Recovery Bill of Rights for Trauma Survivors


Trauma is defined as “any physical damage to the body caused by violence or accident” and “an emotional wound or shock often having long-lasting effects”. Sexual abuse and sexual assault are trauma.

When most people think of trauma, they do not include sexual abuse or sexual assault. The things that come to mind are physical injuries caused – in most cases – by accidents or serious illness. The loss of a loved one is considered a traumatic incident, whether that occurs through death or the sudden end of a relationship. For some, the loss of a beloved pet may be traumatic. In these situations, the affected party is usually given space and time to heal in their own way. They are treated with compassion and care, and they are respected for having survived a tragedy.

Unfortunately, these thoughts and sentiments are not always extended to survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault. Many survivors never receive the space or time necessary to heal. In some cases, survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault may be treated as if a disease that requires aggressive treatment or a cure has inflicted them, while some may not receive any care at all. As a result, quite frequently, survivors are re-traumatized.

According to the Trauma-Informed Toolkit developed by Klinic Community Health Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba

“People who have been affected by trauma are at risk of being re-traumatized in every social service and health care setting. This is often due to a lack of knowledge about the effects of traumatic events and a limited understanding of how to work effectively with survivors. Trauma effected people frequently feel misunderstood and unsupported which can impede healing and growth. This can be prevented with basic knowledge and by considering trauma-informed language and practices.”

 As survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault, in social service and health care settings, we can demand the care, time, and space that we need for healing. The Recovery Bill of Rights for Trauma Survivors written by Thomas V. Maguire, PhD in 1995 provides a guide to the rights entitled to every survivor in four areas

  • personal authority
  • personal boundaries
  • personal communication
  • the domain of psychotherapy

As you move forward in your healing, you may use this guide to assert your rights. ___________________________________________________________________

A RECOVERY BILL OF RIGHTS FOR TRAUMA SURVIVORS

 As a Matter of Personal AUTHORITY, You Have the Right . . .

  • to manage your life according to your own values and judgment.
  • to direct your recovery, answerable to no one for your goals, effort, or progress.
  • to gather information to make intelligent decisions about your recovery.
  • to seek help from a variety of sources, unhindered by demands for exclusivity.
  • to decline help from anyone without having to justify the decision.
  • to have faith in your powers of self restoration — and to seek allies who share it.
  • to trust allies in healing as much as any adult can trust another, but no more.
  • to be afraid and to avoid what frightens you.
  • to decide for yourself whether, when, and where to confront your fear.
  • to learn by experimenting, that is, to make mistakes.

For the Preservation of Personal BOUNDARIES, You Have the Right . . .

  • to be touched only with your permission, and only in ways that are comfortable.
  • to choose to speak or remain silent, about any topic or at any moment.
  • to choose to accept or decline feedback, suggestions, or interpretations.
  • to ask for help in healing, without having to accept help with work, play, or love.
  • to challenge any crossing of your boundaries.
  • to take appropriate action to end any trespass that does not cease when challenged.

In the Sphere of Personal COMMUNICATION, You Have the Right . . .

  • to ask for explanation of communications you do not understand.
  • to express a contrary view when you do understand and you disagree.
  • to acknowledge your feelings, without having to justify them as assertions of fact or actions affecting others.
  • to ask for changes when your needs are not being met.
  • to speak of your experience, with respect for your doubts and uncertainties.
  • to resolve doubt without deferring to the views or wishes of anyone.

Specific to the DOMAIN of Psychotherapy, You Have the Right . . .

  • to hire a therapist or counselor as coach, not boss, of your recovery.
  • to receive expert and faithful assistance in healing from your therapist.
  • to be assured that your therapist will refuse to engage in any other relationship with you — business, social, or sexual — for life.
  • to be secure against revelation of anything you have disclosed to your therapist, unless a court of law commands it.
  • to have your therapist’s undivided loyalty in relation to any and all perpetrators, abusers, or oppressors.
  • to receive informative answers to questions about your condition, your hopes for recovery, the goals and methods of treatment, the therapist’s qualifications.
  • to have a strong interest by your therapist in your safety, with a readiness to use all legal means to neutralize an imminent threat to your life or someone else’s.
  • to have your therapist’s commitment to you not depend on your “good behavior,” unless criminal activity or ongoing threats to safety are involved.
  • to know reliably the times of sessions and of your therapist’s availability, including, if you so desire, a commitment to work together for a set term.
  • to telephone your therapist between regular scheduled sessions, in urgent need, and have the call returned within a reasonable time.
  • to be taught skills that lessen risk of retraumatization:
  • containment (reliable temporal/spatial boundaries for recovery work);
  • systematic relaxation;
  • control of attention and imagery (through trance or other techniques).
  • to reasonable physical comfort during sessions.

