Victims in Canada need rehabilitation to ensure their physical, emotional, financial & legal recovery. A very wise client of ours reminded me of this simple idea this week. It is a wonderful thought. Imagine if our social services and health care systems focused on victim rehabilitation in the aftermath of crime? Canadian communities and families would be so much better off. If we provided the same level of consideration for victims as is granted to the offender in his/her rehabilitation, victims could concentrate on their healing, return to work when they are ready, retain supportive relationships and move forward positively. Rebuilding the lives of victims/survivors should be viewed as equally significant to charging, trying and convicting the perpetrator.
Perhaps the most simple thing we can offer victims for their rehabilitation is support services in the aftermath of what has happened. As a good friend and colleague in the field has noted many times: services for victims are currently very unfunded; they are hard for victims to find; and they don’t always meet the needs of victims when victims need them. We can and must do better. Here are a few suggestions:
- Physical: Concentrate on victim safety – keep victims safe from further acts of violence and secure safe/affordable housing for them when their living situation is compromised.
- Emotional: Address victims’ mental health needs in the aftermath of violence which means allowing them to access professional counselling services when they need them, not when the government says they can have them.
- Financial & Legal: Provide free legal assistance for victims to help them enforce civil and criminal court restitution orders when they have been defrauded. Provide financial assistance or compensation in a less bureaucratic way by offering standardized access to funds across Canada to help victims pay expenses that are a result of the crime such as counselling, medical/treatment expenses, funeral costs, rehabilitation, relocation, crime scene clean up, etc.
Victim rehabilitation is a beautiful idea that deserves the focus of all governments in this country.