Article  |  Victim Services, Victimization

Victim Needs Assessment

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The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority contracted with Aeffect, Inc. for a statewide victim needs assessment to document how victims’ needs were met by services providers and where gaps in service delivery existed. The study was composed of a literature review of best practices; 95 in-depth telephone interviews with stakeholders, service providers, victims, and family members; and a statewide online survey of 1,569 victims and non-victims. The survey consisted of a weighted benchmark sample of respondents located in regions across the state (n=1,042), a booster sample of Chicago residents (n=403), and a supplemental sample of crime victims (n=124). The survey provides an initial benchmark reading on the proportion of Illinoisans affected by crime and the needs they have as a result of victimization.

Key Findings

More than half of adults in Illinois reported being the victim of a crime in their lifetime (55 percent of the weighted statewide sample of respondents). Among those who reported victimization, about one in five (21 percent) experienced the crime within the past two years, and for most, the crime occurred either in the City of Chicago (23 percent) or in a Chicago suburb (28 percent). Among violent crime victims, the crime was far more likely to have occurred in Chicago (41 percent). The most common crime types included identity theft and scams (25 percent), physical assault (21 percent), child abuse (20 percent), domestic violence (20 percent), robbery (15 percent), or rape/sexual assault (14 percent).

While victimization affects Illinois residents of all ages, genders, races, ethnicities, and incomes, some groups reported a higher rate of victimization, especially violent victimization, than their counterparts. People who are younger (18-34), single, African American, Hispanic, disabled, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), and those with incomes below $20,000 reported significantly higher rates of victimization given their representation.


Demographic Statewide Ever A Victim Victim-Violent
18-34 24% 34% 54%
35-54 30% 32% 27%
55-64 25% 22% 13%
65+ 21% 12% 6%
White/Caucasian 81% 72% 69%
Black/African-American 8% 13% 13%
Hispanic/Latino 6% 10% 12%
Asian/Asian-American 5% 7% 6%
Speak a language other than English at home 14% 18% 22%
Medical or health related disability 19% 24% 28%
Heterosexual 91% 87% 84%
Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Other 7% 10% 15%
Total 1042 931 330

Multiple or poly-victimization was not uncommon; more than half (57 percent) of victims reported being victimized more than once. Victims who reported past violent victimization were especially vulnerable, as nearly three-quarters (72 percent) have been the victim of more than one crime.

Consistent with national studies, this research found that many crimes in Illinois go unreported; 54 percent of victims in Illinois indicated they did not report their victimization to law enforcement. Common reasons for not reporting included feeling that the police could not help (23 percent) or that they would be blamed (17 percent) or not believed (17 percent). Victims of violent crime were significantly more likely than all Illinois crime victims to say they did not want to get involved (at 21 percent and 9 percent, respectively) or feared retaliation (at 23 percent and 14 percent, respectively). Men were more likely than women to say they reported the crime to police (at 54 percent and 44 percent, respectively). This may be partly a reflection of crime type, as women were more likely than men to be victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and victims of these types of crimes are less likely to report.

Regarding service needs, victims of crime cite counseling, mental health services and civil legal assistance as their top three needs. These needs are especially predominate for victims of violent crime. A majority of victims have needs across multiple areas and even more so for victims of violent crime, who are nearly twice as likely to mention the needs listed In Table 2.


Victim Needs Statewide Need Service Statewide Received Victim-Violent Need Service Victim-Violent Received
Counseling (individual/family/support groups) 26% 16% 40% 26%
Mental health/psychological services 18% 10% 28% 17%
Civil legal assistance (family, financial,immigration) 17% 11% 30% 19%
Medical/health care services 12% 7% 20% 10%
Emergency shelter/relocation/housing 11% 5% 20% 10%
Child care 9% 2% 19% 5%
Information/advocacy on public resources 8% 3% 17% 7%
Total 568 330

While some victims who sought support were effective in securing help that meets their needs, many were not. The most noticeable gap was in the number of victims that needed counseling and mental health services and those that actually received those services. This was particularly true of violent crime victims. Of violent crime victims, 26 percent received counseling, leaving a gap of 14 percent between those who identified the services as a need (40 percent) and those who received help. Similarly, 30 percent of violent crime victims indicated a need for civil legal assistance, but just one in five actually received the service (19 percent).

Overall, one-third to one-half of victims who said they needed help did not receive it. The most common reason given was a lack of knowledge about how or where to receive services (57 percent of crime victims, 58 percent of violent crime victims). Additional reasons for not seeking services included concerns about being blamed or not believed (36 percent of crime victims, 41 percent of violent crime victims) or assuming they did not qualify for services (29 percent of crime victims, 45 percent of violent crime victims).

Victims also cited having no providers nearby, a wait list for services, or access to transportation as additional barriers to seeking and obtaining victim services. Some reasons for not seeking services were due to cultural beliefs, language barriers, or fear of deportation. Many victims revealed that their initial response to victimization, and even for some time after the event, was impacted by the trauma of the victimization, which may have impacted their ability to seek services.


Didn’t know how or where to get support services 57% 58%
Worried about being blamed or not believed 36% 41%
Assumed I did not qualify for services 29% 45%
No service providers nearby 24% 29%
Wasn’t sure these services would be able to help me 22% 24%
No transportation to reach providers 22% 23%
Wait list for services was too long 15% 27%
Concerned services not sensitive to beliefs 16% 25%
Did not have child care 13% 21%
Concerned services not accessible for disabled 13% 20%
Unsure how to find services in primary language 13% 21%
Concerned services not sensitive to immigration status 11% 17%
Total 149 148

Implications for Policy and Practice

A critical finding was that many victims were not prepared to seek help and knew little about victims’ rights under Illinois laws, how the criminal justice system works, or what type of resources are available in the state to support or compensate victims and their families. Educating Illinois residents early on about victim services may prepare victims to more effectively navigate the criminal justice system and empower them to engage the support they need. Establishing these linkages early at initial points of contact can ensure that victims’ needs are clearly understood.

It also was clear that core services are needed to assist victims. Many victims reported needs that were not met even when services were sought. Counseling, mental health services, legal services, medical care, and shelter are all fundamental to the needs of crime victims during initial crisis response and long-term recovery.

The trauma of victimization may impede victims from seeking and receiving services, particularly those experiencing violent victimization. Offering victims’ rights information or details about the services available at a single point in time may be insufficient as victims may not recall or be able to fully appreciate the information provided directly following a victimization. Practitioners should develop strategies that inform victims of their rights and services at multiple times and in various formats. A trauma-informed and trauma-focused response from criminal justice and service professionals also may encourage victim engagement and help mitigate the risk of re-victimization as these types of responses consider how trauma impacts victims and are victim centered. A trauma-informed approach acknowledges and is sensitive to the far-reaching impact of trauma in a victim’s life and recognizes that a victim’s response may be affected by a traumatic experience.

Victims often experienced multiple crimes and needed multiple service, many times offered by service providers in different locations. Lack of transportation and having to travel to several locations for services presented a barrier for victims. Programs offering centralized services that can address multiple victimization experiences are needed in areas with high rates of community violence.

Those at increased risk of victimization also found it difficult to seek services due to concerns about language and cultural barriers or accommodation for a disability. People of color, younger victims, and members of the LGBTQ community also are in need of advocacy that addresses their specific needs and circumstances.

This project was supported by Award No. 15-VA-GX-0049 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice or the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

2016 VICTIM NEEDS ASSESSMENT Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority Summary Report