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This page is specifically designed to assist members of the press in identifying and accessing information from the Justice Solutions on-line resource repository and expertise among Justice Solutions staff and associates. Members of the press seeking expert insights or interviews on virtually any crime victim and many criminal justice topics can identify some of the nation's most experienced professionals.

Press members can also access all the organizations press releases on many of the nation's high profile crime and victim related issues.

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Publications Announcement

Comprehensive Victims and the Media Guides Now Available Free Online Justice Solutions (a national non-profit organization) has just published online two comprehensive guides on the subject of victims and the media.

The first, entitled A Media Guide for Victim Service Providers (2009) , is intended to help victim service providers advise victims in their dealings with the media. The Guide also includes chapters written to help victim organizations/agencies seeking to build positive working relationships with the media while enhancing the public visibility of their victim organization or agency. It is intended to serve the entire spectrum of the victim services field from professionals who are brand new to their role as “victim media advisor” to those with decades of experience. This Guide contains field-tested techniques and practical state-of-the-art strategies that will help victims steer around the common pitfalls while minimizing typical trauma associated with crime coverage in modern media.

Topics addressed include: “Ethics for victim media advisors/advocates”; “How to advise victims regarding the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where,’ ‘when,’ and ‘how’ of media interviews, press conferences and talk shows”; “How to create a public education media plan for your organization”; and “How to establish a working relationship with members of the media that will benefit both your victim advisees and your organization/agency.”

The second groundbreaking publication, entitled A Guide for Journalists Who Report on Crime and Crime Victims (2009), is designed to advise and assist journalists who seek to cover crime and victimization in a way that is sensitive to crime victims, yet still allows them to fulfill their role and responsibilities to the public as reporters. This first-of-its-kind Guide is not only intended to encourage more victim sensitive coverage, but it also explains the important role of victim advocates and service providers in regards to members of the media and explores ways that journalists can work with them more effectively to the benefit of both.

The Guide provides journalists with practical tips, techniques and advice from practicing journalists, educators and media advisors, all with the purpose of helping journalists “get the story” without re-victimizing victims. Topics include: “What to say and what not to say to victims in crisis”; “How to approach surviving family members of murder victims”; “The law and ethics regarding reporting and victim privacy”; and “How to enhance your chances of getting an interview (including the victim’s inside story) using simple strategies, policies and practices that respect the needs and concerns of crime victims.”

The Journalists Guide can also be used by victim service providers as an effective educational tool for the media since it can be downloaded, printed and distributed directly to members of the media or incorporated as part of an ongoing media education program.

Both Guides are written in easily accessible style and format laced with numerous internal links and integrated site search engines that allow users to quickly and easily find the topics or issue areas you need, when you need them. Both publications feature a generous number of checklists, samples, and worksheets that you can easily download and print for immediate use. Each also includes extensive links to related resources on the Internet to expand and enhance your learning experience. Both Guides can be downloaded and printed out in their entirety for use as a shelf reference or distributed to colleagues or directly members of the media. Again, all free of charge.

The Guides were co-authored by Anne Seymour and Bonnie Bucqueroux, who together have more than three decades of experience in the victims field during which time they have advised hundreds of victims on media matter and have educated thousands of service providers and members of the media regarding the issue. Both Guides are being published by Justice Solutions (a national non-profit organization) as part of the of the “Victims and the Media Series” and were originally created under a cooperative agreement awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice (grant number: 2002-VF-GX-K013).

For more information about the Guides or for information about the Justice Solutions please contact us at [cindy fill in project general e-mail address].

Look for the link to next publication in the “Victims and the Media series, entitled “Crime Victim Outreach Tips Sheets,” and the “Crime Victim’s Handbooks,” scheduled for publication in the very near future.


Roethlisberger Case: Victims of Violent Athletes Are Not Alone

I know it doesn't seem like it, but victims of violent athletes are not alone. There are nearly 10,000 victim organizations in the country that advocate for the rights and interests of victims, many of them specifically for those of rape victims (see, http://www.nsvrc.org/).

