Home » Support » Advocacy » Looks Can be Deceiving: Victim Advocacy, A Life’s Mission, but Never Fully Compensated

Looks Can be Deceiving: Victim Advocacy, A Life’s Mission, but Never Fully Compensated

court room, victim advocates

Crime Victim Advocates are a strange breed… Typically, it is not a chosen profession.  Rather, they come from the ranks of the survivors of crime. It is a hard row to hoe, seeing the dark side of life, the violence and the pain in the aftermath.

Violent crime sneaks up on “its prey” and shatters life as we know it. We are told in an academic manner that we must traverse through the stages of grief outlined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross…one step forward, then three steps back, never on an even keel.  We get stuck along the way ultimately to come out the other side a different person who can help others via their own life transformation.

Some survivors experiencing such a transformation, may be able to put it behind them “in a corner of their mind,” proceeding on a new path. There are those advocates who spring into action in very non-traditional ways.  They feel compelled to spread their message however they can.

Crime victim advocates may be able to find paid work within state or federal government arenas or non-profit organizations as well as some prosecutor’s offices and some police departments. However, frequently such positions are few and far between. Many of these positions are often the most low paying too!

Taken from my Blog The Murder Business… What’s Wrong With this Picture?

Crime Victim Advocates – (Court Based or Non- Profit)

$45, 0000 annually which is 38% lower than the average of all job postings!

Private Investigators (As of May 2009) Average Hourly wage is $22.66; Average annual wage = $47,130; Investigators with one year of experience = $25,602 annually; Investigators with 20+ years of experience. Range = $37,443 to $70,080 annually;

Private Investigators working in the Management, Scientific and Consulting Industries the most well compensated: Average = $90,030 annually;
Private Investigators in the Natural Gas Distribution Industry earn $83,080 annually; Private Investigators in the Computer System Design Industry earn $79,380 annually; Private Investigators in the Telecommunications Industry earn $74,800 annually; The highest paid private investigator employed by a state is Virginia at $$68,420 annually;
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics…

Police Detectives earn a range of $34,402 to $94,171 annually;

Homicide Detectives earn a median salary of $62,110 nationally; In a 2010 Survey of 435 detectives a salary range of $44,613 to $81,796 was reported; Detectives in the Federal System earn an average of $75,390 annually; Detectives in State Government earn an average of $54,940 annually; Detectives in Local Government earn an average of $61,230 annually;

Top Five Highest Paid Cities – Detective Salaries as of an August 2010 Survey) (Includes Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and St. Louis)

Salary Range on Average was $68,200 to 107,304 annually;

Domestic Violence /Intimate Partner Homicide- Director of Non-Profit:

  • Executive Director positions earn an average of $48,155 annually;
  • Program Manager Non– Profit position earns an average of $42,907annually;
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) earns an average of $39,996 annually;
  • Masters of Social Work (MSW) earns an average of $33,384 annually;

Left to their own devices, Advocates work at their passion on a part-time basis, nights and weekends, or they may even give up their paying jobs to pursue their mission IF there is another source of income in the household.  However, most people do not have such an option, especially in these dire economic times.

A majority of Advocates cannot afford the exorbitant costs of life coaches or most publicity and marketing companies. Moreover, many organizations are cutting paid speakers out of their budgets no matter how dynamic or compelling the speaker or message may be.

The realities of being an Advocate frequently include self-promotions, locating bookings for presentations, writing articles and books, (hoping to procure the services of a publisher “who will bite” and share your vision in order to disseminate your vital message and perhaps yield some income).

Case in Point:

Susan Murphy-Milano

Susan Murphy-Milano

Susan Murphy-Milano, a beloved former colleague and intimate partner violence expert, always presented herself –her countenance, style of dress, nails accessories etc. like she “had a million bucks.” In order to be professional, you must look the part, after all. However, reality tells a far different story.

Susan Murphy Milano is in a state of high indignation–a condition she experiences with exasperating frequency. Milano is an advocate for battered women. She’s not a lawyer or a social worker but sort of a guardian angel: she listens to their stories, tells them what their legal options are, hooks them up with shelters and counseling services, coaches them through media interviews and press conferences. For all of her trouble she receives no pay.”

 “Later she confesses, “Friday I was on burnout–I can’t catch up sometimes. I don’t think I got five hours of sleep all last week. . . . I don’t know how long I can keep going like this.” Milano knows that she courts exhaustion by keeping this schedule. A vegetarian, she worries about “keeping my health and mind straight” but smokes a pack a day. “I don’t relax well,” she admits. “I’m a real nervous Nellie.” But she shows no signs of slowing down.” 

 “It seems that no one thinks about how Susan is supposed to live, either. Being a full-time, unpaid advocate has been hard financially. When we first met, in late February, she said rather wistfully, “I’m all on my own. I get paid by writing speeches, doing fund-raising, consulting, writing articles. It’s pretty hand-to-mouth. . . . I keep waiting for someone to come and say, ‘We’ll hire you.'” But none of the agencies seemed interested.”

On our many phones conversations over two years, I would hear Susan crunching on some snack as we talked, with a “creaky cupboard “making noise in the background in her home. I asked her once, “Susan, how well do you live?” Her response, “Not very well, Donna.”

For all the thousands of Advocates out there who continue to forge a path for others selflessly, carry on, but make a Plan B for a steady income…  You deserve it!

Looks Can be Deceiving: Victim Advocacy, A Life’s Mission, but Never Fully Compensated

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