One way for citizens to begin to promote public safety is to find out what their community is doing to effectively manage sex offenders. In many communities, the information that is made available may be limited to sex offender registration and community notification requirements, such as required by the state's "Megan's Law." Further inquiry might be necessary to assess other, less visible, management practices.
A first step in the process of assessing and accessing resources in one's community is to determine what to ask and to whom to address these questions. A number of local resources are generally available to aid citizens in answering their questions, as well as to support a range of education and prevention activities.
- Sexual Assault Crisis Services: Also called rape crisis services/programs, these services include direct crisis intervention and support for victims of sexual violence and their families, help navigating the legal and health care systems, information/referral, group support, individual counseling, community risk-reduction/prevention education, and more. These services are usually accessed through the yellow pages, the department of social services, women's organizations or local information lines. Sexual assault programs
- Hotlines: Some states or municipalities have toll-free sexual assault or crime victim information phone line that can be accessed easily and confidentially. These are generally available 24 hours/day, 7 days per week and their operators provide information on a variety of services, resources, and providers. When hotlines are not able to directly assist callers, they will generally refer callers to another agency for assistance. Two national hotlines are available to connect citizens with local resources: The Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN): 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) and the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Additional contact numbers
- Child Protective Services: These services are provided either by state agencies or private non-profits. Many states have both state protective services charged with investigating child abuse allegations and private non-profits charged with providing support services to families where child abuse is involved. These agencies may be able to provide community members with information about their policies and practices around child sexual abuse allegations and investigations. NJ Division of Youth and Family Services
- Law Enforcement: Local police departments can be accessed quickly in an emergency by dialing 911 and can provide guidance regarding the registration of sex offenders and community notification guidelines. County prosecutors
- Victim Assistance Offices: These offices are typically agencies based in local criminal justice system agencies, in police departments, or prosecutor's offices, although in some states, offices for victim assistance are independent of local government. These agencies are primarily responsible for victim compensation and notification for victims of crime. They generally do not provide community education, but have a wealth of information about serving victims of crime. Additionally, these offices usually have many educational and information pamphlets that are available for distribution. Additional contact numbers
- Court Appointed Victim Advocates: Most courts have at least one individual designated to communicate with victims of crime who have entered the criminal justice system. This individual is able to provide communities with information about the criminal justice system, victim's rights and victim services.
- Children's Advocacy Centers: Not all states or communities have these centers, although they have gained respect and popularity in recent years. In general, these are centers where cases of child abuse/sexual abuse are approached in a holistic manner. Agencies responsible for the protection of children can coordinate their efforts through these centers. Additional contact numbers
- Area Counseling Centers: These programs exist in most communities, although they may have different approaches or areas of specialty. Learn what specialties are available in each community so as to provide citizens with more specific resources.
- Physicians, School Guidance Counselors, and Local Religious/Spiritual Leaders: These individuals may be aware of services and resources available in the community may be able to provide referrals to local professionals with expertise in sexual assault.
- Sex Offender Treatment Associations or Agencies: Some states have associations or agencies whose specialty is the treatment of sex offenders (e.g., state chapters of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers). These agencies/associations can provide information to community members wanting education about who sex offenders are and how they are treated and supervised the community.
- Probation/Parole Agencies: These are usually state agencies with local offices dedicated to the supervision of criminals who are not incarcerated. In many cases, probation or parole officers may be available to provide information about specific cases or to provide communities with information about their duties in protecting community safety. Probation and parole agencies, for the most part, are charged with safeguarding communities through the development and implementation of community supervision plans for offenders of all types. Citizens may wish to contact their local supervision agency to find out if their state has specialized sex offender probation/parole units.