Hilbert College Global Online Blog

What Is a Victim Advocate?

Written by: Hilbert College   •  Feb 9, 2024
A Close up of a Person’s Hand Holding Another Person’s Hand in a Gesture of Comfort.

What Is a Victim Advocate?

Millions of people are affected by crime every year. In a 2023 Gallup survey, 28% of respondents said someone in their household had been a victim of a crime in the past year––and 6% said the person had been a victim of a violent crime.

Victim advocates play a critical role in supporting people who have been negatively impacted by crime.

But what is a victim advocate? Also known as victim services specialists or victim services coordinators, victim advocates focus on the needs of those affected by crime. They work closely with domestic violence and violent crime survivors, advocating for them and supporting them throughout the criminal justice process. Gaining an advanced understanding of criminal justice administration can help victim advocates successfully support survivors.

What Does a Victim Advocate Do?

Victim advocates provide emotional support, crisis intervention and community resource referrals to people harmed by crime. They also provide them with information about the criminal justice process, including what survivors can expect during each stage of an investigation and trial.

As trusted advisers, victim advocates offer guidance on trauma recovery and safety planning. They also help people access community resources and apply for crime victim compensation. Victim advocates help to keep survivors informed throughout any criminal justice proceedings, including by attending court hearings and coordinating scheduling with prosecutors. 

Work Settings for Victim Advocates

Several types of public and nonprofit organizations employ victim advocates, including district attorneys’ offices, police departments, nonprofit organizations focused on criminal justice and social service agencies. Federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI also employ victim advocates.

As part of their job duties, victim advocates spend time in many settings, including courthouses, police stations and legal offices. They may also meet with people in medical settings or shelters.  

Key Job Responsibilities

Among the many types of criminal justice fields, victim advocacy focuses on those impacted by crime. With the ultimate goal of supporting survivors of violence and crime, victim advocates have several specific job responsibilities. 

The key duties of victim advocates include the following:

  • Determining survivors’ needs and referring them to the appropriate community service organizations
  • Acting as a liaison between survivors and law enforcement or prosecutors, including arranging interviews
  • Attending court hearings and assisting survivors throughout the legal process
  • Advocating for individuals as they navigate the criminal justice system
  • Maintaining case notes and files

Depending on their role, victim advocates may also provide crisis intervention to people who experience domestic violence and advise survivors on their legal rights.

Related criminal justice roles include detective, probation officer, criminal investigator and court administrator.

Fundamental Skills for Victim Advocates

To effectively support people who have been affected by crime, victim advocates need strong communication skills, empathy and knowledge of the criminal justice system. 

Understanding the Criminal Justice System

Victim advocates prepare individuals for police interviews and court proceedings. They attend hearings with them to provide support, and explain what to expect during the criminal justice process. As a result, victim advocates benefit from having a thorough understanding of how the criminal justice system works and who the key players are.

Being well versed in criminal law, the legal process and law enforcement policies allows victim advocates to serve as informed liaisons between people harmed by crime and criminal justice professionals. For example, victim advocates may maintain contact with prosecutors to be able to keep witnesses informed about upcoming court hearings. 

Victim advocates also draw on their knowledge of the criminal justice system to assist survivors as they write victim impact statements and file applications for crime victim compensation programs.  

Communication Abilities

The ability to communicate effectively with survivors of crime ranks high on the list of fundamental skills for victim advocates. They must be able to draw on their interpersonal skills to provide emotional support to people impacted by crime. 

Victim advocates also must be able to clearly explain legal procedures to survivors so they can better help prosecutors build a strong case against alleged offenders. 

In addition, victim advocates need to be comfortable speaking to prosecutors, law enforcement officers and professionals working in community resource agencies to maintain good working relationships with them. 

Case Management Skills

Victim advocates have to be able to manage several cases simultaneously, which means they need excellent time management and organizational skills. For example, a victim advocate may be working on connecting a survivor of domestic violence with a temporary shelter and medical services at the same time they are working with a prosecutor on setting up a court date for the case of another survivor of a violent crime. They need to ensure all of these responsibilities are met.

Victim advocates manage case files, prepare reports on their cases and follow confidentiality rules. Effective case management skills help victim advocates successfully prioritize and manage their workload.

Compassion and Empathy

Because they work closely with people who have experienced domestic violence, violent crime and other harms caused by crime, victim advocates must bring compassion and empathy to their jobs every day. 

Victim advocates frequently work with people who are facing stressful and challenging circumstances. By bringing empathy to their interactions, victim advocates can develop supportive relationships that help survivors of crime. 

Victim Advocate Salary and Job Outlook 

Demand for victim advocates is high. Jobs for social and human service assistants are expected to grow 9% from 2022 to 2032, according to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That represents much faster than average growth. 

Victim advocates had a median annual salary of around $43,100 as of December 2023, according to the compensation website Payscale. Social and human service assistants who work for state and local governments have above-average salaries in the field, according to BLS data.

Salaries of individual victim advocates vary depending on their geographic location, years of experience and work setting. Their education also influences their salaries. Typically, a higher-level degree translates into a higher salary.

Advocate for Survivors With a Master of Criminal Justice Administration Degree

Graduate-level studies in criminal law, policing and program planning can lead to opportunities in criminal justice and advocacy. The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration program at Hilbert College Global can help you launch or advance in your career as a victim advocate.

The program emphasizes public administration in criminal justice, nonprofit and government organizations, providing valuable training for victim advocates who coordinate tasks and resources among these groups. Graduates of the program can apply their knowledge and skills to leadership roles in the criminal justice system. Contact Hilbert College Global to learn more about the master’s in criminal justice administration program.

Recommended Readings

How to Become a Federal Agent

The Anatomy of a Crime Scene: Examples, Investigation and Analysis

What Is Criminal Justice Administration?


Federal Bureau of Investigation, Victim Specialist

Gallup, “More Americans See U.S. Crime Problem as Serious”

Office for Victims of Crime, “Working Definition of Victim Assistance”

Payscale, Average Victim Advocate Hourly Pay

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Social And Human Service Assistants

Victim Support Services, What Is a Victim Advocate?

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