Current Issue / DU Alumni

Scott Beard works with faith leaders to assist victims of violent crime

Anyone who knows Scott Beard, JD ’93, knows about his passion for assisting crime victims. He’s been involved in victim services for more than 16 years, including working on national, state and local public policy issues affecting those who have been touched by crime.

Beard worked for several national victim-related nonprofits before going on to direct a rape crisis center for five years. After graduating from DU, Beard represented victims of clergy sex abuse. In 1996, he founded the Charleston, S.C., based Crime Victims Law Firm, which is dedicated to representing violent-crime victims in civil court.

After years of representing victims, Beard began to look for ways to educate faith leaders. “Instead of just suing the church to enforce compliance, I thought there might be a way of helping faith leaders understand issues affecting crime victims through education and outreach,” Beard says.

Faith leaders, according to Beard, traditionally feel their calling is to try to “save evil doers (perpetrators). The issue of forgiveness is a key part of their faith.” While he recognizes the importance of such outreach, he believes crime victims are overlooked and that the church is a logical starting place for victim advocacy.

Since last year, Beard has directed a national project that brings together faith leaders and victim-assistance professionals in five high-crime cities. The project is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime and is sponsored by the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center.

Studies show that more than 40 percent of victims of crime go to a faith leader before, or often instead of, going to secular authorities. If faith leaders don’t properly respond to a victim, the victims could feel additionally violated by the faith community, Beard says. He hopes that by educating church leaders about victim issues, those leaders will respond appropriately to victims, thus making it more likely for justice to be served.

Beard feels that “no victim should be left behind.” So, the project reaches out to all types of faiths and all types of crime victims. But in a country whose foundation is based on religious freedom, the effort to include all faith communities can prove overwhelming.

Beard is optimistic, however.

“We’re going to start a dialogue so that faith leaders and victims will come together and learn about each other,” he says. “So far, we’ve had a lot of enthusiasm.”

 

 

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