Any assessment of performance in sexual violence cases must consider the extent to which victims are provided with assistance that promotes their healing and overall well-being. Thus, it is important to answer: how well have victims been served?
One way to obtain this information is by asking victims directly about their perceptions of their experiences through a survey, which can be implemented and tracked over time.96
Although prosecutors’ offices rarely survey victims, it can be helpful to systematically obtain feedback over time from victims regarding their perceptions of the quality of their experiences with various components of the criminal justice process.
Victim survey findings can provide all partners (victim advocacy, law enforcement, medical providers, and prosecutors’ offices) with: (a) a comprehensive picture of progress; (b) an understanding of which problem areas need to be addressed (e.g., through training and technical assistance); (c) feedback on the extent to which identified problems are improving or getting worse; and (d) knowledge regarding which aspects of the criminal justice response enhance victim safety and/or victim perceptions of justice.
Whatever the final disposition of an individual case, a victim’s experience is impacted by the level of respect, dedication, expertise, and temperament of the professionals handling their cases. In addition, the feedback process itself may be helpful to sexual violence victims by affording them the opportunity to express their feelings and concerns about the process.
Past research shows that victims who participated in surveys about their assault found the survey to be a neutral or positive experience, with only a small minority reporting the survey process was a negative experience.97 Further, a majority of victims reported that, had they known in advance what the experience of completing the survey would be like, they still would have agreed to complete it.98
Some stakeholders within a jurisdiction’s sexual assault response system, such as victim advocates and healthcare providers who may have adopted more comprehensive victim- or patient-centered practices, may already conduct surveys to capture victims’ experience. Ideally, all stakeholders should work together to: (1) identify the specific services or activities on which they want victim feedback; (2) create a survey (possibly adapted from existing surveys); (3) implement it, and; (4) analyze the data rendered.
By working together, prosecutors, law enforcement, advocates, and medical providers can ensure victims are able to provide feedback on services throughout the system and that all areas in need of corrective action can be identified and addressed.99 The survey procedures proposed here can provide regular, ongoing, performance information.
The survey should be short, both to reduce the burden on victims (and on the prosecutor’s office) and to maximize the likelihood that victims will complete it.