(9) POLICY: Victim Blaming is Rampant within DHS Programs & Causing Secondary Trauma
DHS programs and components regularly engage in “victim blaming” toward individuals who seek their help in obtaining protection and restitution from the damages caused by an immigration-related crime. DHS components and agencies lack the training necessary to recognize the symptoms associated with being victimized by an immigration-related crime and instead, incorrectly interpret trauma-related symptoms as malicious or “vindictive.”
According to “Victimization from 21st Century Criminology: A Reference Handbook,” victimization is the “outcome of deliberate action taken by a person or institution to exploit, oppress, or harm another, or to destroy or illegally obtain another's property or possessions. The Latin word victima means ‘sacrificial animal...’”
Victims of immigration-related crimes have been used and discarded by the perpetrating immigrant in his/her pursuit of an immigration benefit. In some cases the crime plays out for years without any external intervention to relieve the victim of his/her suffering. Within the victim community is commonly understood that victims of immigration-related fraud end up financially destroyed, going insane or dead.
According to the Department of Justice Victim-Witness Program:
“THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT OF FRAUD VICTIMIZATION: Fraud crime is a personal violation. Your trust in your own judgment, and your trust in others, is often shattered. You may feel a sense of betrayal, especially if the perpetrator is someone you know. You may have hesitated to tell family members, friends, or colleagues about your victimization for fear of criticism. If they then were exploited by the same fraud, you might feel guilty and suffer a sense of isolation. Fraud crimes can destroy your financial security and sometimes that of your loved ones.”
According to Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, “The depth and intensity of these fraud victims’ emotions highlight a striking reality about white-collar crime: Fraud victims go through much of the same emotional aftermath as victims of violent crime. Although victims of white-collar crime haven’t been physically violated, the psychological violation they experience can leave them significantly shaken. In the wake of a fraud, victims can experience the following symptoms:
Loss of appetite
Persistent feelings of anxiety
Embarrassment and shame
Ongoing anger and resentment
Depression and even suicidal thoughts”
Nearly 100% of all ICVA fraud victims have been told by DHS and its sub-components and agencies to “move on” and have been labeled by DHS as “vindictive spouses” simply for reporting fraud and seeking restitution for the damages the victim has sustained, or to be released from further liabilities or protected from further harm.
Victims of Fraud are already less likely to report Fraud victimization at a rate of just 15% according to the Department of Justice. When DHS agencies and components engage in victim blaming, that percentage falls even lower, exposing our nation to systemic immigration fraud, perpetrated by immigrants who knowingly commit fraud with the understanding that DHS will shield them (through inept policy and lack of training) from ever facing consequences. Those same un-charged and un-prosecuted criminals may then go on to engage in further crimes against the public and our nation.
According to the DOJ Victim-Witness Program:
“Why are fraud crimes under-reported?
Although fraud victims are not alone, they often suffer their losses alone and in silence. Shame, guilty, embarrassment, and disbelief are among the reasons that only an estimated 15 percent of the nation's fraud victims report their crimes to law enforcement. Other reasons include victims' doubt about their own judgment, a sense of betrayal, and fears about how their family members, friends, and business associates will react. Some victims feel their losses are not large enough to report, do not want to get involved, think law enforcement agencies will not take the crime seriously, or think nothing will result from reporting the crime. Many victims feel they only have themselves to blame, when in reality, calculating, skilled perpetrators are to blame for these criminal acts.”
DHS’ lack of training and skills necessary to help and serve victims is allowing fraud to run rampant within the DHS components and agencies. Training as well as a place for victims to go and be treated fairly and obtain protections against perpetrators must be established. Victims must also feel safe to express their feelings without the threat of being labeled “vindictive” which would ultimately jeopardize their case, simply because their symptoms of trauma are being exploited by DHS employees for the benefit of the immigrant who defrauded the victim. Victims need to have protections against further harm caused by the perpetrator and DHS must help victims obtain those protections. Victims also need guidance and informational resources on how to proceed within DHS.
There are many issues here which must be resolved so as to encourage all victims to come forward and report immigration-related crimes. An overall culture of understanding, sympathetic to victims must be established within all DHS programs and agencies to ensure all victims have a sense of security.
