Giving victims a voice in the criminal justice system

Giving victims a voice in the criminal justice system Giving victims a voice in the criminal justice system Giving victims a voice in the criminal justice system Giving victims a voice in the criminal justice system

SAVE THE DATE

CRCVC will be hosting a 2-day training for social workers, victim services staff, counsellors, therapists, shelter workers, law enforcement personnel, lawyers, activists, policy makers, and students in Ottawa, on November 5-6th, 2015, with Dr. Catherine Richardson, University of Montreal.

Dr. Cathy Richardson is a family and community therapist specializing in practice and research involving recovery from violence. She is currently involved in advancing response-based practice, a dignity-based approach to violence prevention and recovery with individuals and groups. She has worked with Indigenous communities, with victims of spousal assault, and with families in child protection settings. She is a co-founder of the Centre for Response-Based Practice and is an Associate Professor at the University of Montreal. Response-based practice is centred on dignity and honouring resistance in conversations with people who have been harmed.

Cathy is interested in the intersections of healing, recovery, social justice, culture and spirituality. Stay tuned for registration details.

The costs of victimization are significant

At the Centre, we hear from many parents who are suffering incredibly. We just heard from a Mom whose son was stabbed to death in July. It was a random attack, after a party, in the early morning hours. She explained that she is hanging in there somehow; but needs to take time off work. She just cannot function.

Of course she needs time off work. No one is ever prepared to lose a child, especially in a violent manner. Even if her child is grown and 25 years old, it is the worst thing that a parent can experience. She explained her husband has gone back to work, even though he is struggling. He is forced to go back because there are bills to pay and surviving children to raise and care for. The mother foresees financial difficulties for her family. She does not know what help is available to her family in Ontario.

It is hard to have to tell her there is little financial assistance available to her.  Yes, the province will help cover some emergency costs like the funeral and some counselling for the immediate family members. This is a good thing and very much needed. But what about the longer term? Many parents and siblings experience such strong traumatic reactions to the loss of their loved one to violence that they simply cannot function normally for months or years. They are grief stricken and unable to work. Ontario has a Financial Assistance for Families of Homicide Victims Program, which can provide up to $10,000 to parents or spouses of homicide victims, but accessing the funds is not expedited. How do parents take the time off they need to recover and still care for their families?

The federal government has recognized that parents of missing and murdered children may need time off work and should have their income supplemented during this time. This is an important program but frustratingly, the Income Support program only applies where children are under 18 years of age. The program simply cannot reach all those who need it because of the eligibility restrictions.

What do victims need to facilitate resilience and recovery? We know that crime and violence places a massive financial burden on victims. The cost of crime cannot be overlooked when we are developing responses to help victims and survivors. Some of our provinces and territories in Canada offer no financial assistance at all to victims of violent crime. This is unacceptable.

It takes time for healing to be achieved when someone is victimized by violence. While you cannot go back to life as it was before the traumatic event occurred, victims and survivors can be resilient if they have strong supports from the outset. If parents don’t have to stress about paying the rent or mortgage they can concentrate on getting well. Getting well means victims become resilient survivors who can hopefully return to work, and even create new meaning in their lives.

The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime works to ensure the equitable treatment of crime victims by providing support and advocacy to survivors.

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