Victim Witness Assistance

The mission of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO) Victim Witness Assistance Unit is to enhance prosecution efforts by delivering the highest quality of services to victims and witnesses in the areas of advocacy and court support. Our outreach efforts are immediate, and our responses are respectful, professional, thorough and consistent. 

Created in 1981 with the guiding philosophy that victims should be afforded their place in the criminal justice system, the CCSAO Victim Witness Unit is one of the oldest and largest prosecutor-based victim service units in the nation. Mandated by the Illinois Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act, 54 Victim Specialists ensure that victims and witnesses receive timely information about court proceedings and referrals for social services.  Victim Specialists serve more than 100,000 victims and witnesses each year with crisis intervention and emotional support, court accompaniment, answering questions, community referrals, intervening with schools and employers, educating and advocating for victims’ rights, and assisting with Crime Victims’ Compensation forms.   

Navigating the criminal justice system can be complex and confusing, some direct services by the unit include: 

  • Work in Juvenile court and Domestic Violence court; specialized teams work with felony Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence cases 

  • Address specific needs of the disabled, LGBTQ+ and senior communities with specialists trained in the community resources and issues relating to these underserved populations  

  • Provide guidance for victims and witnesses through the criminal justice system in 15 Cook County locations including - court orientation, information on the Illinois Bill of Rights for Crime Victims and Witnesses and necessary support and referrals

  • Special courtroom tours for children and their parents can be scheduled in advance of the court date in order to familiarize the victims and witnesses with the room in which they will later testify

  • Support with drafting Victim Impact Statements  

  • Intervention on behalf of the victims and witnesses with landlords, employers and schools 

  • Assist families in seeking counseling, safety planning, and financial assistance for costs related to their victimization

  • Hosts four homicide survivor support groups, for more information call 773-674-07200

The Unit provides a range of services under four key areas.  Here is a chart to help explain what we do: 

Information/Education 

Distribution of Literature: Orientation Packs, Automated Victim Notification, Criminal Justice System information sheets, Case Status Notification, Victims’ Rights, Assertion of Rights’ Forms, Violation of Order of Protection sheets, Crime Victim Compensation, Victim Impact information, Informational materials, Victim Services’ Awards   

Emotional Support 

Crisis Intervention, De-escalation, Assessment and Case Planning, Case Management, Support Groups, Court Accompaniment, Support Groups, Victim Memorial, Preparation of Victim Impact Statements, Presence During Court Preps, Warm Handovers, Clinical Case Review 

Safety 

Safety Planning, Relocation, Orders of Protection, Provision of Safe Waiting Areas, Triaging Security, AVN Registration, Parole Notifications, Facilitate Shelter Referrals, Case Staffing 

Core Services 

Arrange Transportation, Arrange Travel, Parking List, Lunch and Snacks, Clothing, Referrals, Obtaining Advocates, Crime Victims’ Compensation Assistance, School and Employer Letters, Arrange Meetings, Outside Case Staffings 

       

In 2019, in collaboration with the CCSAO Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Division the unit welcomed Hatty, a two-year-old Labrador Retriever facility dog, to the office. Hatty is a specially trained support dog serving as a therapeutic resource to specifically assist young children or mentally disabled victims of sexual trauma. Hatty’s primary role is to provide direct support to these individuals when testifying in court or during interviews with prosecutors and other officials.

(Hatty, the facility dog)
Grant funds graciously awarded by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, and the Illinois Criminal Justice and Information Authority fund 23 positions within the Unit while c corporate funds support the additional staff.

The Victim Witness Unit works with a range of advocates, community-based organizations, and other law enforcement agencies to provide the most comprehensive system of services to victims and witnesses. Specialized services are available in Arabic, American Sign Language, Spanish, and Polish.

 

The CCSAO Victim Witness Assistance Unit can be reached by:

Telephone:
(773) 674-7200

Mail:
State’s Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Assistance Unit
2650 S. California – 1st Floor
Chicago, IL 60608