Release: Repeat Victimization in California

Report: Large Share of California Crime Victims Not Accessing Recovery Services, Increasing Risk of Further Victimization

Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy Reveals

Barriers to Recovery for Populations Most Vulnerable to Repeat Crime Report Unveiled at First-Ever Conference of California Crime Survivors

 April 7, 2014 — SACRAMENTO — Californians who experience crime the most often do not access victims services that can help them recover and avoid future victimization, according to a new report by the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. The study was commissioned by Californians for Safety and Justice, which has a network of nearly 6,000 crime survivors, and released as part of its first-ever conference of California survivors in Sacramento.

Untold Stories of California Crime Victims: Research and Recommendations on Repeat Victimization and Rebuilding Lives details the inadequacy of our current statewide knowledge, response and understanding related to who experiences crime in California, barriers to reporting and recovering from those crimes, and how much higher risk individuals are for future victimization if they do not know about or are not able to access victims services (which can assist with trauma recovery, including mental health and counseling needs, navigating the justice system, financial burdens and more).

“A growing body of research indicates that the strongest predictor of many forms of victimization is having previously been a victim of crime,” said the report’s author, Heather Warnken, Esq., LL.M. (Legal Policy Associate at the Warren Institute). “Unaddressed trauma and its reverberating social and financial consequences demonstrate that as we explore ways to improve public safety, it is imperative that the experience of this vulnerable population inform our investments, training and prioritization.”

At the heart of the research are the actual experiences of repeat victims in California, underscoring the need for public safety policies to take into account these individuals’ needs and perspectives if the state is to reduce further victimization – and its financial and social costs.

The study builds on a 2013 report by Californians for Safety and Justice that included the first-ever survey of California crime survivors (click here for that report.) From a sample of 2,600 Californians (reflecting the state’s demographics, according to the U.S. Census), 500 people self-identified as victims of a crime within the past five years. The majority were young people of color, especially the two out of three violent crime victims that acknowledged experiencing multiple crimes.

To expand on this, the Warren Institute research included interviews and focus groups with people who have experienced repeat crimes. Conducted throughout the state – along with a literature review of existing research – the report led to the following key findings:

  • Many repeat victims do not access trauma services.
  • Repeat victims who utilized services often accessed them much later – often for reasons other than the original crime.
  • The failure or inability of a survivor to report a crime to law enforcement can jeopardize their ability to access services.
  • The collateral consequences to survivors grow without effective services and stability.

The research echoed other findings from the 2013 survey of crime victims: Many survivors never report crime, and four out of five available victims services tested were unknown to most survivors. Of those who did know about services, one-third to nearly one half found them difficult to access.  

“This new data shows that the most vulnerable – those repeatedly victimized without adequate help to recover – are the least understood, and their experiences are the least likely to drive public policy,” said Lenore Anderson, Executive Director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “It’s time we replace misinformed notions of who victims are and the failed policies created in their name with a more accurate, truly victim-centered approach to public safety.”

The report recommends:

  • Increasing state support for a diversity of trauma-recovery services, including more options in communities and at venues unaffiliated with the justice system;
  • Building trust with law enforcement through training and other methods to address the perceived “empathy divide;”
  • Allowing for multi-disciplinary, trauma-informed first-response teams; and
  • Promoting resource and referral counseling, and access to job-support, transitional housing and other longer-term resources necessary for stabilization.

For more on the report, visit:

The report includes a literature review of existing research, findings from five in-person focus groups in Los Angeles, San Joaquin and Sacramento counties, and phone interviews with additional individuals identified as repeat victims of violent crime. The locations and participants focused on elevating underrepresented perspectives: predominantly low income; repeat victims of color; repeat youth victims; and repeat victims in urban areas with high rates of violent crime.

About Californians for Safety and Justice

Californians for Safety and Justice, a project of the Tides Center, is a nonprofit bringing together crime survivors, business and community leaders, policymakers, law enforcement, health professionals, educators and crime-prevention experts to replace prison and justice system waste with common sense solutions that create safe neighborhoods and save public dollars. Through collaborations, policy research and analysis, toolkits and trainings, and community engagement, we are working to build a justice system that improves public safety and health without draining resources from our schools, hospitals and other community needs.

About the Chief Justice Early Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy

The Warren Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law is a multidisciplinary, collaborative venture to produce research, research-based policy prescriptions, and curricular innovation on the most challenging issues facing California and nation. Its mission is to engage the most difficult topics in a wide range of legal and public policy subject areas, providing valuable intellectual capital to public and private sector leaders, the media and the general public, while advancing scholarly understanding. Central to its methods are concerted efforts to build bridges connecting the world of research with the world of civic action and policy debate so that each informs the other, while preserving the independence, quality and credibility of the academic enterprise.




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