s sake, it’s an opportunity to detect when the consumers are actually committing the fraud because you know, in some ways, they have to say, I’m taking you at your work. I had to sign affidavits, I basically swear that I didn’t cause this, I’m not making a false claim, you know, to affirm that I didn’t make those charges, that somebody else had. I actually think that it could be helpful for everybody. But you know, in our society, it’s an issue of convenience and that’s what we’re trying to encourage people to think about. Ok, so it takes a little bit more time to make a transaction. That’s ok. So it’s takes you another 15 seconds. That’s ok.

Len Sipes: Give everybody and those of us in the criminal justice system the three quickest tips to keep ourselves safe from this sort of crime.

Will Marling: Well, yeah we kind of work from a principle, we try to use principles that kind of can be a little pithy that can help people remember. We tell people you are your data. Think about it in that way, when you get a call and it’s a voice, you don’t actually know who that person is. You think you do, because you want to believe what they’re saying to you. But you have to think, they want your data and they’re going to try to get that out of you. Another principle is very simple. If it has a lock, use it. If your phone has a lock, use it. If anything electronic has a lock, your computer, use your lock. Very few people, even if they would say they live in a safe neighborhood, they lock their car when they get out of it. They use their remote, lock it up. We also, this is a really important one in my view, if somebody asks you for information; it’s perfectly acceptable to say, what for. And when they tell you what for, you can decide, mmm, I don’t know if that’s important enough.

Len Sipes: So the bottom line is being unbelievably judicious in terms of providing that information to anybody and if you have questions as to whether or not you’re talking to the real deal, if you’re interacting with the real deal in terms of an internet message, is to call the bank, call the store, not through the telephone number that they provide, but you look it up, you go on the internet, you look up the number, and you call them and you call the billing department and say ok I’ve got this email message from supposedly you guys, is this legit?

Will Marling: That’s right. There are all kind of scams. I’ll give you one that just came to me yesterday. I got an email, allegedly, from the Arizona court of appeals.

Len Sipes: Really?

Will Marling: Yeah. So the idea was that’s terrifying, what’s going on? Well, I knew it was bogus, but you know, we’re busy, you’re not paying attention and so, even there, you say, when asked for, they asked me to click this link and follow up. Well, I’m saying to myself, well what they want that for? Why would they be emailing me? Of course they wouldn’t be. So once we even stop, most of the time, if we just stop and ask a couple of basic questions, wait a minute, then it all rings false, and then we can just stop, but it’s easy to get paranoid these days. Especially if people telling you stuff like this.

Len Sipes: All of us in the criminal justice system, even those who are suspicious of everybody because we’ve been in the criminal justice system for so long, we still get fooled.

Will Marling: Oh yeah. I mean, it’s a common, primarily because we’re busy people and there’s a lot of data passing. And so if an email gets your network and somebody doesn’t reject it and they forward it on to you, that could be, right there, the lynch pin pulled to access your network. How does that happen? It’s not hard. I mean, again, we’re busy people. So it’s diligence.

Len Sipes: Just a couple minutes left Will. You know, when I did auto theft campaigns years ago, we recognized that if the auto industry just implemented certain security procedures in cars it would drive down auto theft considerably and auto theft over the past five, six years has plummeted because of that. There are many people who are basically saying, look, they’re out there stealing iPhones, they’re out there stealing iPads, they’re stealing my electronic devices, why aren’t the companies making these devices to the point where they can be completely worthless, the companies can shut them down. People are saying why can’t the credit card companies make a credit card in such a way that it’s useless if somebody steals it or steals the information. Do you guys get involved in those sort of endeavors working with the automobile manufacturers, working with the credit card companies, working with Apple and other smart phone manufacturers to improve the security of devices?

Will Marling: Well, we sure would. We’re willing and committed to speaking into these issues, not just from a victim’s standpoint but from a potential victim or consumer standpoint, but you find a lot of forces at work. We know right now that within any given cell phone, you can have basically a kill switch. And there are pros and cons at different levels on that. Some people would be concerned that my phone could be killed if somebody decided to do that outside of me. But we know that technology is available. One of the areas where we kind of stumbled into this is an area where cell phone contraband is making it into prisons. And that is making inmates accessible, it’s giving them access to the outside world, we know that they have committed significant crimes, they’ve called contract hits on perspective witnesses, they’ve harassed, they’ve stalked, and that’s the kind of thing, it’s actually a big problem. And one sweep in a California prison, it was 6,000 phones that were found. So it’s things like that that have ancillary effects as well, not just some of the things that even you named, I lose my phone and all my information is on there, man I’d love for that thing to be destroyed, you know, remotely. Because I don’t want anyone to have access to it. And I don’t want them to have access to your phone, Len, because you might have, we might have been talking about sensitive things, you might have an email from me, my contact information, that’s private. So it behooves us all to pay attention to that very thing.

Len Sipes: Well, I’m going to let you have the final word on that topic. I really do wish that the National Organization for Victim Assistance and everybody who supports victims’ rights throughout the United States to be supportive of a United States constitutional amendment for victims of crimes currently working its way through the House of Representatives and also we are all supportive needless to say of additional, every state in the United States should have a constitutional amendment protecting victims’ rights and I think Will would completely agree on that. Ladies and gentlemen, our guess today has been Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance,, Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Crime Victim Compensation and Services in Washington, D.C.

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is

Radio Program available at

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes for our first show of 2014, a show topic that’s very near and dear to my heart; crime victim services in the District of Columbia. Also be talking about crime victim’s issues throughout the United States. We have two guests at our microphones. Bonnie Andrews, she is the Victim Services Program Manager for my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, We also have Laura Banks Reed. She is the Director of the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program for the DC Superior Court,, and to Bonnie and Laura, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Bonnie Andrews:  Hello.

Laura Banks Reed:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  Now both of you do two different things and I do want to talk about a larger discussion of what’s happened, what happens in the District of Columbia, a larger discussion about what happens throughout the United States, but first of all, Bonnie, we represent a parole and probation agency and you represent victims coming into our parole and probation agency looking for assistance, correct?

Bonnie Andrews:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  Tell me a little bit about what you do.

Bonnie Andrews:  Our office assists victims that are, have been victimized by the offenders that we supervise at CSOSA. So any victim that has been either victimized or re-victimized by an offender under the supervision of CSOSA can receive services in our program.

Len Sipes:  And the whole idea in terms of victim services across the board is to cut through the clutter, to have a friendly voice to guide you in terms of dealing with your victim issues, as it pertains, in our case, to people under our supervision, right? So there’s somebody there, specifically you, who help people get through the maze, get through the confusion and get the answers they need. Correct?

Bonnie Andrews:  That’s correct. You know, sometimes we have to get that, the trust of that victim or, because they think that we are probation officers or we are CSOs, that’s community supervision officers and the information that the victim might share with us is going to get back to that offender. So we have to get the trust of the victim and reassure them that whatever information that they provide to us is going to be held in confidence and no information will be shared with either the probation officer, the offender or anyone else, for that matter, unless it’s going to hurt that person or someone else.

Len Sipes:  And that’s something I want to talk about further in the program, because people have a concern. They’re frightened of the criminal justice system. They’re frightened of any bureaucracy. They’re frightened about any governmental entity and you know, we need to reassure people that we have specialists on board throughout the criminal justice system who will act as their advocate, it doesn’t have to be that difficult. I do want to talk about that in a couple seconds, but first I want to talk with Laura Banks Reed. Now Laura, you’re with the, you’re the Director of the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program for the DC Superior Court. Give me a sense as to what it is that you do.

Laura Banks Reed:  The compensation program for the District of Columbia provides assistance to victims of violent crime with the financial expenses that they often suffer as a result of being victimized.

Len Sipes:  People can get money back if they can prove that they cooperated with the criminal justice system – money for injuries, money for God forbid, funerals, money for hospital bills, and so the DC Superior Court administers that program, correct?

Laura Banks Reed:  That’s correct. But it’s not, excuse me, money in the sense that if you’re assaulted we pay you a certain amount. This is a program that provides assistance to victims and the payment of their expenses. So if they let’s say that someone is assaulted and they have to go to the hospital.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Laura Banks Reed:  If they have insurance, their insurance will pay for the their medical care. But if there’s a copayment that they have to pay, that is something that they can make application to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so funds that are not being reimbursed for, they can make application to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program?

Laura Banks Reed:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Okay. So we have, in essence, two distinct forms of victim services within the District of Columbia and I do want to add the fact that the Metropolitan Police Department has victim’s representatives, United State’s Attorney’s Office, our prosecutor here in the District of Columbia, they have a victim’s representative, the Attorney General’s Office, and all of the other federal agencies, whether they be the Park Police or whether they be the FBI or whatever, all of us, all the criminal justice agencies in the District of Columbia have victim assistance, correct?

Bonnie Andrews:  That’s correct. That’s correct. And we all work closely together.

Len Sipes:  Right, and you all share information and you all point out problems to each other and propose solutions for the entire criminal justice system.

Bonnie Andrews:  Well, we try to work together for the victim, making sure that the victim’s needs are always out in the front of us and how we can best serve that person and help them heal through what has been, in most cases, a very traumatic experience.

Len Sipes:  Right, right. And I also want to get on to the trauma part of it, but people listening throughout the United States, every large criminal justice agency, it doesn’t matter where they are, they could be listening to this program in Honolulu, they could be listening in Des Moines, Iowa, they could be listening in France, for that matter. Most larger, criminal justice agencies now have a victim’s representatives throughout that structure. So there is a place where people can go to if they feel that they have questions, they feel that they have issues, that they don’t have to be frightened of us with in the criminal justice system. There’s always a friendly face and a friendly voice somewhere in that criminal justice bureaucracy who can help them.

Bonnie Andrews:  Absolutely, but you know, more times than not, I’ve had victims that will come to me and say, you know, they might be at the end of this judicial experience and they’ll say, “I wish I’d had known that this office was here, before now, or no one every told me that these services were here. And you’re absolutely right. Most agencies that either prosecute, supervise, or police the judicial or are in the judicial process will have a victim’s services advocate to serve victims.

Len Sipes:  Okay, I mean, that’s the thing that frightens me the most, is people sitting out there and saying to themselves, “You know, I wonder, I just laid out $3,000 out of my own pocket for medical expenses because I was injured during that robbery. Is there anybody who can help me? I wonder what the police officer is doing to solve my case? I wonder what parole and probation”, in this case us, Bonnie, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, “I wonder what they’re doing in supervising that person when they come out of prison or while under probation.” They don’t have to wonder, all they have to do is pick up the phone, call the main number for that agency and ask for their victim’s representative.

Bonnie Andrews:  Absolutely, or ask for a victim’s advocate, ask for someone that can help guide them through the judicial process. But we rely a lot, even though we provide services for victims and resources, we rely heavily on Laura’s program.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Bonnie Andrews:  You know, I can’t imagine this process without her program, or how we would serve victims without her program.

Len Sipes:  Well, people expect me to say this because I represent in one small way, the District of Columbia Criminal Justice System, but the Superior Court, people need to understand this who are listening to this program beyond Washington DC, the Superior Court is an extraordinarily comprehensive entity. I mean, I’ve never seen a court system with so many specialty courts and so many judges who are active in the community, active in these special courts. And so it seems to me that victim’s compensation and victim’s services would go hand in hand with the role of the DC Superior Court. But I think that the quality of the criminal justice system in the District of Columbia is not only higher, but much higher than I’ve seen in other cities. Do you think that’s correct?

