Helping Victims

Victim Support Europe is the EU’s largest and most influential umbrella organisation of affiliated frontline victim support services and governmental institutions, providing emotional support, information, legal and practical assistance to victims. Victim Support Europe guides national victim support services in their work and is a major advocate of victims’ rights and needs.

Victim Support Europe coordinates the work of national support services through education, information, etc. and argues for policies on crime victims’ needs and rights. The practical support of around 2 million victims a year is carried out by Member State national and civil society organisations.

International terrorism response network

Victim Support Europe has worked tirelessly for victims of terrorism since the 2015 French terrorist attacks. While we remain an organisation working on behalf of all victims of crime, we recognised that the basic needs of victims of terrorism were not being met.

Over the past few years, we have established an international response network, committed to offering support to victims of terrorism in most EU countries as well as further afield, including in Canada, United States and Brazil. We now work with organisations in 28 countries, but continue our global outreach to ensure no victim is left without support on returning home.

We have also been looking to the future, to ensure that all countries have a framework of victim oriented systems to help all victims, and we are developing a coherent set of policies, legal proposals, and services for victims of terrorism. To ensure we advocate for the best global practices available, we have brought together an international group of experts.

Our advocacy efforts have encouraged the European Union to include victims’ rights in its newly agreed legislation on European terrorism.

Multi-country referral mechanism

In May 2020, VSE launched its pilot, web-based, Referral System, a feature of its brand new Intranet.

  • The goal is for a co-ordinated and seamless service, to safely refer victims of crime to the appropriate service
  • The web-based tool currently allows 45 international civil society organisations to refer cross-border victims to support services located in another country.

With the increased mobility of EU residents and increasingly globalised crime, people are more often finding themselves victims of crime outwith their home Member State. Such cross-border victims may face challenges that leave them vulnerable or that might make it difficult to identify or access support services. VSE’s goal is to encourage its members in helping victims access and receive relevant support and assistance.

45 international civil society organisations are now using the Referral Mechanism in cross-border cases. Each organisation has assigned one individual as the point of contact for referrals and this individual alone can access the system to send and receive cases. Cases can be assigned a degree of priority, flagging the urgency of the request and the timeframe in which an answer should be received. Members can now discuss specific cases on a secure platform, without involving VSE staff.

“The assurance that cross-border victims will access and receive support is dependent on effective cross-country approaches. We encourage our members to actively use the new Referral System. Their experience in national referral will also help us to adjust and improve the system to reach an effective and useful mechanism,” says Léa Meindre-Chautrand, VSE’s Policy Officer.

Early intervention, cooperation and a quick response are key to cross-border victim assistance. “The best interests of the victim must always be the primary consideration in all actions taken. The idea is to have a co-ordinated and seamless service, so victims of crime are safely referred to the right service. Victim support organisations are able to send relevant information about the case, so victims do not have to tell their story over and over again”, adds Léa.

VSE members from Europe, USA, New Zealand and Russia have expressed interest in the system and have found it a useful tool for safely referring cross-border victims to the relevant victim support organisation.

The referral system is a logical addition to VSE’s earlier achievements, aimed at developing tools to better respond to victims’ needs. In 2018, VSE, in partnership with The World Bank and with the support of The Multi Donor Trust Fund for Justice Sector Support (MDTF-JSS), undertook several projects to assist the Serbian Government in strengthening its victim support services. This resulted in the collation of basic information on, and the mapping of all Serbian victim support services including: available forms of assistance and support; types of victim supported; how victims find the services; ways in which victims receive assistance and support; capacity of service providers; use of paid and volunteer staff, and their training: and how services are financed.

In 2019, VSE broadened the scope of its mapping of support services, launching an interactive online map of the available victim support services provided by its 58 global members. With this online information, victims can more easily find who, and how, to contact when they need help.

In Brussels in February 2020, VSE , with 8 partners, presented the results of a two-year project ‘Best Practices in Victims’ Support: Referrals, Information, Individual Assessment: VICToRIIA’. From the practical outcomes came the ‘Manual of Effective and Secure Referrals of Victims’, which looks at helping policy makers and victim support organisations set up a victim referral system based on existing national and local infrastructure.

Voice for victims

Every year, VSE runs Europe-wide information and awareness-raising campaigns designed to promote knowledge of victims’ rights. All the campaigns are developed on the basis of our ongoing review and analysis of needs and opportunities within the victim support community in Europe.

Learn more about VSE campaign on a dedicated page.