New Class of Crime Victim Advocates Trains at UM

July 07, 2015

Participants of the 2015 Montana Victim Advocate Academy.

MISSOULA – The Institute for Educational Research and Service, a specialty unit of the University of Montana Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences, hosted its second annual Montana Victim Advocate Academy June 7-12. 

The weeklong training provided 24 advocates in government or nonprofit agencies who work with victims across a range of crimes and jurisdictional systems the skills to represent the interests of crime victims across the state.

The academy focused on training in core advocacy skills on topics ranging from crime victims’ rights to human trafficking to resiliency in the workplace, using real-life scenarios to test advocates’ abilities to apply their learning.

Nine out of 10 graduates rated the training content of the 20 academy modules “very useful,” and 94 percent rated the scenario-based learning activities “very useful.” Incoming attendees’ test scores on the training content averaged 82 percent, and at the conclusion of the academy the average test score was 93 percent.

“The evaluations provide a clear measure of the training’s efficacy that will translate into improved outcomes for crime victims in the state,” sais IERS Director Rick van den Pol.

“I learned so much,” one trainee wrote on their evaluation. “Both in knowledge and growth as an advocate, I feel stronger and better equipped to assist victims.”

“This training has helped me build confidence as an advocate,” wrote another.

A 40-hour, five-day residential course, the MVAA is designed to provide basic knowledge and skills for individuals with fewer than three years of experience in the field of victim services. The curriculum is based on the National Victim Assistance Academy developed by the U.S. Office of Victims of Crime, and was adapted by IERS to include Montana-specific content.

“Completing the academy evaluation is a major milestone in so many ways,” van den Pol said. “Most important, students are telling us the curriculum and the teaching method is relevant to Montana crime victims.”

Montana is a state of extremes, very large geographically, with a mix of sparsely populated counties, seven urban centers and seven sovereign Indian nations that provide for a complex mix of federal, state and tribal jurisdictions.

“For the first time, Montana victim advocates have access to local, comprehensive training provided by the best practitioners in the field,” MVAA Project Director John Frederikson said. “The national curriculum provided by the Office for Victims of Crime has been modified for the unique needs and situations affecting victims’ advocacy in Montana. I am exceedingly pleased with the quality and competence of the faculty, as well as their excitement in providing this level of training to Montana's victim advocates.” 

Funded in 2012 by the OVC for the purpose of providing research-based, high-quality and sustainable training for victims’ advocates who represent 135 different agencies from across the state, the MVAA raises standards of professionalism; encourages increased coordination among agencies and stakeholders; and ameliorates the experiences of victims, with the goal of creating comprehensive victim services statewide.

For more information on MVAA or IERS, visit http://iers.umt.edu/ or call 406-243-4973.

Contact: Nancy Berg, project coordinator, UM Institute for Educational Research and Service, 406-243-4973, nancy.berg@umontana.edu.