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SHSU conducting victims academy

By Mike Wheeler/The Huntsville Item

Today, Sam Houston State University will be one of five institutes of higher learning conducting the sixth National Victim Assistance Academy.

An estimated 350 students nationwide from June 18-23 will attend the academy at SHSU, American University in Washington, D.C., California State University in Fresno, The Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and Washburn University in Topeka, Kan.

"The academy will be a 40-hour course training people who work in crime victim assistance," said Jim Marquart, interim director of the program at SHSU.

He said those attending would include representatives of police, sheriff and probation departments, as well corrections, parole, probation and juvenile justice departments and agencies. Community-based programs serving crime and fraud victims also will be represented.

Others who will attend the academies include specialized programs, like Native American service providers, health and mental health professionals, faith-based organizations, college- and school-based services and international victim service providers.

The course, according to the National Institute of Victim Studies, is a " ... rigorous course curriculum ..." that " ... emphasizes foundations in victimology and victims' rights and services, as well as development in the field of victim assistance."

The five campuses will be joined utilizing audio/visual links for eight of the 40 hours allowing the academy's faculty to provide instruction to all sites.

The academy is sponsored by the Office for Victims of Crime of the U.S. Department of Justice.

OVC Director Kathryn Turman has said, "Our ability to better meet the needs of crime victims has grown tremendously through these academies. By bringing victim services professionals from around the country and world to receive state-of-the-art training, students from a variety of backgrounds can share information with each other and inform us, so we can improve our programs to assist victims."

The academy's curriculum is geared toward victim service providers and allied professionals with between one and five years' experience working with crime victims. More than 60 faculty members are involved in conducting the academy each year.

The course covers domestic violence, child victimization, sexual assault, financial crime, gang violence, drunken driving, homicide, hate crimes, campus crimes, victimization of the elderly and individuals with disabilities and meeting the needs of under-served victims. This year, substance abuse and victimization were added.

Those who successfully complete the academy are to be awarded a certificate from the OVC.

Since 1995, more than 1,000 students representing all 50 states, one American territory and four foreign countries have completed the academy.

Meanwhile, Marquart said a bachelor's degree in victim studies and a master's degree in victim services administration are under development at SHSU through the National Institute for Victim Studies. The degree curriculum is to begin in January 2001. Only Washburn University, California State and New Haven in Connecticut offer similar degree programs, he said.

NIVS opened in 1995 at the University of North Texas, but was moved to SHSU in 1999. It is housed in the George J. Beto Criminal Justice Center on the SHSU campus and functions under the vice president for academic affairs. Moving the institute to SHSU was primarily because the university had demonstrated its commitment to victim studies since 1982, when it offered one of the first victimology course in the United States.

Marquart said the degree program has been approved at the university level.

"Surveys were done by agencies and departments to find out about the needs for such a degree program," he said. "Folks out in the field endorse the degree program. They recognized the need for a crime victim's services degree."

Marquart said, by law, district attorney, county attorney, police and probation departments, among others, are required to have crime victims liaisons to deal with victim's rights.

"Since the 1800s, there's been interest in victims and their rights, but no national policy-making agenda," he said.

The NIVS is a partnership, Marquart said, between SHSU and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The institute also develops customized Web-based training programs for agencies and non-profit organizations which provides assistance to crime victims.

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Mike Wheeler can be reached at (936) 295-5407, ext. 3017.

SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
June 18, 2000
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