Next generation of victim advocates will help young survivors of violence
This is National Crime Victims Rights Week and a new national pilot program that will focus on engaging young people in victims’ services kicked off in Albuquerque on Monday. The pilot program has the potential to mentor the next generation of victim advocates to help underrepresented survivors of violence.
The Youth Advocacy Corps is part of the National Organization for Victim Assistance and is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice through a $750,000 grant. The goal is to create young leaders who can advocate for marginalized youth experiencing violence while also assessing the needs of victim services at a local level.
National data show children and adolescents are victims of the same crimes as adults but are also more vulnerable to other crimes like neglect and abuse. Researchers often struggle to capture data on child victims. The Youth Advocacy Corps could help fill that gap.
The corps will provide five University of New Mexico students 9-month fellowships with training, mentorship, and a paid placement beginning in fall 2023. UNM is one of five pilot sites on minority-serving campuses for the new program. The others are in Illinois, Mississippi, Montana and Texas.
UNM senior Abrianna Morales is a sexual assault survivor and program manager for the Youth Advocacy Corps. She said during a town hall meeting at UNM she wants survivors to know that this program is for them.
"I know how difficult it is and even if I don't know you, I believe you and I support you. There is a place for you, there is support for you and just be strong," she said.
Brandon Wolf also spoke during the event. He’s an LGBTQ civil rights advocate who survived the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting. He says Gen Z’s and younger people can reshape victim advocacy with "a belief that we can do better tomorrow than we did today and that we have an obligation to treat each other with kindness and dignity and respect."
The advocacy group says it wants to support survivors and be able to provide a system of resources to serve populations on campus, and the larger Albuquerque community.