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SHSU joins MADD in launching
National Institute for Victim Studies

With violent crime becoming a frequent reality - on America's roadways and in schools, office buildings and now in community centers, Sam Houston State University and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) announced the launch of the National Institute for Victim Studies (NIVS) on the steps of City Hall in Houston on Tuesday, Aug. 17.

Located at SHSU, the NIVS will meet the growing need for quality higher education, professional training, research and certification in crime victims studies and services. The NIVS will serve students and professionals in health care, social services and criminal justice who may assist or interact with victims of drunk driving, domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, homicide, hate crimes and other violent crimes.

"The NIVS will focus on both basic and applied research in order to provide an empirical foundation for addressing the needs of crime victims and to identify ways to improve the administration of victim services delivery," said Dr. Raymond Teske, director of the NIVS and professor of criminal justice at SHSU.

The Institute merges the expertise of the country's largest victim assistance organization and Sam Houston State University with its world renowned College of Criminal Justice. MADD's mission includes supporting victims of drunk driving -- the nation's most frequently committed violent crime.

"The Institute will help us as a nation to create a quality, seamless service delivery system to violent crime victims," said Karolyn Nunnallee, MADD national president. In 1998, there were 31 million criminal victimizations in America, according to the U. S. Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey. "These numbers make clear the need for the new institute," added Nunnallee. Nunnallee made her remarks at the Houston news conference, flanked by SHSU officials, a Littleton youth minister who works with Columbine High School victims, an Oklahoma City bombing victim, the Chief Justice of the Texas Appellate Court, and representatives from the Houston Area Women's Center and other advocacy groups.

"Having worked now for several months with victims of the Columbine High School tragedy, I can attest to the value of well-trained victim assistance professionals," said Barb Lotze, youth minister, Light of the World Church, in Littleton, Colo. "These professionals are an indispensable part of the crisis response process and we need to support the growth of educational opportunities for this field." Lotze spent the previous day ministering at Columbine High School as students returned for the first day of the new academic year.

The Institute's three-prong mission includes:

-- Providing an academic foundation for people choosing a profession in victim services or one that will put them in contact with victims of crime.

-- Offering continuing education on campus and through off-site, national training workshops for direct service practitioners, program administrators and working professionals who interact with crime victims (e.g., police, prosecutors, health care workers.)

-- Leading research projects to expand knowledge and understanding of violent crime victim issues (e.g., head injury, the role that alcohol plays in violence, etc.)

Additionally, the Institute may help develop national standards for certification of victim assistance professionals, now offered only by South Carolina and Ohio.

SHSU currently offers courses on child abuse and neglect, family violence, and victimology. Continuing education opportunities, slated for introduction this year, will address such topics as: creating safe environments and defusing dangerous situations in a variety of locations, e.g., offices, schools; administration skills; and working as a "solo" victim advocate. Serving as a university-wide program, the Institute's offices are housed in SHSU's Criminal Justice Center.

While two other institutions of higher education offer undergraduate degrees in victim studies, the growth of victim assistance programs over the last two decades has triggered a need for more educational, training and research facilities.

"Through higher education such as that being offered by the new institute at SHSU, we can make certain that the voices, experiences and needs of victims receive legitimate standing," said Marsha Kight, Oklahoma City bombing victim.

For more information on the National Institute for Victim Studies at Sam Houston State University, call 409/294-4295.

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SHSU Media Contact: Julia May
August 18, 1999
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