Bonnie Andrews:  I agree, absolutely.

Laura Banks Reed:  I think so.

Bonnie Andrews:  I might be a little prejudiced of that –

Len Sipes:  Yeah, we might be just a tad prejudiced about that.

Bonnie Andrews:  But I do agree. I was having a conversation with Laura and I was saying, “Heaven forbid I’m ever a victim, but if I ever were to be a victim, I would want to be one in DC.”

Len Sipes:  Yeah, I understand that. And I understand exactly what you’re saying. All right, so Bonnie, you’ve been doing this, did you say for 17 years?

Bonnie Andrews:  20.

Len Sipes:  20 years!

Bonnie Andrews:  I’ve been in Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency; this is my 13th year at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.

Len Sipes:  Right, but you were in victim’s issues before that?

Bonnie Andrews:  I spent two years with the United States Attorney’s Office, right up the street.

Len Sipes:  Ah, okay.

Bonnie Andrews:  An prior to that I was in private practice. I worked with crime victims.

Len Sipes:  Fun. And Laura, you’ve been doing this for how many years?

Laura Banks Reed:  For 17 years.

Len Sipes:  17 years, you’re the one that’s been doing this for 17 years. So we we’re talking about 37 years, close to 40 years between the two of you in terms of serving victims of crime. What’s your principal impression of this issue in terms of that near 40 years experience that I have sitting at this table right now? What is your principal perception of this issue of crime victims and what government is capable or not capable of doing?

Laura Banks Reed:  Well, in Washington DC, victim services has grown incredibly over say, the past 15 years. As you mentioned, there are victim service providers in all of the law enforcement agencies. And there is a wonderful cadre of non-profit organizations.

Len Sipes:  Tell me about those. I didn’t realize that we had a lot of non-profit organizations out there. Tell me about those.

Laura Banks Reed:  We do, and they are very, very, very good at what they do.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Laura Banks Reed:  As you mentioned earlier, the court has a lot of special programs for the community and one of them is the domestic violence intake center, which is, there’s one located in Superior Court, and there’s also a satellite office located in the United Medical Center, in Southeast, what used to be greater Southeast Hospital is now United Medical. And there’s a satellite Domestic Violence Unit there. And it is comprised of non-profit organizations, advocates from law enforcement agencies, and it creates a one stop place that a victim of domestic violence can come to the courthouse and get all the services that they really need. One of the services that the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program provides is the cost of temporary emergency shelter. And so because we are part of the court and we are so close to the main courthouse, domestic violence victims can walk the block and a half from the main courthouse directly to our office and receive services right there on the spot.

Len Sipes:  That reminds me, there are layers to all of this. There is the issue of sexual assault, rape and sexual assault. That issue has an array of non-profit organizations that advocate for that particular issue. There’s domestic violence, people advocate for that issue. There’s child abuse – people – so that’s what you’re talking about in terms of the non-profit community, and you’re right, there’s a whole endless series of organizations out there, around those three areas; child abuse, domestic violence and rape and sexual assault. But the principle number of people, I’m assuming, that you’re going to see, are what I refer to, not out of disrespect, but to garden variety crime victim in terms of being the victim of a robbery, the victim of a burglary, the victim of somebody stealing their automobile. I mean, the chances are the numbers are much greater that you’re going to be the victim of those sort of crimes than either rape or child abuse or domestic violence, correct?

Bonnie Andrews:  I wouldn’t say so.

Len Sipes:  All right, tell me, go ahead. Please, correct me. Feel free to correct me.

Bonnie Andrews:  In our office, at least in our office, 90% of the victims that we see are victims of domestic violence.

Len Sipes:  Really?

Laura Banks Reed:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Really?

Bonnie Andrews:  Last year, our numbers increased as far as gunshot victims.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Bonnie Andrews:  We had quite a few young men that came into our office to get services for, as a result of gunshot wounds that they received in the District of Columbia.

Len Sipes:  Really?

Bonnie Andrews:  And those services, those men were referred to Ms. Reed’s program for
counseling, for you know, PTSD as a result of being shot on the street; medical services, they needed physical therapy following their treatment in the hospital; in some cases they needed to relocate because they had concerns of their safety. So the victims that we see, we have a variety of victims that we see, but the majority of the victims are a result of domestic violence.

Len Sipes:  All right, I stand corrected.  We’re going to take this opportunity to reintroduce both of you because we’re more than halfway through the program. Bonnie Andrews is the victim services program manager for my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, She’s by our microphones. Laura Banks Reed, she’s the Director of the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program for the DC Superior Court,, Laura, so people when they come to you and they say to themselves, “Okay, insurance took care of a lot of it, but I have about $2000 in out of pocket expenses. I have this amount of property damage done or God forbid, I need to bury my son and I don’t have the money to do it. That’s when they do come to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program for the DC Superior Court, right?

Laura Banks Reed:  Yes, absolutely. And they’re, the program is operated under a statute and so there are certain eligibility requirements. First of all, well, let me also share with you that there are crime victim compensation programs in every state in the United States.

Len Sipes:  Throughout the country, yes.

Laura Banks Reed:  And there are many foreign countries who also have compensation programs. So there, in order to be eligible for the compensation program in DC, the crime has to have occurred in DC.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Laura Banks Reed:  If the crime occurs in Maryland but you live in DC, you go to the Maryland compensation –

Len Sipes:  Right, and there’s that, after working for 14 years for the State of Maryland, there is a Crime Victim’s Compensation Board for the State of Maryland, under the Maryland Department of Public Safety.

Laura Banks Reed:  There is.

Len Sipes:  Same thing in Virginia.

Laura Banks Reed:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Laura Banks Reed:  And the crime has to occur in DC, the maximum that we can pay for an entire event is $25,000; the victim cannot have been engaged in illegal conduct, which caused his injuries. That would disqualify them from help.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Laura Banks Reed:  The crime has to be reported to the police, but there are several exceptions and there are exceptions for domestic violence victims, if they seek a civil protection order, then they are eligible for the compensation program; for sexual assault victims, if they seek a sexual assault examination, then, and don’t have a police report, then they would also be eligible. And in child cruelty cases, if a neglect petition has been filed, then it’s not necessary for that family to have to bring in a police report. The crime has to be reported to the police within 7 days, if that’s at all possible. There are some circumstances where that’s not possible to do. And the application has to be filed within a year of the crime or at least within a year of learning of the program.  If there was some legitimate reason that you did not know about the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program, then you would have a year from the point when you reasonably should have known, to file your application. And so we help out with medical bills, yes, unfortunately, we help with funeral expenses, the coast of mental health counseling, lost wages, if a victim is so badly injured that they can’t go to work anymore.

Len Sipes:  Who helps you guys out?

Bonnie Andrews:  We help each other.

Laura Banks Reed:  We do.

Len Sipes:  That’s the question –

Laura Banks Reed:  We really do.

Len Sipes:  That’s the question I want to ask. I mean, it’s like, when I was a police officer, dealing with victims of crime was very difficult, because it was right at that moment and they had a thousand questions and I had four or five more calls stacked up to get to and I really couldn’t give all the time. Now, to my own credit, a lot of times I would go back to that person two or three days later and say, “I couldn’t answer all these questions that night, but I’ll try to answer your questions now.” But it takes a toll, does it not, dealing with victims and their circumstances?

Bonnie Andrews:  Absolutely.

Laura Banks Reed:  It does. There have been times when I have called Bonnie and said, “Bonnie, I need to talk to a supervisor.” But there is, I think, a strong sense of camaraderie in the victim services field that has developed over the years. Many of us who are in this field have been in it for a long time and –

Len Sipes:  Is there ever a compassion burnout, fatigue? Compassion fatigue?

Laura Banks Reed:  Well, it’s a deep thing.

Len Sipes:  Ever get to the point where, “My God, if I talk to one more victim of crime, I think I’m going to go to Timbuktu.”

Bonnie Andrews:  You know –

Len Sipes:  Sit in the bathtub for two weeks.

Bonnie Andrews:  It comes periodically, but you get that one case that comes in just right on time. And I say right on time, because it puts into perspective of why we are still doing this or why we come to work every day. And see these people that are at probably the worst day of their life on that day that we’re seeing them. And you know, what can I give that person to help them feel a little bit better when they leave my office? And so when that person comes in and they leave with a smile on their face, or they can breathe a little better, or they can say, you know, “I feel like I’m going to be okay now.” Or, “Thank you. I didn’t have this information when I came here and you’ve helped me. You’ve given me some light at the end of this very dark tunnel.” Then it puts into perspective of why we continue to come back every day and do this all over again. And when that day doesn’t come, then of course, I call Laura and say, “Can I come and sit on your couch for about 30 minutes during my lunch break?” [Laughter]

Len Sipes:  Well, I mean, when I was there, as a police officer, I found myself feeling profoundly inept, because this was before the day and age of victim representatives in agencies and they had a thousand questions, and I remember a woman yelling at me, one night, basically saying, “Don’t you understand what this means to me? Don’t you understand how this is has destroyed my life? And I have a thousand questions. Who’s going to answer these thousand questions? And by the way, when I have a thousand more tomorrow, who’s going to be there for me? Who represents me?” And I remember that. I remember that to this day. “Who represents me?” Now we have people who represent them.

Bonnie Andrews:  We are, we do.

Laura Banks Reed:  We do, and it is very rewarding work when you can, because these, for most people, these are life altering events.

Len Sipes:  Yes, they are.

Laura Banks Reed:  There’s life before the crime, and then there’s your life after the crime. And things are, you end up with a new normal. Things are never quite the same again. And it’s nothing that can be cured. But if you have people who are willing to talk with you, and help you with the issues that they can, they can’t make your life like it was before the crime, but we can certainly make the life that you have after it a lot better, a lot less stressful, a lot better in form. And –

Len Sipes:  Because if somebody has questions about what happened on the law enforcement side or what happens, Bonnie, on the parole and probation side or what happens in terms of victims compensation programs, or what happens in terms of the prosecutor’s office, you can pick up the phone and call the victim’s rep for that agency and say that Mrs. Johnson is really confused about this and she really needs some assistance, can you call Mrs. Johnson and straighten her out on these particular issues?

Bonnie Andrews:  And I have no problem with doing that, because I know what my limitations are, and I think that that’s what makes a good advocate, knows that we all have certain limitations, we all have an expertise and to operate within that expertise. And you know, if there’s any information that I don’t have,  I can pick up the phone, I can walk upstairs to MPD, Victim’s Services and ask someone on that staff. I can walk down the street to the US Attorney’s Office Victim’s Services, ask someone on that staff, or either in Mrs. Reed’s office, and what’s so unique about the District is that within one block we have the US Attorney’s office, we have the District of the Court, we have the MPD Victim’s Services and of course CSOSA within that one block. So –

Laura Banks Reed:  And OAG too.

Bonnie Andrews:  Right. And so the victim can go through the judicial process without ever leaving the block.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing. And there is, and people sometimes will kid me, they say that I’m overplaying my hand, but there is a level of cooperation within the District of Columbia Criminal Justice System that I don’t think I have seen elsewhere from not just victims but even at the highest levels of agency heads talking to each other. But you know, it’s just that it is, it is a life shaking, Laura you said it, it’s a life altering process for that person to go through, and they’re very frustrated with the criminal justice system. Bonnie, you know, you’ve taken a look at the national levels, out of the 7 million people who are involved in the correctional system, 4 of those 7 million are under community supervision. Throughout my career, and now, people will call me up as the spokesperson for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and say, “Why is John Doe on the street?” I said, “Well, ma’am, he received a sentence of probation.” “Probation? Well what does that mean?” Sometimes it’s a matter of explaining basics to individuals as to how the system works, right?

