Celebrating 50 Years of Service: Crime Victims' Institute Enlightens Public on Victim Issues

In 2003, Sam Houston State University inherited the Crime Victims’ Institute from the Texas Attorney General’s Office and turned it into a premiere research and advocacy agency for victims’ issue in Texas and beyond.

“The research and projects done by CVI have contributed to efforts by victim service providers and policymakers to bring more attention to victims and their needs,” said Dr. Leana Bouffard, Director of CVI. “Our goal is to provide the data and research to help determine the best practices in responding to victims within and beyond the criminal justice system. As the field continues to grow, we are seeing an increasing emphasis on evidence based practices for victim services, and we will continue to work with victim service agencies to research and implement those.”

Texas Senate Chambers
Texas Senate Chambers
The Crime Victims’ Institute was originally created in 1995 to study the impact of crime on victims, their relatives and society as a whole. CVI also evaluates the effectiveness of criminal justice and juvenile justice policies in preventing the victimization of society by criminal acts and helps develop new policies to prevent the criminal victimization of society.

Dr. Janet Mullings, now Executive Director of SHSU-The Woodlands Center, and then SHSU Professor James Marquart were involved in the early days of the program at the College of Criminal Justice. The two enhanced research partnership with the Victim Services Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Texas Youth Commission to capture data from victim impact statements. They also reached out to victims and conducted the Crime Victimization Poll to put their finger on the pulse of victim needs in the state.

Dr. Janet Mullings
Dr. Janet Mullings
The program also trained crime victim advocates and initiated a master’s program in Victim Services at the College of Criminal Justice. They joined local and state advocacy efforts, spreading the word about specific victim issues across the state.

“I consider having a role in bringing the Crime Victims’ Institute to SHSU to be among the best things I’ve ever done, and I am proud to have been a part of it”, Dr. Mullings said.

Report cover on Women's victimization.In addition to early advocacy work, CVI published reports on diverse topics, many which were included in peer-reviewed journals to expand the latest research in the field. Those diverse topics addressed such victimization issues as restitution, victim impact statements, identity theft, stalking, protective orders, hate crimes, victimization of immigrants, college students and crime, intimate partner violence, elder abuse, adolescent sexual behavior, community policing, drunk driving, how victims may become perpetrators, the choking game, crime victims’ rights, plea agreements, the Texas Crime Victim Compensation Fund, health aspects, sexual orientation and intimate partner violence, and human trafficking, to name a few.

Dr. Glenn Kercher (retired)
Dr. Glenn Kercher (retired)
“CVI supported research by faculty and students that led to publications in peer-reviewed journals” said Dr. Glen Kercher, former Director of CVI and a professor at the College (retired) . “ This not only advanced understanding of the issues addressed, but contributed to state and national discussions about ways improve the handling of these kinds of problems. In the process, the reputations of our faculty and College were enhanced.”
CVI publications were also shared with the Texas Legislature as well as victim service agencies to provide the latest scientific based information available in the field.

Dr. Leana Bouffard.
Dr. Leana Bouffard
“CVI has had a number of accomplishments over the years and has contributed greatly to an understanding of victimization and its consequences,” said Dr. Bouffard. “The work that is done here on victimization and related issues is important and has implications for how victim service agencies and the criminal justice system respond to victims and for decision-making about appropriate and effective policies and programs. We have worked very hard to disseminate the results of our research both to academic outlets as well as to the service providers and policymakers who can use the information to help victims, and that is our ultimate goal.”

Report cover for impaired driving.The Crime Victims’ Institute continues to conduct research and promotes advocacy on victim issues, adding a new lecture series called Voices to expose students to a variety of victim issues and career opportunities in the field. Its most recent projects delve deeply into emerging subjects, including human trafficking, sexual assaults, and stalking on college campuses. Its mission continues with the growth of the Victims Service Program at both the graduate and undergraduate levels at Sam Houston State University.

“From a very broad perspective, the victim of a crime is often in the background for academic criminal justice and for the system, which tend to focus more closely on the offender and how the system works,” said Dr. Bouffard. It’s been very gratifying to be part of a movement to bring more attention to victims and to the impact of that experience in their lives. The research that we do on understanding victimization is important in developing strategies to better help victims deal with that experience and to get justice. “

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