They may differ in their size and services, but they all have one thing in common, they live by this golden rule, "Victims are presumed to be victims until proven otherwise," (its the victim's equivalent of the justice systems governing principle that "everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty."

I have been a victim advocate for nearly 20 years and have worked with probably close 1000 sexual assault victims. During that time, I can recall fewer than 5 cases where the victims allegations of sexual assault where proven false - that pretty much reflects numbers of studies that show less than 1% of reported sexual assaults are proven to be untrue. In fact, according to FBI statistics, you are more likely to falsely report your own death, than falsely report that you've been raped.

Prosecutions of sexual assault cases have actually increased dramatically in the last 20 years thanks in large part to the effort of the victims' movement. Victim professionals not only support and advocate for victims, but also, through training and education, have changed the attitudes and behavior of those who investigate, arrest and prosecute rapists. In other words, they have taught criminal justice officials how to obey the law by doing their duty as required by the law.

Unfortunately, such educational enlightenment has not reached every corner of the criminal justice system. Sadly, the Roethlisberger case apparently illustrates this sad reality - particularly if you believe even half of the "facts" being reported.

The Roethlisberger case, seems to stand as yet another example of the alarming proposition that the law governing those who have strong arms and exceptional eye/hand coordination is different from the laws that govern the rest of us who lack such skills.

What's most disturbing is that this separate but unequal parallel system of criminal justice system for athletes seems to exist in every major city and town in America. This is particularly true of "college towns" where you fine "professional athletes in training" - i.e. college athletes.

Statistics show that the average rate for successful prosecution for sexual assault is around 80%, the rate for athletes is less than half that (38%).

This statistic is even more unsettling when you consider the fact that college athletes make up a little more than 3 % of the student population, yet they account for 19% of sexual assaults and 35% of all domestic violence cases on campuses each year.

Charges of criminal violence are brought against more than 1000 athletes annually.

Once you consider these statistics in light of the fact that only 16% of women ever report their sexual assaults, and it becomes pretty clear that the problem of sexual violence by athletes is far more pervasive than even these statistics would indicate.

The problem is so pervasive that one survivor formed a non-profit organization dedicated solely to the purpose of providing rights and services to victims of violent athletes, the "National Coalition Against Violent Athletes." http://www.ncava.org/ncavamain.html

While I have not worked with them directly, I've followed their work since their inception and it is clear that the need for their advocacy is greater now than ever before. It seems that Roethlisberger may well have escaped legal accountability from the criminal courts though it should be noted that just because charges were not filed, this fact does not equate to his innocence, it only means that the prosecutor didn't think there was enough evidence to PROVE he committed a crime. The same would have been true even if he had been tried and found "not guilty" in a criminal trial. "Not guilty" does not mean he was "found innocent" only that his guilt could not be found beyond a reasonable doubt. Recall the O.J. Simpson case, where he was found "not guilty" in the criminal case, yet in civil case that followed, the jury determined that he did indeed murder his wife and held him liable accordingly. Roethlisberger's latest victim may decide to try to hold him responsible for his "uncivil" actions in civil court. But many victims, particularly sexual assault victims decide that their victimization was traumatic enough that the additional emotional distress that comes with the media scrutiny involved in such high profile cases is too much. Many simply want to put it behind them and go on with their lives. Who among us can blame them. Justice always seem to come at a price and it is victims who often foot the bill.

In the words of one legal commentator, "Justice is not a naturally born inevitability. More often than not, it has to be dragged kicking and screaming from the womb of justice system, and requires a swift smack on the bottom to bring it to life." Maybe its time for society to care more about what happens in our court of law and less about what happens on the basketball court or playing fields. Because in the end, maybe the court that matters most to the Roethlisberger of the world is the court of public opinion. Each member of our society gets to decide what they believe about the case and what they do based on that belief. You can continue to support him, buy the products he endorses, cheer him from the stands, or you can choose to forgo those actions. Either way, its worth considering what message such actions send to "Big Ben" and to all athletes.