Other Legal Issues:
Being victimized by an immigrant perpetrator causes damages alone, however, secondary damages also occur when DHS components and agencies fail to handle victim complaints correctly and fail to provide appropriate services which ultimately has a terrifying effect on the victims’ rights and responsibilities.
The National Center for Victims of Crime states, “The trauma of victimization is a direct reaction to the aftermath of crime. Crime victims suffer a tremendous amount of physical and psychological trauma…When victims do not receive the appropriate support and intervention in the aftermath of the crime, they suffer "secondary" injuries”
“Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was first applied to military veterans who experienced psychological trauma while serving in combat. Researchers are now applying this syndrome to crime victims. Being a victim of crime does not necessarily mean that an individual will develop PTSD. If victims receive appropriate crisis intervention, the chances of developing PTSD are reduced. Some recognizable symptoms of PTSD are:
- Sleeping disorders/continued nightmares;
- Constant flashbacks/intrusion of thoughts;
- Extreme tension and anxiety;
- Irritability/outbursts of anger;
- Non-responsiveness or lack of involvement with the external world;
- Prolonged feelings of detachment or estrangement of others; and
- Memory trouble.
Victims not only have to struggle with primary injuries in the aftermath of the crime, but they must also battle with the ‘secondary’ injuries. Secondary injuries are injuries that occur when there is a lack of proper support. These injuries can be caused by friends, family and most often by the professionals victims encounter as a result of the crime. Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, social service workers, the media, coroners, clergy, and even mental health professionals can cause secondary injuries. Those individuals may lack the ability or training to provide the necessary comfort and assistance to the victim. Often, those individuals blame the victim for the crime. Failing to recognize the importance of the crime or to show sympathy can be damaging to the victim's self-worth and recovery process.
Perhaps the most agonizing experience for victims involves dealing with the criminal justice system if and when an offender is apprehended. At this level, the crime is considered to have been committed against the state, and victims become witnesses to the crimes. This procedure is very difficult for the crime victim to understand and come to terms with, because in the victim's mind, he or she is the one who has suffered emotionally, physically, psychologically and financially. At this stage of the process, a victim can sometimes feel that he or she is losing complete control because he or she is not directly involved in the prosecution or sentencing of the offender.
However, participation in the criminal justice system can aid victims in rebuilding their lives. If victims are kept well-informed about the criminal proceedings and feel that they have a voice in the process, they will feel that they are a part of a team effort. This added effort enables victims to understand the judicial process and helps to return to them a sense of control to their lives and circumstances.
In order to have a better understanding of the aftermath of criminal victimization, we must begin to accept the reality that crime is random, senseless and can happen to anyone regardless of the precautions that are taken to prevent being victimized. We must also understand that a victim's life is turned upside down when he or she becomes a victim of crime. In order to help victims learn to trust society again and regain a sense of balance and self-worth, we must educate all those who come in contact with victims and survivors. With proper training, all professionals will be better able to assist victims in dealing with the aftermath and trauma of victimization.”
Currently, faulty or intentionally unlawful DHS policies deny victim ANY ability to participate in any proceeding or have knowledge of anything regarding the offense, including any ability to know about or participate in any proceeding which directly impacts the victim, construe the victim’s rights or responsibilities or ultimately makes determinations regarding the victim’s relationship to the perpetrator. This abuse is certainly causing secondary trauma to 100% of ICVA victims who reported fraud.
According to Dr. Karin Huffer with Equal Access Advocates, Legal Abuse Syndrome is a psychological reaction in response to “profound and prolonged injustice.” “Those who seek justice have been victimized by either deception or violence. When a victim pursues justice he becomes engaged in a ‘shotgun wedding’ of sorts which unites the psychological and legal issues into a psycho-legal condition. Recovery requires both psychological attention and legal closure. The condition, which I have named ‘Legal Abuse Syndrome’ (LAS), is a chronic ‘psycho-legal’ Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which complicates the victim’s ability to adequately defend himself or herself against further assaults or to effectively fight for rights, at a moment when victims most need their creative powers. LAS is the obscure factor that is exploited by unscrupulous attorneys, white-collar criminals, and abusers of authority.”
DHS’ failure to recognize trauma symptoms and further failure to adequately address the concerns of victims is causing secondary trauma. DHS is further exploiting trauma symptoms in victims to deny victims their rights afforded to them by law. Victims are first victimized by the alien perpetrator but then re-victimized by DHS and its employees.