Defense Initiated Victim Outreach
In 1995, the defense team in the Oklahoma City bombing believed it important to reach out to those survivors whose lives had been changed forever by the disaster. Their initial attempt to make contact was late in the process and therefore less effective overall. However, their effort led to a new model for defense teams which is known as Defense Initiated Victim Outreach (DIVO).
DIVO seeks to address the needs of victims and their families throughout the legal process by providing a link between survivors and the defense, especially in capital cases. Defense attorneys who represent the accused in criminal cases increasingly are recognizing the potential of the adversarial process to further traumatize victim/survivors. In an attempt to ease this source of trauma and to help meet victim needs, defense attorneys seek the assistance of trained Victim Outreach Specialists (VOSs) to build a bridge between the victim and the defense team.
The VOS provides an opportunity for victims to have access to the defense team. This allows victims to interact both with prosecution and defense teams in order to address their questions, concerns and needs. DIVO is not intended to impede victims’ contacts with prosecutors and other forms of victim services. It is a means to enhance the process of obtaining information from all sources.
The Victim Outreach Specialist is considered an expert consultant, not a core member of the defense team. The VOS must maintain trust and be accountable to the defense team while focusing on victims’ needs and concerns. The Specialist is appropriately train in victim trauma, how to work with victims, and in the specific tasks, responsibilities and limits of the VOS role.
The DIVO process is a way to give victims and victim/survivors greater information, more active roles, and more options. If they choose, it is a possible avenue for victims to help fashion an alternative resolution to the legal case when faced with a prolonged trial, especially in a capital case. DIVO offers victims a greater voice in the legal proceedings and bridges a gap to help victims identify needs that the defense team can address in the judicial process.