Marianne Brueckert Special Contributor
April 10 - 16th marks National Victims of Crime Week, providing us with an opportunity to recognize and listen to those who have been victimized. The theme this year is “Many Voices, Many Paths” which reflects the real experience of those who are affected by crime. Each person’s experience is unique and the impact that on that person can vary from anger and irritation at the inconvenience to extreme trauma. It is important that we understand that each person will deal with things in their own way and in their own time. Our past life experiences, and the meaning we attach to crime, may influence how it will affect us. My goal is to strengthen peoples’ ability to cope in a positive and meaningful way.
This week is a time to bring forward a greater awareness and understanding of the many experiences of people who have been victims of a crime or other tragedy. Simply listening to your neighbour or friend without passing judgement on how they have dealt with their experience or loss is a great first step. This starts building an understanding of how we all deal individually with difficult experiences.
The criminal justice system is not specifically designed to address the needs of victims, however, many improvements have occurred over the past few years which put more rights and protections in place.
Some key examples of this are:
• better services to victims of domestic violence and a more consistent charging policy when an accused is arrested;
• specified rights for victims in the province entrenched within the B.C. Victim’s of Crime Act;
• the right to information on the victim services;
• compensation for criminal injury;
• the right to information on the criminal justice system including how the system functions, the status of the police investigation, the court case, and the administration of the offender’s sentence
• the right to your privacy;
• special protection for vulnerable witnesses in court, including legislation allowing for screens, closed circuit TV, and support persons in the courtroom for children and other traumatized individuals;
• victim impact statements more commonly heard at sentencing hearings and at parole hearings where early release is being sought;
• Restorative Justice and Community Accountability programs which allow for the offender and victim to have face to face contact and for the offender to make a meaningful apology and amends to the victim or community for their crime.
The Victim Services program which serves the Hope/Boston Bar area provides a wide range of services to those who have been a victim of a crime and other types of serious incidents such as motor vehicle accidents and suicide. We will help any person who has been impacted by crime and needs assistance in getting through the initial trauma and wants information on their individual case and on their rights as a case proceeds through the justice system. Where possible we encourage people to take the steps they feel capable of in order to empower them to take greater control, but we also understand the difficulty of being involved in the criminal justice system and how frustrating and confusing it can be. We are there to assist at those times.
This week is a time to remember that all victims have the right to support and we can help this along by simply listening to their needs. Having a voice is often a first step to being understood and affecting change.
The Hope/Boston Bar Victim Services program will be setting up information tables on Wednesday, April 13 at Boston Bar Family Place, from 11 - 1 p.m., and at the Hope Public Library, from 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.. Please join us for an informal time to share your experiences and your ideas on what can be done to improve services for victims. Where do we need to make change and how can we make Hope a better place to live. In addition we will have Victims of Crime lapel pins for sale, which honour the experiences of crime victims.
Marianne Brueckert is the Victim Services program manager for the Hope Community Police Office and the Boston Bar Neighbourhood Liaison Office.