February 3, 2020

What is the difference between the post-incident victim advocacy required in PREA Standard 115.21, and the outside confidential support services required in PREA Standard 115.53?


PREA Standard 115.21(e) requires agencies to provide a victim advocate to, when requested by the victim, “accompany and support the victim through the forensic medical examination process and investigatory interviews and shall provide emotional support, crisis intervention, information, and referrals.” If a rape crisis center is not available to provide this service, the agency must provide a qualified staff member of a community-based organization, or a qualified agency staff member. The purpose of the standard is to provide victims with in-person advocacy and support during the forensic medical exam and investigatory interview. This is comparable with services that are generally available to victims in the community when they seek forensic exams or report sexual assaults. 

PREA Standard 115.53, by contrast, focuses on longer-term or ongoing counseling and support for victims, which could be provided by phone or mail, or offered in person. This standard is also intended to provide victims with a way to reach out to a provider to request support. Specifically, this standard requires the facility to:

  1. Provide victims with mailing addresses and phone numbers (including toll-free hotlines where available) for victim advocacy or rape crisis organizations, and enable communication between inmates and victim service providers in “as confidential a manner as possible;”
  2. Inform inmates of the extent to which their communications with victim service providers will be monitored, and the extent to which reports of sexual abuse will be forwarded to authorities, in accordance with mandatory reporting laws; and
  3. Attempt to enter into agreements with victim service providers to provide inmates with confidential sexual abuse support services.

One example of how facilities and agencies have met these requirements is by signing an agreement with a local rape crisis center to respond to hotline calls and provide advocates on-site at certain dates/times. On-site advocates can meet with individual victims and facilitate support groups. The focus of this on-site work is helping victims to recover from the longer-term trauma and emotional impact related to being a victim of sexual abuse.

While the victim advocacy requirements of PREA Standard 115.21 are generally triggered after an inmate makes a report of sexual abuse within a facility, agencies are required to provide all inmates with access to outside confidential support services under PREA Standard 115.53, whether or not they make allegations of sexual abuse.