Mission Statement and Service Philosophy
The Victims of Violence Program (VOV) is an adult outpatient trauma clinic located in a multi-site urban public health system that serves a diverse client population. Initiated in 1984 with start-up funds from local city government, VOV was established as a training program of the hospital’s academically affiliated department of psychiatry in 1985. Since then, its mission in the hospital, in the network of health care services in which it is located and in the larger community has been to develop comprehensive mental health services for crime victims and crime victimized communities.
The Victims of Violence (VOV) Program of Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) was co-founded in 1984 by Mary Harvey, PhD (Director) and Judith Herman, MD (Director of Training) with startup funding from the City of Cambridge. Established as a clinical training program of Harvard Medical School in 1985, VOV received its first Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) award from the MA Victim Witness Assistance Board in 1986.
In 1988, VOV received the American Psychiatry Association's Gold Award for innovative hospital and community service. In 2000, VOCA funding enabled VOV to launch the Victim Advocacy and Support Team (VAST) extending hospital-based, alliance-wide victim advocacy and support to crime victims and their families.
Today, VOV is a unique clinical resource for victims, a valued training context for graduate and post-graduate clinical trainees, a setting for clinical and community research, a consultation and training resource of national and international significance and a participant in world-wide anti-violence efforts.
Mission Statement and Service Philosophy
VOV recognizes the prevalence and psychological harmfulness of violence in American society and around the world, the value of community-based social action to prevent violence, and the importance of competence-building, empowering care. VOV's mission in the hospital, the CHA health care network, and the larger community is to develop comprehensive mental health services for crime victims and crime victimized communities. Because victims often experience psychiatric intervention as stigmatizing and intrusive, VOV emphasizes clinical care that can facilitate mastery, mobilize resiliency and promote renewed hope and restored self-esteem. Group treatment informed by these themes offers the promise of reduced isolation, opportunities to form new attachments and new avenues to community. Our Victim Advocacy and Support Team (VAST) extends empowering information and support to crime victims and their families at a time of crisis. Homicide bereavement services through our Center for Homicide Bereavement (CHB) ensure timely, compassionate response to families devastated by traumatic loss.
The VOV has six interrelated & integral components: direct clinical service & consultation, victim advocacy, research, public education, social justice/social action initiatives and community–based collaborations. Through each of these programmatic components the VOV helps people, groups, and communities understand and deal with traumatic events. The work of VOV is guided by an ecological view of psychological trauma, and a "stages by dimensions" understanding of trauma recovery. We understand that people who suffer violence are not alone; they live in a network of relationships and communities which may serve to aid in their healing. Our "stages by dimensions" model of recovery identifies various dimensions of people's lives that are affected by violence and abuse and in which healing work may need to be focused. It also means that healing occurs in stages, so we focus first on securing and maintaining personal safety, then on dealing with the major effects of violence, and eventually move to forming new, more empowered relationships with others.
Direct Clinical Services
- Crisis intervention and response (initial crisis assessment, treatment planning and episodic or time-limited crisis-focused psychotherapy) for acutely traumatized crime victims and their families
- Longer term clinical care (psychological assessment, treatment planning and psychotherapy) for adult survivors of physical and sexual violence
- A wide array of groups, (including groups for adult survivors of childhood abuse and domestic violence and groups for parents, partners, siblings and children of murdered family members). Click here for more information about our group therapy services.
- Hospital-based and system-wide victim advocacy and support
The VOV offers consultation to individuals and their providers as well as to community groups and agencies that have either been impacted by violence or provide care to those who have been victimized.
Victim Advocacy and Support Team (VAST)
If you or someone you love has been affected by violence, hatred or abuse, the Victim Advocacy and Support Team is here to help you rebuild your life.
Violence or abuse can happen to anyone. Victims of violence or abuse sometimes feel isolated and alone, reluctant to reach out to others. You may experience feelings of fear, numbness and shock, helplessness, anger, anxiety, depression and even guilt or self-blame. You may have questions about how to cope with your physical injuries, how to heal from the emotional impact of your experiences, how to file a report with the police, and what the court process would be like for you. Or you may just want someone to talk to - someone who understands.
Who We Are
We are clinicians experienced in the areas of trauma, victimization, victim advocacy and the criminal justice system. We work directly with victims to make sure that they have access to community resources, medical services and the courts. Our services are always confidential and are provided at no cost.
What We Do
We provide crisis counseling and support for you and your loved ones. We assist with safety planning for you and your family. We act as a liaison with social service agencies, the courts and police. We make appropriate referrals to health, legal and other community services to ensure that each client gets the best possible care, advice, and support. We assist with filing for Victim Compensation. We offer training and consultation services to the community.
Contact VAST: 617-665-2992
VOV works within CHA to promote sensitive and skillful domestic violence prevention, detection, and response and participate in a wide variety of training, consultation, and public and professional educational efforts locally and internationally.
Social Action/Social Justice
The VOV Program is one of the founding organizational members of Violence Transformed. Violence Transformed is an annual series of visual and performing arts events that celebrate the power of art, artists and art-making to confront, challenge and mediate violence. Based primarily in the center and surrounding neighborhoods of Greater Boston and drawing upon the creative energies of artists throughout New England, Violence Transformed documents the ways in which our diverse communities harness art’s potential to effect social change and materially transform our environments.
The Victims of Violence Program has staff and trainees who have expertise in Political Asylum Psychological Evaluations. The VOV also works closely with the Coordinated Care Program for Political Violence Survivors and several immigration attorneys, legal clinics and human rights organizations. The VOV is also one of the sponsors of CHA’s Political Asylum Clinic/Seminar.
The VOV is an active participant in local Domestic Violence High Risk Task forces and and related interpersonal violence community–based prevention and awareness initiatives.
Center for Homicide Bereavement (CHB)
The Center for Homicide Bereavement provides bilingual/bicultural services free of charge to those who have experienced the loss of a loved one to murder. In the life-altering aftermath of homicidal loss, the CHB staff offers crisis counseling and support, ongoing traumatic grief counseling with adults, children and families, advocacy and homicide bereavement support groups. In the CHB office and in families' homes, the aims of all CHB services are to provide timely, sensitive and confidential care to those experiencing devastating loss, to reduce isolation and foster healing connection with others.
Location: 675 Massachusetts Aveneue, Cambridge, MA 02139
Contact CHB: 617-591-6123
CHA fully funds the clinical services of VOV. Other VOV initiatives are supported by other program resources, including grant and foundation awards, consultation and training fees and private donations. These sources of support enable VOV to extend consultation to and conduct specialized training programs for local, national, and international audiences and visitors, to conduct research on recovery and resiliency in trauma survivors, and to participate in community-wide efforts to address and reduce domestic violence in the City of Cambridge and surrounding communities.
The Victim Advocacy and Support Team and the Center for Homicide Bereavement are vital to VOV's ability to extend these free-of-charge services to crime victims and crime victimized communities. These programs are supported by the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance through the 1984 VOCA grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs & the U.S. Department of Justice.VOCA funding is augmented by matching funds from CHA.