Bonnie Andrews:  Right, and we get those questions quite frequently. I got a call Monday from a victim. Her daughter was sexually abused by her long time boyfriend. And she had heard that the offender was released, well, he wasn’t, he was released to a halfway house. So you know, I can’t answer all of her questions, but I could refer her to someone who could answer her questions and that’s part of being a good advocate, is having the resources to send that victim to when I don’t have the answers.

Len Sipes:  Uh huh, but you can also explain what a halfway house is. I mean, to a lot of people they have no idea what a halfway house is.

Bonnie Andrews:  I could give her information that she did not have when she called me.

Len Sipes:  And you can say, “If you have additional questions, call me, or call our, call MPD or call the United States Attorney’s Office.” We only have a couple minutes left in the program ladies. What have I not mentioned that I need to mention about this issue of crime victim services, not just in the District of Columbia but throughout the United States?

Laura Banks Reed:  I think that what DC, the victim services in DC represents is an effort to provide what we call a continuum of care for victims. And it’s a model that’s very effective, but the victim is not left alone to fend for themselves. I mean, when one hand finishes, the other hand grabs the victim and then we pass the victim on to the next set of services that they need.

Len Sipes:  So a continuum of care throughout the criminal justice system and the fact that all of you work with each other on a day to day basis, talk to each other on a day to day basis –

Bonnie Andrews:  Yes, absolutely.

Len Sipes:  I mean, so, and you guys have been around for quite some time.

Laura Banks Reed:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  So you –

Laura Banks Reed:  Dinosaurs.

Len Sipes:  [Laughter] So my point was that you also have the experience to help a person out and you also have the sensitivity to help a person out or you wouldn’t have been doing it for as long as you have.

Bonnie Andrews:  Right, and I think we were doing this collaborating before it became popular.

Len Sipes:  There you go.

Bonnie Andrews:  You know, we have been doing this, when I was at the US Attorney’s Office we were collaborating with each other.

Len Sipes:  Good.

Bonnie Andrews:  So we bring the definition of collaboration to the table.

Len Sipes:  Good. Well, Laura, final comments? 15 seconds?

Laura Banks Reed:  Well, I just would like for your listeners to know that the, the compensation program does have limits for many of the expenses that it can pay, but the overall maximum is $25,000.

Len Sipes:  Okay. I want to thank you both for being on the program today. I think it’s an issue, victim services is an issue that’s very important to all three of us in this room and to our agency, so I thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, our guests today have been Bonnie Andrews; she is the Victim Services Program Manager for my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, Laura Banks Reed, she is the Director of the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program for the DC Superior Court, Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Victim Rights in the US and Europe-A US Constitutional Amendment-NOVA-DC Public Safety Radio

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Our guest back at our microphones, Will Marling, he is the Executive Director of the National Association for Victim Assistance, Today we’re going to be talking about victims’ rights, international activity on the part of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, and a constitutional amendment, our favorite topic. Will, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Will Marling: Thank you, Len, as always, wonderful to meet with you.

Len Sipes: Where do you want to start, Will? I mean I’m always interested in the constitutional amendment, so I’d like to start off with that. And just to refresh everybody’s memory, that we have somewhere in a ballpark of about 20, latter 20, 30 states out there that have constitutional amendments protecting victims’ rights, but there is no United States constitutional amendment that applies to federal crimes, correct?

Will Marling: That’s exactly right. Now, there are 33 of the 50 states have state constitutional amendments for victims’ rights, but at a federal level, there are none. And that contrast with upwards of 23 prescribed rights for those who are accused of a crime. But if you take that same crime where somebody is accused, and of course in our system we treat that as an accusation that needs to be tried and considered thoughtfully in a court of law, but in that same crime victimization, the victim of that same situation has no right to rights under the United States Constitution.

Len Sipes: Right. And the whole idea is to expand rights as they apply to federal crimes. But in particular, I’m going to make a leap and suggest that the states that don’t have constitutional amendments protecting victims’ rights, they will be further inclined to consider a constitutional amendment, their own constitutional amendment for victims’ rights, because of the fact that there’s now a federal constitutional amendment for victims’ rights. Am I right or wrong?

Will Marling: Well, certainly. I mean actually that’s a good insight that states constitutions could be amended – 17 states that don’t have it could be amended to include victims’ rights. I think the main push for us is that at a federal level, since we don’t have a victims’ rights amendment to the United States Constitution, we certainly have the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which as a federal act, does provide rights, and services, and provisions for federal crime victims, but of course that’s 5% or less of what goes on. Most crimes are tried at a state and local level. So a United States constitutional amendment would do two major things, two big things. One big thing is that, similar and parallel to the average citizen who might be accused of that crime, the process of providing protections under the law for that accused would be there, but also the victims. And so, just like we have things like Miranda that went all the way to the Supreme Court, we could also have, victims could argue their case under the Constitution. And secondly, another dimension that’s quite intriguing to us is that soldiers would also have victims’ rights. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, there are some legislative rights, just like there are even in non-constitutional states, but from the standpoint of victims’ rights, this would actually address that. A U.S. soldier who is a victim of a crime could also appeal to the United States Constitution as a victim to protect those liberties, for the rights of that victim.

Len Sipes: And where that’s really important are the accusations of rape and sexual assault against female members of the Armed Forces. So there, they certainly have protections that they never had before.

Will Marling: Well, that’s true, and just to kind of bring in a balance there, the military is 85% male, and so numerically actually sexual assault against men is the preponderance. Now, since there is a 15% female population in the military, sexual assault has a higher proportion against women, but sometimes people don’t actually recognize that men as well as women in the United States Military are being sexually assaulted. And of course, both need to be respected in the service, they need to have rights affirmed, and then they need to have fair just processes to protect them going forward.

Len Sipes: A very important clarification, something that did not come to mind. You’re doing victim assistance training, I remember from a radio show months back, for the Department of Defense, correct?

Will Marling: Well, yeah. The Department of Defense project that we’re working is actually certification. The Department of Defense has the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Office, it’s out of the Pentagon, and that office has been specifically tasked with dealing with the problem, the crime, of sexual assault. And we work with that entity to certify the victim advocates in the United States Military and those come under the moniker of the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program. Great, long military acronym as usual. But it’s an important one, because what we’re doing is we’re affirming standards of care for those advocates who are serving sexual assault victims in all branches of the military.

Len Sipes: Now, where are we with the constitutional amendment, any progress, any more support? I mean between the federal shutdown and debates over the Affordable Care Act, they seem to be busy with other things. Are they being supportive of…? Do they have additional members of…? The constitutional amendment starts off in the House, correct?

Will Marling: In this particular exercise and this particular strategy, we are working in the United States House of Representatives to start.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Will Marling: Under Article 5 of the Constitution, to amend the Constitution you could work through Congress first, either side. Both houses, both sides of Congress, have to amend, well, they have to approve by two thirds majority, any amendment to the Constitution, and then it would go to the states for ratification, three quarters of the states need to do that. You could start with the states and then work to Congress. We’re starting with the House of Representatives, because that’s the place that probably, from the standpoint of where we are, is maybe the biggest hill to climb.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Will Marling: But when we get that then we move forward.

Len Sipes: So you can start either in the House or the Senate, you just chose to start at the House?

Will Marling: We chose to start in the House in this particular context, just because of the current environment, the structure of the House at present; we felt it was a place to really address first. There’s been strong support historically anyway, for constitutional amendment in the Senate, and the last foray into this particular arena was started in the Senate. And so, yeah, it came two votes shy of cloture which was moving it to a vote, moving it out of committee, into a vote. And we just needed two votes to get it out and then to the floor, and there were forces at work, but that shows how much progress can be made.

Len Sipes: All right. So you were two votes short in committee in the Senate. I don’t mean to be too technical about this. So but for whatever reason you decide this time around to go in the House of Representatives to start there.

Will Marling: Right.

Len Sipes: Okay. How much support have you gotten?

Will Marling: Well, we’re currently quietly and carefully educating members of the House of Representatives. And what I would say is obviously it’s a big issue. To give perspective in any two year session of Congress. You can have between 12 and 14,000 bills presented.

Len Sipes: Right.

Will Marling: So between 2% and 4% of those pass. And when you’re talking about amending the Constitution, of course you’re talking about a smaller number. So we’re taking the time and giving the effort to going door to door in a sense, educating members, because they have so much that’s pulling at their attention, vying for their interest.

Len Sipes: Sure.

Will Marling: And so we just want to – we’re being very systematic in saying, “Here’s the amendment as it stands to propose. It’s House Joint Resolution 40. Give it some consideration. Let’s continue to educate-talk about the value that this represents, not only to the nation now, but to our posterity.”

Len Sipes: Well, are you encouraged? Do you think it’s going to go through this time? Do you think you’ll have enough support in the House? And consequently, do you think you’ll have the equal amount of support in the Senate?

Will Marling: Well, it’s about timing. We have, from the Senate side, Senate leadership I think has inferred and indicated that, “Hey, let’s see what you can do in the House side.” because that’s kind of a heavier lift, it’s a larger body of people, there are a lot more things at work, a lot of more issues at play. And if we can get through there then I think there’s a focus for the Senate to say, “Okay, there’s momentum, let’s work on it from our side.” In the House side, I would say I’m encouraged by the progress we’re making. I can’t specify for you specific benchmarks as such. It certainly can garner co-sponsorship and folks in your listening network who have the mind to look it up and contact their legislator to say in the House, “Hey, would you consider co-sponsoring House Joint Resolution 40?” We’re all for that. What we’re finding there are, as you mentioned right at the outset, there were a couple of big forces at work, including the shutdown and then the deliberations over the Affordable Care Act. So actually Congress, many parts of Congress, many would know here, because I’m in the Washington D.C. area too, people were working, there were things that were going on in Congress, and we did see some activity, and we were having conversations even then. So I’m encouraged, that’s how I would say. It’s a long slow deliberate process and of course timing is everything here, as you know, Len.

Len Sipes: Oh yeah. And it’s a bit of a risk because you’re starting off in the House, and the House; they only have two year tenures.

Will Marling: Well, that’s right.

Len Sipes: [OVERLAY] said that they have six year tenures.

Will Marling: Right.

Len Sipes: So you could find people who are supportive and they could be voted out.

Will Marling: Well, that’s right. But what our hope is in this particular term, if we can get the House to approve it, then if the House changes and we move over to the Senate to get approval, we’ve got that kind of momentum, as opposed to vice versa. Because you can educate, go to the Senate, maybe they approve it, then you have another election cycle, more changes, more education. And so we’re trying to play this smart.

Len Sipes: Constitutional amendments are extraordinarily rare. I mean everybody listening to this program needs to understand that. It’s difficult to get an amendment to the United States Constitution. There simply aren’t that many of them.