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Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

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Leaving 2011 Behind


2011 was a hard year.

We were triggered by an endless stream of situations in which survivors were blamed for their abuse. We endured as members of the media, law enforcement and the criminal justice system perpetuated myths about sexual violence. We witnessed institutional cover-ups of sexual abuse that protected the abusers while ignoring the needs of society’s most vulnerable. We were reminded that power, in all its forms, is the tool used by abusers to victimize, avoid detection, and to escape punishment.

But, we were encouraged by the countless survivors who chose to break their silence to name abusers, hold abusers accountable, and make abusers powerless.

Now we must look ahead to 2012. In the year ahead, we will continue to focus on healing. We will widen the scope of information about resources and support services available to survivors across Canada; and we will share stories from survivors about how they have coped in the aftermath of sexual abuse and sexual assault and what has helped them in their individual healing journeys.

We wish everyone the best for the New Year as we move forward together in our search for healing.

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Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

Publication Bans: Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Cases


On the morning of the preliminary hearing, the Crown Attorney asked the victim in the sexual abuse case if she wanted to have a publication ban placed on the trial. Until that moment, she did not know that it was possible to protect her identity and shield her life from unwanted invasion due to harmful publicity.

She had taken other steps to protect herself. She had moved, changed her phone numbers, cut of communication with friends and family members, and she had even changed her job because she feared the backlash she would face for seeking justice against her offender. The expenses, the personal losses, the stress and anxiety she felt about the case might have been prevented had she known that she could protect her privacy with a simple request to the court.

In sexual abuse and sexual assault cases, the victim(s) has the right to request a publication ban.

According to the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, “the media is constitutionally entitled to publish information about court cases, but there are exceptions to this right. The court may (and frequently must) impose publication bans to protect the fairness and integrity of the case, the privacy or safety of a victim or witness, or the identity of a child or youth.” Under the Criminal Code of Canada, two sections apply to victims in sexual abuse and sexual assault cases. These sections prohibit the publishing, broadcasting or transmitting of information:

Section 486.4 provides for orders restricting publication of information that could identify a complainant or witness in a sexual offence

Section 486.5 deals with publication bans on information revealing the names of victims, witnesses and justice system participants, where the order is deemed necessary for the proper administration of justice

When a publication ban is applied, it is noted in the court record. All case documentation is marked with “”PUBLICATION BAN” and the number(s) of the related section(s) of the Criminal Code is also listed. In addition, when members of the public or the media request access to the court record, Ministry staff must inform them that the case is subject to a publication ban.

This makes it possible for survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault, adults and children, to protect their identity from harmful publicity. Survivors do not need to incur expenses or take extreme steps because the Criminal Code of Canada clearly states the right and provides the tools to protect their identities.

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Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

Silence and Sexual Assault: The Case of Nafissatou Diallo vs. Dominique Strauss-Kahn


The identity of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s alleged sexual assault victim was released through her own will for the entire world to know this morning.

Newsweek magazine published an interview, in which Nafissatou Diallo tells her side of a story that has been front-page news since May 2011. In the article, Ms. Diallo shares details of what happened to her during the assault and how she reacted when it ended. She tells us how she feared losing her job as a housekeeper at the Sofitel hotel in New York City and how she soon became fearful for her life when she learned the next morning, through a local news report, that the man she says sexually assaulted her might become the next president of France. Due to constant hounding by the press who revealed her identity and address, the New York City prosecutor placed Ms. Diallo and her daughter in protective custody, which cut them off from communicating with the outside world for nearly two months.

During this time, Strauss-Kahn’s team of defence lawyers denied that Ms. Diallo was sexually assaulted. Instead, his lawyers claimed that she had engaged in consensual sex for which they insinuated she had expected payment. Strauss-Kahn also hired a team of investigators to dig through Ms. Diallo’s life. Investigators claimed that she lied on her application to the United States for asylum when she said she had been gang raped in her native Guinea; cheated on her taxes; associated with criminals; and they accused her of being involved in a plot to ruin the life of the French politician and now former IMF chief. They shared much of this information with the public and led the New York City prosecutor to doubt her credibility as a witness in her own sexual assault case.

In response to Ms. Diallo’s Newsweek interview, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer William Taylor stated, ‘“What disgusts me is an effort to pressure the prosecutors with street theater, and that is fundamentally wrong.”

So, here’s our question: Why is it acceptable for Strauss-Kahn’s high-powered defence team, hired investigators, a public relations firm, his circle of powerful and wealthy supporters, and certain media outlets to publicly make statements that raise suspicion, criminalize and characterize Ms. Diallo as an “unreliable witness” in her own defence, but unacceptable for her to speak publicly about her ordeal?

