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During the days, months, and even years after a crime, victims may find themselves overwhelmed. As victims cope with their own injuries and losses, the legal system can move slowly, and it can take time to get back into a normal routine. Many communities now offer victim assistance programs that can help crime victims navigate these changes. Determining the best sources of victim assistance depends on what is available in a particular community as well as the needs of the victim and, in some cases, the nature of the crime. Good sources of information on victim assistance include law enforcement agencies, prosecutor's offices, and crime victim organizations, as well as employee assistance programs and local community counseling agencies.
In many countries, victim assistance services are provided by law enforcement agencies as well as prosecutors' offices. The nature of the services offered will likely depend on the staffing and budget resources in that area. Law enforcement and prosecutors' office victim services may include keeping a victim or witness abreast of the investigation and if and when the accused is released from jail or is going to trial. Victims should find out what law enforcement agency is handling the case in order to request these notifications.
Other community-based agencies may be able to provide more comprehensive services, such as counseling and casework management, to help a struggling victim get back on his feet. In some cases, agencies such as rape crisis centers or domestic violence shelters work with victims of specific crimes. In other cases, the agency may work only with a specific group of people, such as victims of elder abuse or gay and lesbian crime victims. Local charities may also be able to help with meeting a victim's basic living needs, such as bills and medical expenses, while she takes time to recover from a crime or attends a trial.
To locate victim assistance services, victims and witnesses can start out by contacting the local police department and asking for referrals. If the police department has a social worker on staff, he may be a particularly good source of information. Local charities and community counseling services may also provide victim services as well as other types of support. National telephone hotlines are sometimes sponsored by advocacy groups and can refer callers to local services. Finally, victims and their families may be able to get assistance through workplace employee assistance programs (EAPs) sponsored through their workplace. These programs can connect victims to mental health, financial, and relocation assistance services, often at no cost to the employee and his or her family.
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