Will Marling: Well, that’s right. I mean, I don’t know what the average is. My speculation is they’re like 20 years at best, in terms of how often we amend the Constitution. And some would contend that amending the Constitution shouldn’t be done, or even very extremely rarely, and I agree. I mean my personal principal is, yeah, that’s true. It was not a perfect document, but a strong document. I’ve been reading about the early days of our Constitution and its founding. But at the same time, the founders wisely understood that it needs to be amended. And we know historically, there were important things to give citizens in this country a freedom, for one, and give other members of this society the right to vote, for another. And of course, if we didn’t have a process for amending, or if we didn’t make a commitment to amending, that would not have happened. So helping people understand by and large that victims of crime, those who are drawn into the systems, the justice systems of state, local, and as well federal government, without rights, they have no standing in that system under the law, they just don’t. They work for the government as such, as a witness, at best.

Len Sipes: And we understand that that’s fundamentally wrong, that victims of crimes should have constitutional protections at the federal level and in every state throughout the United States.

Will Marling: Well, that’s right. Because the average citizen, if you walked out on the street and just started interviewing people, and said, “Okay, if you’re accused of a crime, let’s say you’re arrested, what are your rights?” And most people, my kids, I’ve got teenagers, and they’d say, “We have the right to remain silent. And if you give up the right to remain silent – on, and on, and on.” Why? Because they’ve seen Miranda played out on television shows.

Len Sipes: Right.

Will Marling: If you turn around and say, “Okay, you’re the victim of that crime, what rights do you have?” They’re going to say, “Uh, well, uh, hmm, I’m not sure.” But that victim should have rights. Most people would contend that victims should have rights, because at the heart of it, they’re the one that experiences the brunt of the harm. And it’s always shocking for people to experience that firsthand, that, “Oh, I don’t have the rights I thought I did.”

Len Sipes: Well, I interviewed Lisa Spicknall, who is a victim’s advocate, and went through a tragic experience of having her own two children, infant children, murdered by a former husband, domestic violence and victim’s issue all rolled up into one. And as a victim’s advocate, that’s one of the things that she said very, very clearly, is that very few people understand that the criminal justice system is built around the offender not the victim.

Will Marling: That is exactly right. And our contingent is not to take away one right from the accused, at all. If I’m accused of a crime, under the Constitution, I want every protection, because I didn’t commit that crime, I’ve been falsely accused, and I want a deliberate consideration of the truth of that matter. At the same time, victims not having rights should change; because the treatment, the respect, the dignity, the right even to know what’s going on, is not a given in our society, believe it or not. The right to be told how this process is moving forward, how prosecution is interacting with the accused, in some sectors, you don’t have any right to any information about a case that applies directly to you.

Len Sipes: I just find that astounding. I, as a member of the criminal justice system for well over 40 years, I just find that astounding. But we’re more than halfway through the program. Let me reintroduce you, Will. Ladies and gentlemen, our guest today is Will Marling; he is the Executive Director for the National Association for Victim Assistance, On your website,, you’ll find information about the constitutional amendment and find information about victims’ rights. How many people does the National Organization for Victims Assistance on a yearly basis, Will?

Will Marling: Well, it depends on how you want to calculate that. We have a toll free victim assistance line, 800-trynova, and that is nationwide, North American as well, we get some Canadian calls, we also get an occasional international call, but we take about 6,000 victim assistance calls a year on that line, and as well, we take a number of victims’ assistance e-mails. We will tell people that I would let people know, we don’t do a lot of victims’ assistance over e-mails, specifically because e-mail is not secure…

Len Sipes: Right.

Will Marling: Especially in some contexts. You do not want a domestic violence victim communicating details that could be accessed by a perpetrator. And also, it’s just complex. We know we’d like to talk to people real time to ask meaningful questions that help get to the resources they need. But otherwise we do take those e-mails, and then of course we do a lot of training with advocates. So we feel like, as a network, we touch literally thousands of people beyond even our victims’ assistance [INDISCERNIBLE 00:16:14], because of the great network we have, incredible, incredible, people.

Len Sipes: Well, that is the heart and soul of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, the fact that you are all involved in certifying and training and assisting victims’ advocates throughout the United States. And that’s one of the reasons why you are certifying the victims’ advocates for the US Department of Defense.

Will Marling: That’s right. Yeah, I mean we’re extremely proud of that. It’s humbling; I will admit to you, because there’re so many that do such good work. We are one of other really good, viable, committed, national, and local, and state, victim assistance type organizations. But I’m honored to lead the organization that actually tends to be, has to be the oldest. And some of my European colleges indicated that they believe that they believe that Nova is the oldest victim assistance organization of its kind in the world, let alone the nation. But many good organizations have emerged after that. I sometimes say, in hopefully a humble way, that a good bit of Nova DNA actually does transmit out to many of the wonderful organizations that are at work today in this area.

Len Sipes: Well, what I’d like to joke about, and it’s really not a joke, and take it in all seriousness, is that as a member of criminal justice system for, again, over 40 years, and at the national and state level, when you got a call from Nova, you paid a lot of attention to whoever was on the end of the phone, because Nova carried a lot of clout. So Nova’s carrying a lot of clout internationally. Tell me about the international activities that Nova’s been involved in?

Will Marling: Yeah, we’ve been meeting with some international colleagues. And it’s a very informal process at the moment. We’ve established a small working group, two weeks ago, very recently, obviously, to this program. We met New York City. And representatives of Victims’ Support Europe as well as a group from Korea, there’s a crime victim assistance network there. We met in New York City, in Manhattan, near the United Nations, as a focal point to discuss how we could collaborate and raise the voice to victims internationally. And we’ve established what is simply called the Victims of Crime International. I know it’s not real creative, but…

Len Sipes: Oh, it’s very Google friendly.

Will Marling: Yeah, thank you. And for search engine optimization, we’re trying to be really functional. But what it represented is a working group, to bring together thoughts on how we can better organize, and of course, as an entity, pursue some funding that might help facilitate these conversations and collaborations internationally. The reality is that I even mentioned here, we have some growing to do, even with our own Constitution and victims’ rights. Europe is taking some leadership with a very recent directive that is probably one of the most powerful national, internationally – a European Union directive for victims’ rights and services, that touches all 28 member states in the European Union, and of course like 120 languages. And bringing those voices together with ours and with those in Asia, some really good victim services and victims’ rights being done in Asia, we believe the opportunity is ripe for us to join those and affirm really international standards for these kind of things, and an international commitment. Because in some countries the human rights is a consideration that should be on the table, let alone victim rights. So we believe the time is now really to enhance the needs of victims around the world.

Len Sipes: Here’s an observation. I don’t know if it’s true or not. I remember a lot of victims’ work decades ago being done through the United Nations. Now it seems as if the European Union is taking the lead in terms of international victims’ rights. Am I right or wrong?

Will Marling: Well, you’ve got some good observations. The United Nations has focused on victims’ rights, and it’s not specifically or solely focused on crime victims’ rights in that sector. They have different foci; they have different dimensions to that. They do have an area that focuses on crime victim related issues. But the European Union has demonstrated some very strong leadership in the past two years, specifically, related to this directive. Victim Support Europe has been functioning for 25 years. And so I think it’s a combination of both, that the United Nations has obviously large peace agenda items – I mean the issues of war and peace and the demands on them to try and facilitate those things are big – along with human rights and then the issues related to crime victims’ rights. So what I’m hoping happens is that it truly becomes synergistic and that it become collaborative, even at a EU, European Union, and United Nations, level.

Len Sipes: Now, what prompted the activities and the connections in terms of the European Union? I mean was it part of recognizing that Nova is the oldest organization in probably the world, in terms of protecting victims’ rights? Did they come to you on that basis or is there something spurring the development of victims’ rights? Is there a new victims’ rights movement in Europe that’s spurring this?

Will Marling: Both. Both of those were really keen observations, Len. The first thing was that, relationally, Nova and Victims Support Europe, we ended up kind of speaking at each other’s conferences, and talking, and getting to know one another. So there was this, I call it a providential relational overlap, where we said, “Oh, wow! You’re doing that and we’re doing this.” And we started kind of cross-collaboration and training. And that caused us to start talking more specifically about the similarities and differences with our works, but also the needs around the world. At the same time, the issue of victims’ rights has emerged. In July, no June, of this year, European Union leadership, as well as the US Attorney General, met in Dublin, Ireland before, I think it was the G8 summit or after, I can’t remember which. But they met and the agenda item specifically was victims’ rights in our two particular sectors, Europe and the United States. And so, yes, there is this focus right now, for whatever reason, on victims’ rights and services, and the importance they should have to both the United States and the European Union.

Len Sipes: I don’t want to get into a larger discussion of crime, but crime tends to go up and down. Not necessarily in the same percentages, but the trend lines seem to go up and down, regardless as to whether it’s the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the Western industrialized countries, Japan, I mean there are a lot trend lines that are similar. And I’ve noticed that the Bureau of Justice Statistics came out a couple of days ago and said that we now have had two consecutive years in a row of rising property and violent crime in the United States. So it seems to me that, possibly, because we’ve had coming off a 20 year decline overall, in terms of violent and property crime, that the issue of victims’ rights may have taken a bit of backseat, because the overall crime issue has taken a bit of backseat. But with rising crime, do you feel that that gives a greater emphasis, that places a greater emphasis, and the proper emphasis, back on victims’ rights?

Will Marling: Well, that could be true. I would track with you that there are these larger trends sometimes that are beyond even the more obvious things of financial declines or whatever. There are a number of forces, as I’ve read, that can create increases and decreases in crime rate. What I try to always bring in terms of my role as focusing on the needs and the voices of victims is that even when there’s a decline in the crime rate, there’s still a lot of victims.

Len Sipes: Oh, yes.

Will Marling: Even when it goes down. And of course we celebrate every percentage point that crime decline represents. At the same time, there are still profound needs that exist there. So I suspect that you’re right. My sense is that with a greater focus on the rates going up, that there’s greater media exposure, and some interest in this kind of story. And what are we going to do about it? What needs to be done about it? Of course, how can we affect, hopefully, a decline in the crime rate? And that could well be why we’re seeing that greater interest.

Len Sipes: One of the other topics that you want to talk about. Well, you’ve had some additional information on victims’ rights beyond the international and beyond the constitutional amendment, anything new there?

Will Marling: Well, internationally, the victims’ rights issues?

Len Sipes: No, no, no, I mean are there victims’ right issues that are coming up, bubbling up, in the United States that go beyond what we’ve talked about in terms of international activity, and go beyond what we’ve talked about in terms of the constitutional amendment?

Will Marling: Well, there certainly can be specific and isolated battles for just dignity and respect for victims. You worked for 40 years with law enforcement and you’re, in many ways I’ve told you, you’re my poster child for the kind of officer the victims would want to have and take that report because you have a sensitive concerned spirit, but you’re also extremely competent. Both of those things –

Len Sipes: But I think most of us in the criminal justice system are pro-victims. I think it’s the bureaucracy that simply gets in the way of treating victims as if they need, as they need to be treated. We’ve had cutbacks throughout the country in terms of law enforcement officers. We’ve had cutbacks throughout the country in terms of parole and probation agents. I mean we’ve had some police departments, some major police departments, where they’ve lost 30%, 40%, and in some cases in New Jersey, 50% of their police officers. When you’re struggling with cutbacks and you’re struggling with lack of manpower lack of person power, you don’t have a lot of time to give to victims of crime. So I think we are pro-victim, but I think at the same time there’s only so much time that you can give. And when you cut the time back that far, I think victims get hurt in the process.

