This is a question I often ask participants to consider at the close of trainings on crime victimization. It’s an ongoing discussion I’m having with practitioners, such as police officers, advocates, prosecutors, nurses, teachers, psychologists, and others.
More than a few times someone has burst out either with tears or a tirade to exclaim that they’ve lost hope — the hope that originally drove them into advocacy has been extinguished by funding shortfalls, community apathy, a never-ending stream of cases, and too many memorial services for victims who did not survive.
I started asking about our hope with the intention that it be a personally reflective and evocative question. I think it’s an important conversation to have, but now I’ve begun linking it to a greater perspective as well: What’s working?
This is a related important conversation to have. In a field that exists to address problems – multiple, complex, urgent problems – it is easy to stay problem-focused, talking about gaps and needs. But we’ve been at this since the (1930s? 1950s?). Are we doing anything right? Is anything getting better? Or are we all being subsumed by emerging crimes, tech-savvy criminals, and super predators?
I read the statistical updates and overviews and I don’t feel hopeful. Does anybody know what it all means? Can anybody explain if and how anything we’re doing in crime prevention and intervention is working?
Do we have any right to hope?
I think the current nationwide crime trends analysis would tell us that, yes, we do have reasons to hope; and yes, we have figured out some things that are working. Crime is down! Overall crime rates, including homicide, sexual violence, crimes against children and others have been declining since the 1990’s.
It’s not just practitioners who need this news, but the general public, who are so fatigued with news of child murder, serial rapists, and people preying on the elderly. I think we could all use a healthy update about what’s working. After all, we, as a society, continue to be asked to invest in fighting crime and supporting victims. And, as it turns out, this effort is not just a bottomless pit of despair- we are making progress.
So why aren’t we talking about that?