Promote fair and thoughtful roles for institutions in preventing and responding to victimization.
Institutions can come in contact with criminal victimization in three ways:
- A crime can occur within the institution, implicating the institution’s legal responsibility to prevent, disclose, or respond to the crime;
- Someone within the institution, such as an employee, student, or congregant is victimized outside the institution, requiring a supportive response; or
- An employee or member of the institution commits a crime unrelated to their employment or membership, but by reason of a code of conduct, the institution has standing to discipline the individual.
Crime can occur in any setting, including institutions such as houses of worship, schools and universities, the military, athletic institutions, skilled nursing homes, and residential care facilities. Institutions bear a responsibility to victims because an institution’s actions can prevent crime or create an atmosphere of opportunity for crime to occur. Screening practices for employees, volunteers, or affiliates working with vulnerable populations; physical considerations for safety and security; policies and procedures related to supervision; and the organizational culture’s tolerance or encouragement of reporting misconduct can all affect an institution’s legal liability as well as its reputation. Institutions should be transparent when a crime has occurred and, just as transparently, seek to understand what happened, what role their setting or procedures played, and what could be changed to prevent future victimization. Institutions should also create opportunities to hear directly from victims to determine what they can do to help meet victims' needs following a crime.
When an employee or member commits a crime outside the institution in violation of its code of conduct, the institution sends a strong message in how it enforces—or chooses not to enforce—the violation. If the institution punishes the violation too leniently or not at all, it trivializes the victim’s harm and signals to others that such conduct will be tolerated and is not considered serious. If the institution adopts a zero-tolerance policy requiring termination, such a policy could increase pressure on the victim not to report and even prevent victims from reporting, particularly if they are financially dependent on the offender’s employment.
When a member of the institutional community is the victim of a crime unrelated to the organization, that person may need supportive responses and accommodations from the institution. Institutions are also well-positioned to educate their communities regarding crime and victimization, to promote safety, and to link victims to resources in the aftermath of crime. Such efforts should start by training institutional staff members, since they both represent the institution and are integral to the institution’s response.
Because of their public prominence, institutions are in a position to influence society's response to victimization. However they come in contact with criminal victimization, institutions should develop clear protocols to guide their response to victims of crime. In so doing, they should work with knowledgeable experts to design systems to prevent and respond to crime that are trauma-informed and reflect the best current thinking.
In promoting an institutional role in preventing and responding to crime, we will:
- Promote avenues for accountability to victims, including criminal, civil, and administrative remedies against perpetrators and against institutions whose actions bear some responsibility for the crime.
- Support institutional policy and protocol development to promote the safety and healing of crime victims.
- Urge institutions to educate potential victims, perpetrators, and other members or employees of institutions.
- Engage in ongoing efforts to encourage institutions at all levels to develop a supportive public response to victimization.