Will Marling: You’re right. There’s no question about that. And when we take victim assistance calls here, and I try to do my part in assisting there, and use my expertise, but also contribute time to helping a victim on a victim assistance call, it’s not uncommon for me to try to educate them, it’s not an excuse for them, because when they’re struggling, they’re looking for help, and it’s hard to say to them, “That officer couldn’t give you as much time as you would’ve wanted.” Why? “Because they’re stretched thin.” At the same time, we try to educate on those very issues to give people context for the limitations of resources that might exist, and also to encourage our officers, and prosecutors, and the like, that even sometimes the smallest simplest declarations of respect and also control, small demonstrations of giving control, can make such a profound difference. We go back to the issue of trauma with victims. The cause of trauma primarily in folk, is when they lose control. And that control is beyond their capacity, either to respond to, or to react to. And then, when having lost control that has resulted in a loss of life, or an injury, or even finances, or as we many times say, the loss of innocence now, when we give them back an opportunity to control, that can be very therapeutic in their lives. And so it’s hard. You’re exactly right. When you’re stretched thin and you’re running from call to call – my heart goes out to these folks who are working so diligently, and it can be hard to be – exude more patience in that context. At the same time, I can encourage them that whenever even the smallest step of respect and control is offered, they might not know how big a difference that can make.

Len Sipes: Well, and I think that’s the message to all of us within the criminal justice system, is that we must reach down deep, and I know we’re busy, I know we’re running from call to call, I know parole and probation agencies have huge caseloads, I know correctional officers have huge caseloads; but all of us need to reach in deep and get beyond the moment, and realize that that’s somebody’s mother, that’s somebody’s father, that somebody’s brother or sister. I mean we really have to have some sympathy and provide some respect for the victims, as well as making sure that we protect the rights of victims, and that’s best done through a constitutional amendment.

Will Marling: You are spot-on. I couldn’t have said it better.

Len Sipes: I mean sometimes it takes that, it takes the law, it said, “Okay, it’s no longer optional, folks. It’s the law.”

Will Marling: That’s right.

Len Sipes: We must follow the law. So regardless of how busy we are, we need to adhere to the law and respect victims.

Will Marling: That’s right. But we live in rule of law society and that means that law is king. Not a person, law is king. And so we refer – what does the king say? The law as king says, “This is the way it is.” And until we really, we can say we believe so many things, we can say there are inalienable rights, but we have to articulate those in a constitutional sense, or a legal sense, at the very least, to say, “This is what matters to us.”

Len Sipes: Well, –

Will Marling: And that empowers the system.

Len Sipes: Well, you’ve got the final word, ladies and gentlemen; we’ve been talking to Will Marling. He is the Executive Director of the National Association for Victim Assistance., We appreciate your calls. We appreciate your e-mails. We even appreciate your comments and criticisms. And we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Cyber Safety-National Organization for Victim Assistance-DC Public Safety

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Back at our microphone is Will Marling. He is the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Will, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Will Marling: Len, thank you. It’s always great to be with you.

Len Sipes: Well, the show today is on cyber safety. We’ve done a variety of shows on cyber safety but two things first. What is the National Organization for Victim Assistance? I’ve been working with NOVA for well over three decades. So first of all, give me the overall view of what you have done in the past, and then I’m going to ask you why you got involved in cyber security.

Will Marling: Yeah, thanks. NOVA started in 1975. It came out of the Victims Rights and Services Movement, and it stands as the oldest National Victim Assistance Organization of its kind in the nation. So we’ve been involved in crime and crisis, and serving those harmed by those two issues. Of course criminal justice is our specific focus here, and dealing with criminal victimization and victim assistance, and so that really is the heart of what we’ve done. We work with victim advocates and training. We also of course want to educate political leaders and community leaders on policy issues related to the needs of victims. So that is our core, that is our history, and it remains as such even as we move into the cyber age.

Len Sipes: And the core has been garden-variety street crimes, rapes, robberies, burglaries, those sorts of things, violent crime. That’s been the principle point of NOVA, and NOVA acting as an advocacy organization for victims of crime, and anybody who hears this show can simply contact and they will be assisted, correct?

Will Marling: That’s exactly right, yeah. They can go to our website. We try to have a healthy amount of information on there but we also have a toll-free victim assistance number – that’s 800-879-6682 – and for victims specifically, we would rather they just call us if they’re able to because email itself, you know, it’s not efficient when talking about the complexities of criminal victimization.

Len Sipes: I agree.

Will Marling: And it’s not secure, quite frankly, for especially people at risk, domestic violence victims and the like.

Len Sipes: I agree.

Will Marling: So that’s why we encourage that, you know, when they get to a safe place, to give us a call, and we’re happy to help them.

Len Sipes: We’ll give that number again — 800-879 –?

Will Marling: Yeah. 800-879-6682

Len Sipes: — 6682.

Will Marling: And that’s 800-trynova. 800-T-R-Y-N-O-V-A.

Len Sipes: Okay. Why did NOVA get involved in cyber security?

Will Marling: Cyber security, cyber safety, came on our radar really about three years ago, a little over three years ago, when we started taking calls and we were getting victim assistance calls in this arena. It started with kind of identity theft and some other things, and we were looking at this issue not really knowing how to help people directly, not knowing what to do with them specifically.  We had some idea but, you know, it’s a complex issue, and we moved into that arena and we started training up ourselves, our staff, and then training victim advocates out in the field. We go out and we provide training on victim assistance, cyber crime remediation techniques, and then we’ve moved into an education of consumers as well because we know that we need to get on the front end of this and not just deal with the back end of it because of the scale.

Len Sipes: Everybody has cell phones, everybody has computers, everybody has tablets, or a lot of people have a combination of those, and so these devices are not part and parcel to our lives, and when we use them, we place ourselves at risk.

Will Marling: We do. I want to keep it in perspective because I don’t want to create an unnecessary sense of fear. It’s awareness of risk just like anything we do but what people don’t realize is for us, we kind of principlize these things to help people get their head around them because it can get murky especially for people who aren’t tech-savvy or tech-focused but we are today, we are our data. You are your data, and that means that we have to think about ourselves as electronic bits. When we start thinking about it like that, then that kind of changes our perspective about how we protect ourselves in this arena with technology.

Len Sipes: Well, it’s extraordinarily complex because I consider myself as tech-savvy as the next person and yet it confuses me to no end, and I’ll give an example in a little while about how one of my websites – I can’t give it out doing this broadcast – but one of my personal websites was hacked and I had to go through a process of getting it unhacked, and it was a real pain in the tuckus. But before getting to that, before getting to a larger discussion on cyber security, I always am interested in NOVA’s take on the Constitutional amendment, a U.S. Constitutional amendment for victims of crime. There are a wide variety of state constitutions that have amendments for victims of crime, not all of them. I think the last time we discussed it, it was like 32, 33 states have state constitutional amendments, but there is a need for a United States Constitutional amendment for victims of crime. Can you give me a two-minute summation as to where we are regarding that?

Will Marling: Sure, and thanks for asking about that. It’s is an important issue for the nation. House Joint Resolution 40 was introduced into the House of Representatives during National Crime Victims Rights Week, the third week of April of this year, and House Joint Resolution 40 is a proposed Constitutional amendment for victims’ rights. So with the introduction of that amendment – or, I’m sorry, with that resolution – there was a hearing, and it’s kind of the basic I don’t want to say perfunctory but in a sense that’s where it has to start, and then it’s going to need to move from there. So we are currently seeking co-sponsors in the House of Representatives who would sign up to co-sponsor that and to build momentum. You know, we both live in the Washington, D.C., area, we work here, and so you kind of get a sense of this. Other people certainly who track would know this as well but it really is – there are over 10,000 bills that are introduced in any Congressional session, and so people think it might be the greatest but that doesn’t mean anybody even knows about it because there are so, so many bills that can be introduced. So what we’re trying to do is educate our Congressional leaders on the bill that is as a resolution, and then have them sign on as co-sponsors so that we can build momentum and move it forward.

Len Sipes: Okay, so it’s starting in the House.

Will Marling: It’s starting in the House, that’s right.

Len Sipes: And I would imagine if there’s any non-partisan issue out there, it’s going to be protection of victims of crime.

Will Marling: It’s a totally bi-partisan issue if you’re talking politics. For the rest of us who aren’t representatives, it’s a non-partisan issue, and it touches every aspect of society. A simple primer on this is if you get accused of a crime in this country, you could have up to 23 protections that you could seek as rights for justice of your case. If you’re the victim of that very same crime, under the Constitution, the United States Constitution, you have no rights and yet you’ll be drawn into that system most likely as a witness or trying to track it in the justice process because of yourself or your loved one who was harmed, and so we believe that it is clearly appropriate to address this from a Constitutional level.

Len Sipes: And something that would apply to the federal criminal justice system but in a sort of a de facto way would eventually apply to all the rest of the states that do not have constitutional amendments, or their constitutional amendments are not as strong as a U.S. Constitutional amendment.

Will Marling: That’s right. Yeah, that’s exactly right, and I would add one key area is the military because the military, you know, sexual assault is a big issue.

Len Sipes: A huge issue.

Will Marling: It’s being discussed right now and it’s very important that we should be discussing it but most people don’t understand that specific to this issue under the Military Code of Justice that there are not victims’ rights as such, so this would afford a very important population that we all respect —

Len Sipes: A very good point.

Will Marling: Yeah, and they would fall under that category as well.

Len Sipes: That’s a very good point.

Will Marling: So it touches every American.

Len Sipes: And I thank you for that segue. Okay, let’s get back to cyber safety. Somewhere along the line, I do want to do an update, an entire show on the Constitutional amendment for victims’ rights because I think it’s so extraordinarily important, but back to cyber safety. Again, I go back to what I said before – all of us are electronically connected. Our grandparents are now on Facebook, they have computers, they have cell phones, they have smart phones.  The last data that I saw, that smart phones now exceed feature phones or regular phones, and I think now 60% of all phones in the United States are smart phones. They are the equivalent of the computer sitting on my desk just a couple years ago. They are that powerful. So now we have implications, we have real implications in terms of our day-to-day lives as to the devices that we have, and it strikes me that as we go through a 20-year decline in crime in terms of the crimes reported to law enforcement and as reported by the FBI and the National Crime Survey done by the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice, basically if you take a look at the last 20 years, there’s been an overall decline in crime. I know it’s blipped up slightly this year in terms of FBI data but while that’s been going down, cyber crime has been going up, and I’m not quite sure that anybody has any real idea as to how much it’s increased over the course of the last 5, 10 years.

Will Marling: Yeah. It’s a difficult statistic to track specifically because it’s not tracked. It’s not part of uniform crime reporting unless it falls under a category that is already there. So if it’s, you know, some kind of bank fraud and then attached to it is the use of a cyber tool, then that could be part of it, but in terms of good, consistent data, we know we have to extrapolate from a lot of different sources, and there are good sources but they’re showing that it’s a huge problem, and the FBI would affirm that.