With regards to the facts of the Roethlisberger case, the jury seems to still be out. But I find it troubling how many of my fellow citizens have leapt to his defense for no other apparent reason other than he is an excellent athlete. These same defenders almost always blame the victim and in many cases accuse the victim of victimizing the perpetrator.

But truth be told, it is society that allows athletes to operate above the law, they are the ones that are issuing them virtual licenses to rape with impunity, free passes to carry and use firearms, or just look the other way, when another athlete smacks his girlfriend or wife around. If any of us committed such an act, we would at least be out of a job, if not sitting in jail. "Big Ben's" only punishment is that he will become a fan for six games, 4 for good behavior.

If we as society felt about sexual assault of adult women the way we feel about sexual assault of children by pedophiles, we wouldn't need to have this debate about sexual predator pro athletes, or sexual predators period. Law enforcement officials and fans alike would not assume the guilt of the victim or automatically excuse the accused regardless of their athletic skills. We would live in a land governed by rule of law, not one where star athletes are allowed to make up their own rules.


Editorial Reply: USA Today Reveals Identity of Child Victim

August 3, 2002

Dear USA Today Editors:

I was shocked and more than a little disappointed to read USA Today's coverage of the two Southern California girls who were kidnapped, and sexually assaulted during their terrifying ordeal. For years, I and my fellow victim advocates, have worked closely with members of the media to establish a national standard that would protect the identity and thus the privacy of rape victims - particularly when those victims are children. USA Today's decision to not only name the girls once they were identified as rape victims, but to also include their photos, was made with obvious disregard for the standard that has become commonly accepted by responsible members of the press. Unfortunately the damage to the victims has already been done. But perhaps this unfortunate incident will foster a national discussion that will lead to a renewed commitment to a policy that prevents the re-victimization of innocent victims who have already been traumatized by such vicious predators.

Sincerely,

DAVID BEATTY
Executive Director

Justice Solutions
National Non-Profit Organization


EDITORIAL REPLY: "With Artest, A Human Quality"

Dear Washington Post Editors,

I read with great disappointment Sally Jenkins article of November 26th entitled "With Artest, A Human Quality." The litany of excuses and justifications she offered for Artest's criminal behavior were exactly what you would expect to hear from any defense attorney during a criminal trial. In short, blame everyone and everything for the crime except for the criminal who actually threw the punches. I found it ironic that in her attempt to "humanize" and elicit sympathy for the offender, she failed to mention the one person most deserving of our human compassion and sympathy -- the innocent victim of Artest's vicious attack. The real victim was the one whose only crime was to have the misfortune of standing next to the person who threw the infamous cup. She makes no mention of the fear he must have felt seeing a professional athlete, close to twice his size, approaching him fists flailing. No mention of the horror his family and friends must have felt watching their loved one being pummeled repeatedly on every news and sports show for a week. In fact, reading her article, you would conclude that it was Artest who was the victim of the crime, not the unsuspecting fan who was nearly beaten to a pulp.

Like all good defense attorneys arguing in a court of law, she employs the classic defense strategy. First, she attempts to shift responsibility away from the offender by blaming the crime on his environment while growing up, society, and finally (and incredibly), even on the victims.

Second, as any good defense attorney, Ms. Jenkins attempts to elicit sympathy by mentioning the negative impact of the sentence on the offender's family members (e.g., Artist's family/friends have to live on workers' wages like the majority of Americans, being now deprived of the benefit of Artest's mere $2.7 million annual salary – after taxes and agent fees). She then trots out the grieving parents and friends, to attest to what a good son and friend the offender has been -- making them the sympathetic figures of this tragedy, rather than the victims and their family members – a common strategy during virtually every sentencing hearing.

Third, and finally, defense attorneys are always quick to mention client's charity work, in this case "Ron Ron's" neighborhood barbecues and scholarships. Evidently, the measure of culpability, in Ms. Jenkins mind, is a zero sum game (i.e., you can buy off your sins, and even crimes, with good works and a large check book).

