Providing a Voice for Victims in Texas

Photo of woman comforting a young female victim.
The Crime Victims' Institute provides a voice for victims in Texas.

With the new session of the Texas Legislature beginning in 2013, the Crime Victims’ Institute (CVI) is busy preparing briefing papers on key issues impacting victims in the state.

At the top of the list are the health consequences that victims suffer as a result of crime, including physical, mental and behavioral issues, such as smoking and drinking. The studies will look at the cost and the impact of victimization on the health care industry, education and employment.

Cover“These briefs will help the legislature to understand that victimization has consequences across society,” said Dr. Leana Bouffard, Director of CVI, an entity charged with evaluating the effectiveness of criminal justice policies in addressing and preventing victimization in society. “They also need to know how to control these costs over the long term. It will highlight the importance of victim services.”

In addition to short briefing papers on issues of importance to state legislators, The Crime Victims’ Institute will continue to explore broad-ranging issues facing crime victims in Texas. For example, one ongoing study will revisit the victimization of immigrants in the Houston area, including the type of crimes that they endure and how the criminal justice system responds to their needs.

Cover of the Immigrant Crimes report from the Crime Victims Institute.“The study will look at how immigrants assimilate in the American culture and what that means in terms of reporting crime,” said Dr. Bouffard. “Do they understand how the system works and does it prevent them from reporting crimes? Are there barriers to reporting crime in the immigrant community?”

Created by the Texas Legislature in 1995, the Crime Victims’ Institute studies the impact of crime on victims, their relatives and society as a whole. Its mission is to improve services to victims, to conduct research to promote a better understanding of victimization, to assist victims of crime by giving them a voice and to inform victim-related policymaking at the state and local levels.

Over the years, the Institute has published many studies for the Texas Legislature and the public, including crime victim rights, victim impact statements, identity theft, stalking, hate crimes, intimate partner violence, victim services, elder abuse, drunk driving, gangs, women’s victimization, adolescent sexual behavior and the choking game, to name a few.

Dr. Leana BouffardDr. Leana BouffardDr. Bouffard was named the new Executive Director of the Institute in July, following the retirement of Dr. Glen Kercher. An associate professor in the College of Criminal Justice, her research has focused on violence against women, police response in domestic violence, sexual aggression among college students, and the effects of parenting on criminal behavior. Dr. Bouffard received her Ph.D. and Masters in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland, College Park and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University.

Dr. Bouffard will work with several graduate students, including Maria Koeppel, Molly Smith, Robin Jackson and Jonathan Grubb, on research projects. She also hopes to strengthen existing relationships with victim service organizations and agencies across the state to develop additional research opportunities.

“I think it is beneficial in terms of being able to do multiple projects at once,” said Dr. Bouffard. “The graduate students can be the faces of the project and attend meetings with stakeholders. They will be very intimately involved with the projects and be a real presence across the state and in the agencies.”

Rounding out the team will be staff member Teri Neiderhiser, who has worked with the institute for six years, as well as a research associate.

Member of The Texas State University System