Len Sipes: Well, I think the FBI and everybody else who’s been measuring it would affirm it. Okay, so on a personal note, I have a website, and I can’t give out the website address because I can’t mix personal with federal, but it received malware. I had to clean it up. I had to have somebody go in and be sure that it was cleaned up, and that cost me more than a little bit of money, and now it’s clean and up-and-running, and I won’t get into the details of that but I was hacked. My website was hacked. They had malicious malware installed on the site, and it was brought to my attention, and like I said, I had to go through more than just a couple of dollars to get it cleaned up. So, I mean, this happens to us all! I have this conversation with my wife about electronic banking. I can’t talk about the specifics and I shouldn’t be talking about the specifics – I’ll give out one, Google Wallet – but all the different internet providers have a version of Google Wallet so I’m just not promoting them, whereby you can take care of all of your monetary transactions from your smart phone, from your computer, from your tablet. Banks have them as well.  And I’m always concerned, very concerned, about having my entire financial history either hacked by somebody because I or my wife uses a WiFi shared by lots of other people and they can easily get into our data and they can easily get into our pass codes, or we would lose the phone, or lose the tablet, or somebody would break into our house and steal the computer. They just don’t have our photos, they just don’t have our documents, they have our financial history.

Will Marling: That’s right, and you know one of the principles is if it’s convenient for you in terms of use, it’s probably convenient for a perpetrator to access, and we have to think differently about this. For instance, we encourage people with this principle: if it has a lock, use it. Use it. 33% – and it varies depending on who the population is – but cell phones, smart phones, have a lock-screen on them, and 30% to 33% of people don’t actually use that.

Len Sipes: I’m sorry, 33% don’t use it or do use it?

Will Marling: Don’t – don’t use it.

Len Sipes: Oh, I thought the majority didn’t use the locks.

Will Marling: Well, people are getting smarter but that’s still 1 out of 3 just on that issue so that tells you that just from something so basic as locking our phone. Now when we think about all of our physical keys, Len, I mean, do you have one key that unlocks your office, your car, your house, your bank?

Len Sipes: Nope. Nope.

Will Marling: No! We have multiple keys. Why? – Because we want to make it a little more complex than having a master key but what happens is – and this is kind of that password thing – password attitudes are, “Well, it’s a master key.” We use the password for everything, or we use the same email address as the identity, and we’ve just simply got to change that. Why do we do that? – Well, it’s convenient. Why do we need to change it? – We need to create a little bit of inconvenience for ourselves, yes, but more so for a potential perpetrator.

Len Sipes: The bottom line is that we’re making it ridiculously easy for people to rip us off.

Will Marling: That’s it! That’s it.

Len Sipes: By weak passwords, by not locking our phones, by not locking our tablets, by having, again, weak passwords in terms of our computers.

Will Marling: That’s right, and so it really is changing our thinking. I believe we can do that because once we realize that it doesn’t have to be always this complex and always this inconvenient, but sometimes it’s just changing our behavior slightly like, you know, I quickly now unlock my phone. It automatically locks after a minute. I can quickly unlock it. Is it an inconvenience? – Well, only slightly because I don’t think anything about it now. It’s rote muscle memory, and so boom, I unlock it.  We had a phone that was lost by actually the repair company that was fixing it, and that’s a completely separate irritating story. It’s my teenage son’s phone that we had repaired and they lost it, and you know it was interesting that his reaction to that, he immediately got the implications of somebody having his phone. He was concerned that they would put information on his, you know, Instagram and social networking information and this kind of thing. I mean, he was far more concerned about that threat to his personal information as he was to the actual device. I, of course, was thinking about both because these devices, you know, can cost us some money.  But there is this emotional concern, and it’s an understandable one, and when we get that as a victim assistance organization, we get that this stuff creates trauma for people and that’s why we’re always very validating. – And in our world today, quite honestly, sometimes when people hear about a cyber crime, they call it a white-collar crime or a paper crime as if it’s less harmful, and quite frankly we’ve dealt with victims of these things that their lives have been absolutely destroyed.

Len Sipes: Yeah, and that’s a big part of it that we’re not recognizing.

Will Marling: That’s right.

Len Sipes: But let me re-introduce you, Will. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re halfway through the program, Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance – www.trynova. org. – 800-879-6682. 800-879-6682 for the National Association for Victim Assistance.  We’re doing a show today on Cyber Safety but what we’re talking about is fraud. We’re talking about personal safety. We’re talking about child safety. We’re talking about computer safety, and when I say computer safety, your Smartphone is a computer. Your tablet is a computer. It’s just as powerful as the PC that sat on my desk just a couple of years ago. So we’re talking about a brand new day and age and, you know, when we are talking about the old issues, Will, years ago regarding the National Organization for Victim Assistance, the solutions would be ridiculously simple. The most burglaries happened through unlocked doors and unlocked windows. When they used forced entry, the locks were inadequate or the doors were inadequate. So it was close your doors, close your windows, put on decent locks, take the key with you from car because a large percentage of car thefts involved keys in the vehicle.  So there were very, very, very simple types of explanations that helped you stay safe. There were simple explanations in terms of violent crime, that most rapes happened, the perpetrator knew you, you knew the perpetrator, and often times they happened at residential settings which means the victim often times willingly went into the house of somebody else or invited somebody into their house so the point was don’t do those sort of things unless you absolutely know and trust the person.  Does it become that simple in terms of cyber security? I know lock your computer, put on a strong password or pass code – those are the simple steps that people can take that really do help protect them from cyber security. Are there others?

Will Marling: Well, I would affirm what you’re saying that we can start with the basics and that is important. The unique dimension of the cyber world, of course, is that we can be attacked by somebody who lives 10,000 miles away while we’re sleeping. It happens overnight, just like you were describing with your website. So yes, it starts with that. More sophisticated criminal activity can result in sophisticated harm for victims just like with actually some violent crimes and other physical crimes. One thing I want to affirm in the process here is we separate out, like cyber crime is its own thing, and it’s whatever we want to say to the mystery of it, you know. We see the outcome. People think it’s just about lost money. The reality is that cyber crime is also used as a tool to create harm in other ways including violent crime. I talked with a woman who, as a professional victim advocate, she informed me that somebody had assumed her identity on Facebook and built a relationship with a man, and he came to her house and sexually assaulted her.

Len Sipes: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

Will Marling: Yeah, so there’s an identity theft, there’s a Facebook engagement, and then there’s a sexual assault, and she was telling me this, and I’m a seasoned professional like you, and I was working hard to keep my jaw up. Having thought that I had heard everything, this was standing in front of me. So there are risks there. I’m not trying to raise an alarm as if this is happening to everybody but it does happen, and so let’s start with the basics. Let’s, if it has a lock on our device, use it because this is the one day that we get out of the car and we drop the phone, and the wrong person picks it up, you know.

Len Sipes: Okay, we have an issue with personal information given out on Facebook, given out on other social media sites. I’m told by some pretty knowledgeable people that they no longer run algorithms to figure out your pass codes. Your pass codes can easily be figured out by what you place on your Facebook page and other social media sites. Sometimes we simply give up too much information on our social media sites. The best example of that is, “Bye, everybody. We’re heading out to Cancun for the next two weeks. We’ll talk to you when we get back.” If that’s not an invitation to go and burglarize that house, I don’t know what is.

Will Marling: Well, that’s exactly right, and we’re putting information on, as you described, at too high a levels, and people don’t realize what personal information means. Since perpetrators many times know that people use their pet’s name as a password, for instance, when you put your pet’s name on your Facebook page or your social networking site, you’re giving them that much more. There are algorithms as well but we also address the low-hanging fruit.  Since perpetrators know that if they hack an account – let’s say they hack a database of emails and they get passwords – they will find out where else you might have accounts and they’ll start with using that same information because a good percentage of people do that. That’s why we say, you know, not the same lock. Use a different pass code. And a simple tip, if I could give that since we’re talking about this?

Len Sipes: Please.

Will Marling: You can change your password for every account. You just need to use the right code in your own thinking. For instance, if you create a 10-number/symbol core password, and maybe it’s the first letters of your kids’ names and dates of birth in there all mixed up but you’ve memorized that, that becomes your core, and then you change the front and the back as it’s associated with a new account.  Just to be simple here by illustration, let’s say you have a Gmail account, so you can start with capital G on your password, your core of 10, and then at the end capital L. So you know you always have the core, but in every account you go to, you know that then if it’s a Yahoo, it starts with a capital Y and then the last word is capital – Yahoo – O. So you never actually have to remember anything more than your core because your account triggers, “Okay, I always do this with every new account.” So every password is different but every password is similar. You see how that works?

Len Sipes: Two-factor identification was introduced by Google and it really is wonderful. – And I’m not going to try to explain two-factor identification beyond the fact that once you’ve entered into two-factor identification, and they send you that code through your phone and you plug it in, it reads the cookies of your site so it doesn’t ask it for you again but so that means every time somebody comes into your Google accounts or your email or anything else, if you have Gmail, then that person not only needs a password, they need two.

Will Marling: Yeah.

Len Sipes: And Twitter and other organizations are starting to introduce two-factor identification.

Will Marling: Yep, and two-factor identification of course can be helpful. In the meantime, we’re recommending in dealing with this that people change, they have a different password for every account, and of course that’s when this discussion is, “Oh, I’ll never remember,” and hence the tip I’m giving – figure out the pattern that you want to use. The thing is a long password will be hacked eventually if somebody wants to camp on it or run a high-powered device to figure out what the password is but nobody’s going to bother because there’s so much low-hanging fruit with password as P-A-S-S-W-O-R-D and that kind of thing that, you know, people aren’t bothering.  So we tell people, “Well, raise your fruit. Just do even simple things to make yourself a little less obvious, a little less vulnerable.” You know, there are certain places in town that, you know, I wouldn’t go there at 2 o’clock in the morning, there are no street lights available, I don’t feel safe there. You know, you’d make a choice. And so it’s the similar parallel – let’s just make some choices to change our patterns.

Len Sipes: Well, in terms of the garden-variety of crime that we dealt with previously in terms of National Organization for Victim Assistance, it was, you know, the simple steps can keep you safe. They can dramatically increase the odds of you not being victimized by crime. The same message applies in terms of cyber safety.

Will Marling: That’s right. We commonly tell people too, especially with this data era that we’re in – and it’s different with that because of, like I said, the connectedness that we have – but we tell people when asked for – so people say, “I want some information from you,” it’s okay to ask them, “What for? Why are you asking for that?”  I go to hotels, I travel a lot, I check in, I’ve made a reservation or I might have prepaid – I want them to verify my identity but I don’t want them to take my driver’s license and make a color photocopy and stick it in a little plastic file box on the front counter, and that’s what I’ve experienced. I tell them, “I won’t let you do that.” Why? Because you’ve just taken that, and I ask them, “Why do you need to do that?” “Well, it’s just what we do here.” “Well, not with me. I’m not giving you a color digital copy of my driver’s license for somebody to steal.”  And when you ask for, we need to move into an age, without being belligerent, but we need to say, “Okay, since this is my stuff,” like if somebody said, “I want to borrow your car,” we would say, “Well, what are you going to do with it? Are you insured? When are you going to return it to me?” Or in the digital age, “How are you going to delete or destroy it when you’re done with it?” – And we/re not asking those questions.

Len Sipes: We only have a couple minutes left. The other part of it is that when somebody contacts you, regardless of what organization they say they’re from – and we all get these emails – then to disregard that email. Don’t go back and use them as contact points. But if your bank sends you an email, just go to the number in terms of looking it up on the computer or calling directory assistance. Call them up and say, “Okay, I supposedly have this email from you. What’s up with this?” Do not use the information provided to do the transaction. Call the organization directly through another channel.

