Victims Academy attendees
Left to right: Angie Overton, Sherri Murphy, Brandeis Armour.

University graduate student Sherri Murphy was astonished to learn about the pervasive horror of human trafficking in the United States, one of the many informative topics covered by the Tennessee State Victim Assistance Academy. The University partnered with the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic And Sexual Violence, the State Treasurer’s Office, the Office of Criminal Justice Programs and the Victims of Crime State Coordinating Office to bring the academy to campus for the second consecutive year.

“I have studied abroad in Slavic countries, and I never realized how big the problem is there and here,” Murphy said.

Murphy was among a group of UTC criminal justice students who attended. They heard from presenters who covered a variety of topics including the criminal justice system, victims’ compensation, domestic violence, sexual assault, child victimization, elder abuse, rural victims, hate crimes, collaboration, and cultural competency.

Attendees of the Victim Assistance Academy can earn college credits according to Angie Overton, who will begin her second year of the Masters in Criminal Justice program at the University. Overton hopes to pursue the Ph.D. in criminal justice and to teach.

“This academy is teaching me to be aware of victim’s rights as a professional and as a woman,” Overton said. “Sexual assault, rape, identity theft…there are so many crimes that go unreported. Women can learn a lot at the academy, and men would also benefit by attending.”

Overton said the academy did not solely focus on academics, but also offered practical information. “Dr. Nancy Badger from UTC spoke about people with disabilities, and she was great. She talked about when to offer help. Another presenter talked about how we can better relate to our peers, because we do not come from the same backgrounds with the same history. We learned not to be ethnocentric.”

UTC criminal justice student Brandeis Armour, who will soon begin her second year in the master’s program, wanted to know more about career possibilities offered in her field.

“I have learned about juvenile justice, sexual abuse, female victimization,” Armour said. “This is a good chance to network with a variety of people who work in the field.”

The Academy provided basic training for individuals working in victim advocacy programs, prosecutor’s offices, law enforcement, probation, corrections, domestic and sexual violence programs, child advocacy centers, and other victim service agencies.

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