Victim Services Needed for Young Men of Color, Study Finds

Young men of color who experience violence and trauma often do not receive the support and services they need, an issue brief from the Vera Institute of Justice finds.

According to the brief, Young Men of Color and the Other Side of Harm: Addressing Disparities in Our Response to Violence (9 pages, PDF), while the field of victim services has developed a system of support for crime victims, including financial assistance, legal services, and advocacy, few services exist to address the specific needs of young men of color. Given the lack of services focused on their experiences and needs, as well as the crimes they are most likely to experience, including robbery and assault, the study finds that young men of color are less likely to seek and receive support, more likely to live with unaddressed symptoms of trauma, and less likely to fully recover. In addition to a lack of support for effective services, barriers preventing young men of color from accessing services include social norms that make it less likely they will identify as "victims" or be seen as such and distrust of the justice system in communities of color based on prior negative experiences with law enforcement.

Released by Common Justice, a Vera Institute victim service program that also addresses alternatives to incarceration based on restorative justice principles, the brief highlights efforts to address the lack of services, including a learning collaborative being developed by traditional victim service providers, youth program providers, and other organizations working with young men of color who have been harmed by violence. Participants in the effort will identify challenges, share practices and strategies, and develop networks to determine, among other things, how best to integrate trauma-informed care into existing programs, address implicit bias in law enforcement agencies, and intervene in cycles of violence.

"Issues of racial equity in the criminal justice system are not only of concern for defendants," said Danielle Sered, director of Common Justice and author of the  brief. "We must express equal concern — and respond with equal vigor — in addressing the racial inequities faced by victims of crime, many of whom experience the same implicit bias and confront the same barriers that drive inequities on the defendant side. It is our hope that by outlining the challenges and opportunities that exist in serving young male survivors of color we might make a modest contribution to this essential effort."

"New Issue Brief Explores Lack of Victim Services for Young Men of Color." Vera Institute of Justice Press Release 12/16/2014.