Will Marling: That’s right. Yeah, that’s the age-old phishing but quite frankly, it still works. We’re a National Victim Assistance Organization, Len, and we get people that try to scam on a regular basis.

Len Sipes: Yes. Yes. Yeah.

Will Marling: It’s interesting.

Len Sipes: Just do not willy-nilly give out information just because somebody is asking for it.

Will Marling: That’s exactly right. Ask, “Okay, what do you want it for?” –Because we need to actually verify who’s on the other end of just a phone or an email. There are ways to trace emails, by the way. We can’t address that here but mostly, you know, if people are asking for something, they don’t really need to have it or they wouldn’t be asking, actually.

Len Sipes: Yeah. Well, that’s true but the weird part about it is the fact that I’ve been in the criminal justice system for over four decades. I am as cynical as a cynic could possibly be after 40 years in the criminal justice system and yet I was three-quarters of the way through filling out a form and realizing it was fraudulent, and I was just, “Oh, my God, what am doing? Am I an idiot?” So if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody.

Will Marling: Yeah. Well for one, Len, I’ve known you for a few years now, and you are not a cynical guy. You’re skeptical.

Len Sipes: Okay, skeptical, skeptical.

Will Marling: There’s a difference because you have that hopeful spirit that we can get stuff done, which is why you have me on, which I appreciate. But, you know, the skepticism is a bit of what we need. There is nothing wrong with being a bit skeptical especially with strangers, unknown email, blank cold calls. We’re allowed to ask questions so let’s do it.

Len Sipes: All right. Will Marling, Executive Director for the National Organization for Victim Assistance, you had the final word. 800-879-6682. 800-879-6682.  What we talked about today is use good passwords. Lock your portable devices. Lock your computers. Do not provide personal information on social media sites. Change those passwords for every account that you have, and don’t comply with every request for information over the internet.

Ladies and gentlemen, we appreciate your calls, we appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


A Constitutional Amendment for Crime Victim Rights-NOVA-DC Public Safety

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Back at our microphones, Will Marling, he is the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance – – We’re going to be dealing with a variety of victims’ issues in the United States, number one, an upcoming Constitutional amendment, something that NOVA has been pursuing for quite some time. We’re going to be talking about mass shootings throughout the country and victim response, and we’re going to be talking about victim trauma, and Will, I can’t imagine three more complicated, more difficult issues to talk about. Let’s talk off with the Constitutional amendment. This is something that is near and dear to the heart of the victims’ community because there are a variety of state constitutional amendments that provide protection to victims of crime but there’s nothing at the federal level, correct?

Will Marling: Len, thank you so much for have me on. You are exactly right. 23 prescribed rights for the accused in our Constitution, our United States Constitution, all of which are very appropriate. We need to pursue justice thoughtfully, deliberately. Someone accused of a crime needs to have that level of justice applied to their situation. We want the guilty convicted and the innocent not; but there are zero rights for victims in the United States Constitution, and we think the balance needs to be adjusted there. There’s not one right for victims in the United States Constitution.

Len Sipes: How many states have Constitutional amendments now, Will?

Will Marling: Thirty-three.

Len Sipes: Okay, so there are 33 states out there with Constitutional amendments. Embodied within the state Constitutions are very specific protections for victims of crimes, correct?

Will Marling: That’s exactly right, and you’ll see a parallel to commonly the accused rights, for instance appropriate due process related to the trial, communication, an understanding of proceedings – very similar rights that we would offer to the accused of course in the course of justice, we believe, and the states also acknowledge that victims should have that level of right as well.

Len Sipes: And do you know, considering that those of us in the criminal justice system, we come into contact with victims all the time, it is profound to me that victims need Constitutional provisions that somewhere along the line, starting back in the 1970s, there was simply a recognition that the criminal justice system did not really take victims’ issues into consideration, that we basically ignored the victim. The victim was supposed to be this anonymous entity off to the side. We were supposed to plug them into the criminal justice process when necessary by taking information, by bringing them into court and having that person testify, but beyond that, there was no real recognition of the rights of the victim of crime, the rights to information, the rights to being properly, the right to be kept informed as the proceedings went down the line. I mean, it’s pretty clear that at a certain point victims were almost, shall I say, disrespected by the criminal justice system.

Will Marling: Well, that’s a fair statement. The balance that I would offer – and your insights are very true. They reflect a seasoned professional law enforcement professional who’s been part of this process and worked with many victims. Historically, just a very simple historical primer, basically historically, victims themselves were charged with prosecuting the case, and of course that made the system very balanced toward people who had the resources to do that so the state too, on that burden. The state said, okay, this isn’t fair especially for people who don’t have the resources. It’ll now be the state versus the accused, the state versus the perpetrator. Well when you have that, the victim actually was assumed to be a part of the process but was not official unless the victim was testifying on behalf of the state; the victim was a witness for the state. So in one sense in wanting to think positively or at least looking at it from an expected angle, the victims were excluded but not intentionally. But what we’ve realized over the years is we’re a rule of law society. We inculcate into a written document, whether that’s state code or federal code or the United States Constitution, we inculcate in that what we believe. So we say, you know, “We hold these things to be self-evident,” whatever they are, and we have of course prescribed ones but that’s what’s missing. Most people when asked, “Well, do you have rights as a victim,” even under the Constitution, you know, it’s as high as like 80% will say, “well, yeah” because their assumption is that that will be the case. In reality it’s not the case so it’s not just not the fact.

Len Sipes: And because that is the heart and soul of it, regardless as to how individuals in the criminal justice system feel regarding victims’ issues, regarding how society feels about victims’ issues, they need to be, as you say, inculcated. They need to be in writing. They need to be within the body of law, and that’s the whole idea behind a national or a federal Constitutional amendment. In the same way that we amend the United States Constitution for any other issue, which is a long, drawn-out, very complicated process. It’s not easy to amend the United States Constitution. But we feel at this stage of the game that we need those rights articulated within the United States Constitution so that everybody within the federal criminal justice system and consequently the state criminal justice system honors the rights of victims.

Will Marling: You are spot on. I mean, I could not say it better. You’ve articulated exactly what we believe we need to do, and in reality, judges, lawyers, whoever is at work in the system, even a police officer, as you know, is going to look at the law. They’re going to look at what is written. So we might say, “Well, I’m sympathetic to your situation, ma’am or sir, but under the law, this is what I’m obligated to do.” You know, so we could argue about the right thing to do for victims and, you know, in reality many people in the system would say, “Yes, I see your point, I believe you, but I am obligated by law to do certain things,” and that’s what need to change. The recent history issue is we have 33 states with Constitutional amendments, as I mentioned. We also now have a really good test case, which is the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, okay, that’s a federal statute within the past ten years, and so we’ve learned from that. The equivocation for an amendment during that period was, okay, we don’t want to amend the Constitution casually, of course who can but having amended it, what are the implications? Well, we couldn’t get it amended so folks said, “Well, why don’t you try this at a federal level? Work on a statute and see what happens.” Well, we’ve been working that statute and we’ve discovered that giving victims rights at a federal level works, and the states have learned this. It doesn’t break the bank. It affirms things that we know to be true, and it gives people respect because they have rights, and of course enforcement of any right is always an issue in a free society but we have that data.  So some people might argue, “Well, we shouldn’t amend the Constitution because it’s just not meant to be amended” and I would say, “Well, rarely is it.” I think James Madison said that, “Rarely are we to amend it” but we can amend it and sometimes should, and this is a case where we’ve learned that victims under the law, even a federal statute, even under state statutes, even under 33 state Constitutional amendments, victims still are not treated with respect. It’s not enough. It hasn’t done the job.

Len Sipes: So the whole idea is that, well, first of all let me clarify that there is a federal law now that deals very specifically with the rights of crime victims, and that applies to the federal criminal justice system, the state criminal justice systems, or both?

Will Marling: It only applies to federal victims, yeah. The Crime Victims Rights Act only applies to official federal victims.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now the whole idea behind doing a Constitutional amendment would to, again, apply to the federal criminal justice system, the state criminal justice systems, or both?

Will Marling: Well, a United States Constitutional Amendment represents the law of the land.

Len Sipes: Right.

Will Marling: So certainly it can be argued, when you have a federal statute or a United States Constitutional issue, there are lower-court issues and decisions and the process that goes through but there is ultimately an appeal to the highest court in the land. Victims don’t have that standing. The only standing they have – and I’m not minimizing our appreciated commitment by states to do this – but ultimately they can only go to the state level. Now let me give you an example of where that’s a problem. You are an Ohio resident, and under Article 10 you have victim’s right. You go across the state line to Pennsylvania and you are a crime victim. Let’s say it’s a serious harm, whatever that is, and under Pennsylvania, you don’t have crime victim’s rights. I’m not minimizing state statutes and commitments at that level, of course, but you can’t appeal to the – you can’t even appeal under a Constitutional amendment to Pennsylvania to say, “Hey, I’m being mistreated,” and it didn’t happen in Ohio where you do have rights. So even just on the borders, the amendments for each state are different. They’re similar but different so it’s a patchwork. Enforcement is different. California is kind of our gold standard for victim’s rights under what’s called Marsy’s Law but again, you go across the border to another state and what are you going to have? You don’t even know.

Len Sipes: It’s a different set of circumstances. Now my question is this, will a federal Constitutional Amendment apply to the states and make it uniform, victim’s rights uniform throughout the entire country? – So it would apply to the federal government, and will it apply in a de facto to state government as well?

Will Marling: Well, yes. It should bring conformity, appropriate conformity, because commonly what do the states want to do when it’s a federal issue and a federal Constitutional issue; there is compliance at that level. So we have this thing called “Miranda,” and my kids, I’ve got teenagers, and they know what Miranda is because they’ve seen enough cop shows. Well, Miranda started with a traffic stop kind of thing and went all the way up. Well, every state in the union now talks about Miranda and works to apply it at some level in the state.

Len Sipes: And I think this is a fairly complicated subject for a lot of people who are listening to the program today because the Constitutional rights were gradually incorporated into state law piece by piece by piece by Supreme Court decisions so the Constitutional rights say in terms of a speedy trial, the Constitutional rights in terms of search-and-seizure were gradually incorporated into state law through a variety of Supreme Court decisions over the course of several decades so that’s why I’m asking. Will it take on that process again if we have a Constitutional Amendment to protect victim’s right or do you think it will be automatically adjusted and inculcated and adopted by the states that do not have a Constitutional Amendment, or maybe states that have Constitutional Amendments that are not nearly as stringent as a federal Constitutional Amendment to protect victim’s rights. It’s a legal question but it goes back to the history of the nationalization of the Bill of Rights.

Will Marling: Yeah, again, you’ve hit an important issue. I would say – and I’m not speaking as a lawyer. I’m speaking as a citizen who’s thinking about my children’s future, and I am not kidding about that. This is as much about the future of our nation and the future of my kids and my potential grandkids. Will it take hold immediately? – Not likely because being in a free society, we have different values and perspectives and we argue those out in courts of law. So what would happen most likely is that we’d have this Constitutional Amendment and somebody would challenge it at some level, which is all part of the process, and through the course of a local court proceeding or a state court proceeding or a federal court proceeding and then a Supreme Court proceeding, we finally get a rendering and then we make a decision. What could that mean? It could mean ten years. But again, in human history, it’s important.