Admittedly, Ms. Jenkins is a compelling advocate for her client before the court of public opinion, even though the jury is still out. However, the verdict is in -- the judge has spoken. And although Ms. Jenkins, like every defense attorney, will claim the judge's penalty is too harsh, she should count her client fortunate that the NBA doesn't have a "three strikes" policy like many states. If they had, Artest would have received a life sentence rather than just a year, since he has clearly proven himself to be a repeat violent offender. You can bet his victims will be doing life, since they will likely never forget their violent victimization on that night.

Ms. Jenkins performs so well as a defense attorney, I thought she might be considering a career change. But before she hangs out her shingle, she might want to learn something about the actual law. Let me offer a primer to get her started. Attacking an innocent person with your fists is a violent crime called "assault and battery." The fact that someone else threw a cup at the perpetrator first, would never be a defense to that crime – not ever. You can only claim self defense when your life or personal safety are immediately and continuously threatened. In addition, your use of force to defend yourself must be appropriately measured against the nature of the threat. Again, by this legal standard, Artest cannot claim his actions were self-defense even against the fan who threw the cup, since being hit by a cup thrown from 30-40 feet away did not constitute an immediate and continuous threat to his safety. Leaping into the stands, to pummel the fan was not an appropriately measured use of force to a thrown cup – even if he had correctly identified the fan responsible. In short, there is no defense for Artest's actions despite Ms. Jenkins' misguided efforts to defend him to the contrary. Her comments might have been appropriate coming from Artest's defense attorney – in fact, I'm sure his attorney will parrot all her arguments during the actual trial. However, those same comments are not appropriate coming from a sports reporter who, one would hope, would aspire to a higher standard of objectivity. If she really wanted to present a balanced perspective, she should have sought out the opinion and perspective of the one person who has the unquestioned moral authority to pass judgment on Artest and to define what is fair and just recompense – the innocent victim that he beat up.

There is something seriously wrong with our society when crime victims' fondest wish is often just to be treated as well as criminals who attacked them. In this case, Ms. Jenkins' only reference to the victims was to portray them as mere opportunists whose sole purpose was "carving easy money from the huge headless bull that they see as overpaid pro athletes." Don't the victims of the violence deserve as much compassion, consideration, and human understanding as those who committed the violent acts? The vast majority of victims don't want money; they don't want "retribution" -- they want justice. They simply want their offenders to be held accountable. Offenders cannot "repent" until they assume full responsibility for their criminal acts and are willing to be held accountable. Ms. Jenkins attempts to excuse Artest's actions by offering a long list of mitigating circumstances, not only serves to undermine justice for the victims, but also makes it much easier for Artest to justify his actions and escape personal responsibility. In so doing, Ms. Jenkins makes the very redemption (that seems to be the ultimate purpose of her article), less likely. But perhaps the most troubling aspect is the message being sent, not only to pro athletes, but to everyone in society – that violence is understandable in some circumstances, even justifiable, and thus society will not, and should not, hold fully accountable those who choose to commit acts of violence. That is a message that encourages, rather than discourages, future acts of violence.

Lumping guilty offenders together with innocent victims under the mantra of "we are all just human beings" is an insult too all victims and amounts to pouring salt in their wounds. Those involved in the "basket brawl" are not equally at fault and are not equally deserving of our consideration, support, and sympathy. Despite Ms. Jenkins' attempt to blur the lines between right and wrong, there is one line that should shine through crystal clear – violence against the innocent is always wrong. Artest literally leapt over that line when he leapt over the scorer's table to attack an innocent fan who posed no threat to him or anyone else. If Ms. Jenkins cannot clearly distinguish the line between right and wrong, the guilty and the innocent, and the injurer and the injured, maybe she should limit her comments to the confines of the basketball court and leave legal commentary to defense attorneys in the criminal courts.

Sincerely,

David Beatty, J.D.
Executive Director
Justice Solutions, (National Non-Profit Organization)

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