Research and Special Projects

The Professionalization of Victim Assistance:

by Thomas Underwood

Copyright 2001 Joint Center on Violence and Victim Studies
No part of this report may be replicated without permission by the author.

This article is an abridged version of a comprehensive research report. Contact the author for information on the complete report.

This research was funded in part by a grant from the Association for Higher Continuing Education.


Victim assistance is an occupation that has emerged as a distinct area in the relatively recent past. As an occupational, field victim assistance is vying for recognition and, still in an early stage, the field is emerging as a profession. As such, strides have been made in the realization of some of the structural components of a profession. As with any occupational area, though, the mark of a profession is more than just structural, it is also attitudinal.

The purpose of this study was to explore the attitudinal dimensions of professionalization. This was done through survey of victim assistance practitioners using an established professionalization scale that addressed six attitudinal dimensions. Further, the study sought to identify those factors that influenced these attitudes.

Victim assistance practitioners were drawn from the seven states that comprise the West North Central region of the United States. Practitioners from system-based and community-based organizations were surveyed. The results of the survey suggest that, in spite of the marginal establishment of the structural components, victim assistance practitioners, as a group, hold moderately strong professionalization attitudes. The factors that had a statistically significant affect on at least one of the attitudinal dimensions include level of education, role in the agency, membership in a professional organization, and the extent of continuing education.

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