Len Sipes: Let me see if I can summarize it. It sets the stage to take rights for crime victims and to – it sets the stage for the incorporation of rights for crime victims in every state and every territory throughout the United States. Am I right or wrong?

Will Marling: You’re right. I mean, it affirms that we all believe in rights, for one. Potentially it could help states that want still their own crime victim’s rights in their state Constitutions to embrace those, but it would also give another measure of protection for every citizen of the United States including the United States Military, that’s these —

Len Sipes: And considering all – go ahead, please.

Will Marling: No, that was enough because you’re asking great questions.

Len Sipes: No, no, no. I’m just thinking to the second topic of today’s program, mass shooting, and we’re going to take a break to reintroduce you in a couple minutes, but the issue of crime and the issue of victimization, as we speak there are hearings going on in Capitol Hill talking about mass shootings, talking about what can be done so this is a very timely topic. The issue of crime and victims, and respect of crime victims, is now taking center stage after being absent for quite a few years and so there obviously does seem to be a need to reemphasize the rights of crime victims not just at the state level but at the national level. Now seems to be the time. Again, am I right or wrong?

Will Marling: I would agree with you that there seems to be a coalescence or energies and focus and efforts. My simple testament to this is I had to kind of come to this myself. I not only had to be educated but you know, I wasn’t excited necessarily about amending the Constitution. It’s served well. We know it needs to be amended. But then I realized in thinking through it personally and then listening to very seasoned legal scholars in the victim’s rights world that we inculcate what matters. So some would say, “Well, it’s just policy and it’s just what goes on in Washington,” and of course I could understand that because I was kind of thinking that way in the beginning for me but then I realized no. We articulate in that Constitution what we believe is important. Rights are important and then it comes down.  So the Constitution is a reflection of our cultural commitments, and our cultural commitments are reflected in our Constitution, and that’s why we need both. We can’t just change the Constitution. I would suggest that the discussions about this violence also reflect a need to discuss cultural change but that’s just kind of general out there, I mean, things need to change. Well, that’s not really helpful, it’s just too general. Well, we can start with a discussion, a national discussion about, “Well, do these people even have rights after this has happened? What is their legal standing?” And then let’s talk about how we respect them, and then let’s keep going. How do we protect people? The number one thing that everybody agrees upon is community, public safety, and security. – Everybody. You know, you poll anybody and the most violent gang member wants to live in a safe community.

Len Sipes: Everybody wants to live in a safe community, but let me reintroduce you. We’re more than halfway through the program. Ladies and gentlemen, today we’re talking to Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance – – The National Organization for Victim Assistance has been around for decades. When I first entered the criminal justice system, there NOVA was, and we always paid a lot of attention to NOVA because it seems as if the victims’ community carries a certain moral authority to the rest of us within the criminal justice system in terms of how we should be treating people. So Will, let me get back and ask also, before we get on to the issue of the mass shootings, you know, the chances for a Constitutional Amendment happened, again, it’s extraordinarily difficult to modify the United States Constitution. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest chance, what do you think the possibilities are of actually getting a Constitutional Amendment? Do you have the people within the House and the Senate and the White House lined up behind it?

Will Marling: Well, we need to line them up, I will acknowledge that. We’re on the front end of a new phase of synergy here; I will acknowledge that as well. We have attempted this a couple other times, and actually we came quite close, and that’s just with a grass roots impetus, with just people just giving grit. There is some indication that, again, from the coalescing standpoint, we have a commitment of resources and expertise and capacity that, all things being equal – and you’ll probably hate me as a journalist for this kind of response – but all things being equal, I think it’s a 10. Now, can I predict all those things to be equal? – Ah, no. But based upon what you’ve already described and what I know about the momentum that we can generate in this particular Congressional session, and the needs that victims have that have come to the forefront, and the commitment of some in our community – and I mean that specifically the victim’s community – to put forward significant resources, time, and energy, I believe – I’m a little idealistic, I’ll acknowledge that – but I actually believe we can get this done. I really believe we can do it.

Len Sipes: NOVA and a variety of organizations did try this in the past and you came fairly close in the past, correct?

Will Marling: Yeah, we came very close. The last time it was tried, we came within 2 votes of it moving – 2 full Senate votes. We needed 60 but we came within 2 votes because once things get to the floor of the House or the Senate on these kinds of issues, it’s very rare that they get voted down because it’s just, you know, it doesn’t make any sense for anybody who wants to be in political leadership.

Len Sipes: Sure.

Will Marling: So that was with just folks, you know, calling and trying and volunteering but we have decided that the time to move forward is now, and we have some folks who were not part of that impetus before who are making the commitment, it seems, and so there’s going to be a real, real effort put forward. There’s going to be significant momentum that’s going to build shortly.

Len Sipes: And the emphasis needs to be on the Senate, correct, for Constitutional Amendments?

Will Marling: Both.

Len Sipes: Both the House and the Senate.

Will Marling: We need two-thirds of the House and two-thirds, two-thirds of the Senate, and two-thirds of the states, I believe.

Len Sipes: Okay, and then it goes to the President for signature, and then two-thirds of the states need to approve it.

Will Marling: Actually in this context, the President does not sign it.

Len Sipes: Really?

Will Marling: No. The President is not really involved. We hope the President would want to speak out for victim’s rights, we would expect that, certainly, but in reality it needs to pass the House and Senate, and then it goes to the states for ratification, at least two-thirds of the states.

Len Sipes: Ah, and two-thirds of the states need to ratify it, then.

Will Marling: That’s right, so we need 37 states to ratify, and of course, you know, realistically speaking, we think we’ve got at least 33. You know, you don’t know. Times have changed since they passed their amendments but you want to believe, if they’ve already gone that pass, they’re going to firm it up for the United States Constitutional Amendment. So we’d need 5 more states and where Congress, the things they’re struggling with at this point, you know, honestly we know that that’s a challenge there but we do have some commitments particularly in both sides of Congress to at least push forward. We know the folks that know this needs to get done, and you know candidly, they’ve got other things they need to do as well so we recognize that.

Len Sipes: Okay. And the details regarding the Constitutional Amendment are on your website at, right?

Will Marling: They are, yes. There is a Crime Victims Rights. There’s one on the front page that rotates but if you get to “I’m a Victim” and you find the crime victim’s rights, you will see the amendment that has been drafted and really, by consensus, agreed upon by the Victim’s Rights the Victim’s Services Organization and movement, and it’s nicely written. I mean, every lawyer’s going to argue about every word because that’s what lawyers do, right? I mean, words matter, but it’s a great piece of work, I would say.

Len Sipes: Within the context of the conversation – and we’ve chewed up probably two-thirds, more than two-thirds of the program dealing with the Constitutional Amendment, which is extremely, but if it’s done within the context of mass shootings – and again, as I mentioned before, as we speak there are hearings on Capitol Hill only about a mile from where I sit talking about mass shootings and what can be done. Mass shootings, when it comes to victim’s issues, becomes extraordinarily complex. I do know that the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, their Victim’s Unit does go overboard to try to provide money and support to the Department of Justice, try to provide money and support to local organizations in terms of mass shootings, but the larger issue here are the individual victims themselves and whether or not the individual victims are protected when you have the world descending upon Sandy Hook, when you have the world descending upon Aurora, California, when you have the world descending upon all of these places that experience these mass shootings. I mean, I just could not imagine what it would be like to be a victim, a crime victim, in the midst of all that whirlwind of media coverage and a police investigation. So how do we protect victims’ rights during mass shootings?

Will Marling: Well, let me give you a little bit of context for the work we do in this area so that your listeners understand out of which I speak. For over 25 years, we have been training people and at certain times deploying people to respond to these situations. Now when you have a mass-casualty crime, you’re going to have first responders. You’re going to have law enforcement fire, EMS, investigators, obviously appropriate and necessary and part of the process. Our particular [PH 0:24:46] trade and modality is the second responder so you’ve got commonly incredible amounts of trauma. You need crime victim advocates in there and so they might be part of the system as well that, you know, we’re not training necessarily but probably we could well have trained them. And then they might request, because of the nature of the mass casualty resources that are needed, they might request a crisis response team. So we will send in teams and there’ll be trauma mitigation. They’ll serve to consult and guide and help in terms of managing the emotional aftermath of these kinds of things, and we’ve been doing this, as you heard, for quite a while, and we’ve also trained over 10,000 people. So we have people all over the nation who’ve been trained to do this kind of things and they might be wearing a NOVA hat when they go in or they might just be NOVA-trained and they’re an advocate, a first responder, work out of the prosecutor’s office. Who knows. So that’s the context in which we speak. When it comes to this kind of thing, we call it convergence. Specifically with a mass-casualty crime, we call it convergence where so many things converge. You might have some media interest on, you know, a horrible homicide that goes on but, you know, we are unfortunately kind of used to that and now it has to be scaled, so you’ll even hear the media unfortunately kind of setting these barriers like, you know, “This is the worst shooting in U.S. history” or whatever. Well what that does, of course, is that creates the opportunity for then the next one that becomes the bigger or the greater, you know, to somebody who might want to do it but even in our thinking, unfortunately we might be drawn to say, “Well, until it goes bigger than that, it doesn’t matter because I’m used to hearing this stuff.” And what we contend is along with the horrible things that happen in these mass-casualty shootings, just with the issue of homicide, there are basically 48 homicides every day in our nation, you know. They happen individually or maybe they happen in a small scale, but those represent tremendous loss to the loved ones.

Len Sipes: We only have a couple of minutes left. The bottom line in my mind, the bottom line question is do you think that the families, the individual victims themselves, their families, their friends, their community who are all just unbelievably traumatized when one of these mass shooting occur, do you believe that the system, whether it be through NOVA – I mean, you trained thousands of people, you trained the Victim’s Response for the Department of Defense. A lot of people need to understand that. I mean, you’ve been doing this for decades. Do you think that through state government, through NOVA, through local government, do you think they get the services that they need or do you think there’s room for improvement?

Will Marling: Well, there’s always room for improvement because kind of the definition of a disaster or mass casualty is it’s chaos. There’s rarely enough resources and even if there are a lot of resources, getting those resources to the right place at the right time is all part of the logistical challenge so there can be gaps. What we contend is first of all we need to be thinking about it. That’s why we train, so we help communities identify we call them risk or affinity groups that might not even be on the radar with trying to respond. We call them the “walking worried,” in other words they’ve been impacted by this but they’ve not been physically harmed, but emotionally, psychologically, even financially they could be impacted, and the focus is of course at the epicenter, naturally upon the dead, the survivors, the injured, their family members. And so what we contend is that as we educate people about the nature of trauma, first of all that helps us better support, recognize that there’s a lot of trauma. There are a lot of victims in these situations, not just the ones that are most readily identified but also many others that kind of transcend out in concentric circles.

Len Sipes: And Will, I’m going to have to ask you to wrap in about ten seconds so we can close.

Will Marling: Gotcha.

Len Sipes: So what do you think the final thought is?

Will Marling: Final thoughts are victims face loss and we need to respect the fact that with those losses, we want to be there to serve and help them recover as much as possible.

Len Sipes: And certainly one thing in terms of mass shootings and in terms of the everyday shootings, one thing that can help would be a Constitutional Amendment.

Will Marling: We believe, yeah, it is at a high level but it certainly reflects that.

Len Sipes: All right. Well, I’m going to have to stop you there. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We’ve been talking to Will Marling, Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance – – We appreciate your calls, letters, and your comments, one way or the other, and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

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