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is free to proclaim – quite publicly – his innocence while Nafissatou Diallo must remain dutifully and fearfully silent. She was silenced by her fears for her job and her life. The New York City prosecutor silenced her when he placed her in “protective custody” and prevented her from even using a telephone. The same prosecutors deepened her silence when they stated, “the case is in jeopardy after prosecutors called into question the accuser’s credibility on several fronts” after their investigators discovered that Ms. Diallo might not be the perfect victim. Worst of all, the media silenced her when it printed accusatory sound bites void of context about her life.

The necessary silencing of victims of sexual violence seems to be the norm. In spite of this, what we know is that it is never wrong for a sexual assault victim to use the power of their voice to tell the truth.

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Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan


On March 2, 2011, the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, Laurel Broten, announced Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan as a “commitment to protect women from all forms of sexual violence”.

The plan focuses on three areas:

  • Raising public awareness to prevent sexual violence
  • Expanding and improving services for victims of sexual violence
  • Strengthening the criminal justice response toward sexual violence

You can read more details about the plan on the Ontario Women’s Directorate website:

Changing Attitudes, Changing Lives: Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan (Eng)
Changer les attitudes, changer les vies: Plan D’action De L’ontario Contre La Violence À Caractère Sexuel (Fr)

If you have questions or concerns about the plan, contact the office of Minister Broten:

Phone: 416-212-7432
Email: laurel.broten@ontario.ca
Mail: Hon. Laurel Broten, Minister’s Office – Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, 14th Floor, 56 Wellesley Street West, Toronto ON M5S2S3

 

Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

 

Victims Matter


The Government of Canada has launched a streamlined site for victims of crime. The Victims Matter site states: “The government of Canada is taking action for victims of crime, so can you”.

Victims of sexual assault/sexual abuse can find information under the
“Is This Your Situation?” section by clicking on the link for
Victims of Violent Crime. In this section, to get help victims of sexual assault/sexual abuse are directed to:

  • call 911 in an emergency
  • contact your local police service if you wish to file a report
  • contact victim services whether or not they have reported the crime to police
  • click a link to the Victim Services Directory to locate services in your local area
  • click a link to learn more about victim services provided by provincial and territorial governments
  • click a link to the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, which is a non-governmental organization

You can contact the Government of Canada to request information or to provide your feedback about the site.

Toll-free Number: Call 1-800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) for help to find information and services.
TTY: 1-800-926-9105
Email: webadmin@justice.gc.ca
Mail: Department of Justice Canada, 284 Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON K1A 0H8

 

Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

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Victim Services Directory


The Victim Services Directory has been created by the Policy Centre for Victim Issues of the Department of Justice Canada to:

  • help service providers, victims and individuals locate services for victims of crime across Canada;
  • allow victims to determine which services they may require;
  • to link organizations and victims; and
  • to help all individuals access victim services.

Agency information for this Directory has been compiled through the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics Victim Services Survey and includes Agencies in all provinces and territories across the country.

Using the Victim Services Directory you may complete a targeted search for agencies that deliver services to survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse in a specific city and/or municipality. The search involves three (3) steps:

  • Step 1: Select Province / Territory
  • Step 2: Select cities/municipalities
  • Step 3: Select at least one “Type of Victimization” or “Type of Service Provided”

Services for survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse may be found by searching under the following “Type of Victimization” categories listed in the directory:

  • Adult Survivor of Child/Youth Sexual Abuse
  • Child/Youth Sexual Assault – Child /Youth Victim
  • Child/Youth Victim of Sexual Exploitation
  • Families of Sexually Abused Children
  • Sexual Assault – Adult – Female Victims
  • Sexual Assault – Adult – Male Victims

You may also search for services under the following “Type of Service Provided” categories listed in the directory:

  • Advocacy
  • Compensation
  • Counseling
  • Court Accompaniment
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Crisis/Distress Line
  • Emotional Support
  • General Information
  • Hospital Accompaniment
  • Safety Planning/Risk Assessment
  • Self-Help Support Groups
  • Services Offered in Other Languages
  • Services Specific to Aboriginal Peoples
  • Services Specific to Children Youth
  • Services Specific to Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Men
  • Services Specific to Lesbian/ Bisexual/Transgender Women
  • Services Specific to Members of a Visible Minority
  • Services Specific to Persons with a Disability
  • Services Specific to Senior Persons
  • Shelters/Housing/Transition Homes
  • Victim Impact Statement (assistance in preparation)
  • Victim Notification
  • Victim/Witness Preparation

We hope that the Victim Services Directory will help you to find an agency in your area that will deliver the services to address your specific needs.

If you are having difficulty accessing the site using the highlighted/coloured text links in this post, please copy and paste the following URL from the Policy Centre for Victim Issues – Department of Justice into your browser’s address location bar:

Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

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