National Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, May 28-June 3, 2017

Each year, we celebrate National Victims and Survivors of Crime Week in Canada to raise awareness of services and supports for persons harmed by crime and violence and to recognize the tireless efforts of front-line victim services staff, volunteers and advocates who offer support, information and practical assistance to survivors. In 2017, the theme for Victims Week is “Empowering Resilience”, which provides us with the opportunity to reflect on how we can better help victims discover and utilize their strengths and capacities in their healing journey.

Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. It is the ability to overcome challenges or to bounce back from adversity. They way people perceive and interpret adversity affects the way they feel and how they relate to the world around them. Resilient people have a positive view of themselves, their world. The good news is resilience can be learned through behaviours, thoughts and actions, it is not a trait. Resilience can be built in a number of ways by: 1) making social connections for support; 2) avoiding seeing crises as insurmountable problems; 3) accepting that change is a part of life; 4) moving towards goals; 5) taking decisive action; 6) looking for opportunities for self-discovery; 7) nurturing a positive view of oneself; 8) keeping things in perspective; 9) maintaining a hopeful outlook; 10) taking care of oneself.

But sometimes it can be challenging for victims and survivors to feel resilient given the traumatic experience they’ve had. Some may feel that they are being rushed to move forward with their lives or “get over it”. Others may feel they are being judged for not being resilient enough or for being too angry. We must recognize that each individual is on a unique healing path with very different timelines. We cannot rush anyone to recovery, healing or wellness, but we can be present to assist survivors to use their strengths to overcome the challenges presented by victimization. There are also great resources available that may be helpful.  For example, the Victim Coordinating Committee (VICC) for Leeds and Grenville Counties just developed and released an empowerment toolkit, which provides helpful tips on how to maintain, improve, or encourage healthy well-being after experiencing trauma.

We must also be mindful of the diversity that exists within communities and across Indigenous cultures and nations. Decolonizing our practice is important to ensure that we have the skills to help survivors with wholistic wellness and connection to self, family, community, culture and nature/spiritual.


The Power of Our Voices

As we head into the 11th annual Victims and Survivors or Crime Week in Canada (May 29 – June 4, 2016), it is important to reflect on how far we’ve come in terms of responding to and serving victims of crime. Across the country, there are hundreds of programs that now provide shelter, support and assistance to persons harmed by crime and violence. Service providers work diligently to help their clients achieve safety, information, healing and autonomy. Working in this field is an honour because we are moved, inspired and transformed every day by our clients.

It is equally important to continue to raise awareness of victim and survivor issues. Victims still face challenges in reporting crime, navigating the criminal justice system and trying to access the support they need to recover.  Recent high profile cases of sexual assault have shown us that even when victims want to participate in legal processes, there are significant challenges in successfully prosecuting these cases. A survivor recently said, “That’s why people don’t come forward, it’s because at every turn you are doubted, and you are questioned, and you are told that you are liar, and you are told that you are out for fame, or out for money, at every turn there is a disincentive to participate in the legal process.” The voice of survivors can truly be powerful in changing the social, political and legal contexts in which we deal with the endemic problem of sexual assault.

As the Minister of Justice begins her review of the entire criminal justice system, we’ve outlined the gaps that we continue to hear about from victims across Canada, despite the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights being one year old and providing enshrined rights for victims. You can read our letter to the Minister here and reach out to the office to share your experiences with the justice system at any time: 1-877-232-2610.


The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime offers support, research and education to survivors and stakeholders.

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