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

Vulnerable Victims and Family Fund


On April 10, the Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley announced the Vulnerable Victims and Family Fund.

The aim of this $900,000 fund is to help victims of crime and their families as they negotiate the intricacies of the justice system. According to the Attorney General, this new program will allow victims and their families “to participate more fully in the criminal court process”.

This fund will provide both financial and court-based supports to Ontario residents in three ways:

  • Helping both victims of crime and families of homicide victims to travel to attend court during key points in a criminal trial
  • Providing vulnerable victims with interpretation services when they are observing a criminal trial
  • Ensuring that victims with disabilities have appropriate supports, such as real-time captioning or other equipment to help them testify

Under the new program, victims of crime and families of homicide victims should apply through Ontario’s Victim/Witness Assistance Program (V/WAP), which is available in all 54 court districts across the province. V/WAP staff will determine eligibility on a case-by-case basis and help those who may qualify for assistance to apply. To find the V/WAP office closest to you, visit the online Victims Services Directory.

As of May 1, 2011 victims of crime and there families will be able to apply for support through a website.

For additional information about the Vulnerable Victims and Family Fund contact:

Victim Support Line
Toll-free: 1-888-579-2888
Toronto: 416-314-2447

 

Online: Victim Services Directory
http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/ovss/FindHelp.asp

 

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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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The Canadian Government Needs to Do More about Sexual Offenders


How does a convicted sex offender obtain a pardon and then bail when he faces additional charges for sexual offences?

This is a clear example of why the Canadian government needs to do more about sexual abuse and to protect the victims of sexual offenders.

In an interview with the Toronto Star on December 8, 2010, Theo Fleury, a survivor of sexual abuse who is pursuing charges against his offender Graham James, urged Canadians to contact their local Member of Parliament. He believes “the decision to grant Graham James bail . . . means those who have suffered in silence will not feel confident about stepping up and voicing their concerns”. Fleury further stated, “We absolutely must do something about this for the future of our children. I encourage you to contact your Member of Parliament and complain.”

However, this call to action does not stem solely from previously convicted sex offender Graham James being granted bail in December 2010. The National Parole Board granted James a pardon in January 2007 after he pleaded guilty in 1997 to sexually assaulting two young men on 350 separate occasions and serving a 3 1/2-year prison sentence. According to CBC News, “a National Parole Board pardon effectively seals a criminal record except under certain, narrow circumstances, such as if a person convicted of a sexual offence applies to work with children”, and in James’ case the pardon allowed him to leave Canada to start a new life first in Spain and then in Mexico.

This raises questions about how effective Canadian laws are at protecting victims of sexual abuse. The only people who can answer these questions are our local Members of Parliament.

If you do not know your elected Member of Parliament this link will provide you with a complete list of the Canadian House of Commons Members: http://bit.ly/1bjGA

You may also contact the government at:

Toll-free (Canada): 1 (866) 599-4999
Telephone: 1 (613) 992-4793
TTY: 1 (613) 995-2266
Email: info@parl.gc.ca
Mail: Information Service, Parliament of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A9.

 

Let the Canadian government know that they need to do more about sexual offenders.

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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An Overview of Victim Services Across Canada


* * UPDATE: THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE CANADA HAS DEACTIVATED THIS VISUAL TOOL **

The government of each province and territory across Canada offers a range of services to individuals who have been victimized by crime.

Click on the picture below to learn what services may be available to you and other survivors in your region. On the map that appears click on the province or territory where you live to review the list of services provided by the government:

An Overview of Victim Services Across Canada - Services by Province/Territory

An Overview of Victim Services Across Canada - Services by Province/Territory

If you are having difficulty accessing the site, 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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Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime


In honour of the United Nations’ Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime, and with concern for the harmful impact of criminal victimization on individuals and on society, and in recognition that all persons have the full protection of rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other provincial Charters governing rights and freedoms; that the rights of victims and offenders need to be balanced; and of the shared jurisdiction of federal, provincial, and territorial governments, the federal, provincial, and territorial Ministers Responsible for Criminal Justice agree that the following principles should guide the treatment of victims, particularly during the criminal justice process.

The following principles are intended to promote fair treatment of victims and should be reflected in federal/provincial/territorial laws, policies and procedures:

  • Victims of crime should be treated with courtesy, compassion, and respect.
  • The privacy of victims should be considered and respected to the greatest extent possible.
  • All reasonable measures should be taken to minimize inconvenience to victims.
  • The safety and security of victims should be considered at all stages of the criminal justice process and appropriate measures should be taken when necessary to protect victims from intimidation and retaliation.
  • Information should be provided to victims about the criminal justice system and the victim’s role and opportunities to participate in criminal justice processes.
  • Victims should be given information, in accordance with prevailing law, policies, and procedures, about the status of the investigation; the scheduling, progress and final outcome of the proceedings; and the status of the offender in the correctional system.
  • Information should be provided to victims about available victim assistance services, other programs and assistance available to them, and means of obtaining financial reparation.
  • The views, concerns and representations of victims are an important consideration in criminal justice processes and should be considered in accordance with prevailing law, policies and procedures.
  • The needs, concerns and diversity of victims should be considered in the development and delivery of programs and services, and in related education and training.
  • Information should be provided to victims about available options to raise their concerns when they believe that these principles have not been followed.

Promoting Justice for Victims of Crime

Federal, Provincial, Territorial Ministers Responsible for Justice first endorsed the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime in 1988 and approved a renewed version in 2003. The Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, as part of its mandate relating to matters of federal responsibility, will enhance awareness among criminal justice personnel and policy makers of the needs and concerns of victims and the applicable laws that benefit victims of crime, including to promote the principles set out in the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime.

This information has been excerpted from the pages of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime on the Government of Canada web site.

The office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime was created in 2007 to ensure the federal government meets its responsibilities to victims of crime. Please contact the office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime if you or someone you know has not been treated in accordance with these principles:

Mail:
Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
P.O. Box 55037
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1A1
Toll-free Number: 1-866-481-8429
Outside Canada: 1-613-954-1651
E-mail: victimsfirst@ombudsman.gc.ca

 

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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Filing a Police Report


You have made the choice to file a report about the sexual assault or sexual abuse you have experienced.

Going forward here is some information that we believe will be helpful as you face what may be a difficult experience, especially if you have never been inside of a police station or had any previous contact with the police.

First, and most important, you have the right to be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect for your personal dignity and privacy1 by any and all of the individuals you interact with while filing your report.

Second, you have the right to request that the interviewing police officers and any other officials present are of the same gender2 as you (female or male), so that you feel comfortable while filing your report.

Third, your interview with the police will be recorded in three (3) ways: written notes, audio recording and video recording. Do not be intimidated by this process. The audio and video recordings are necessary to have a living account of what happened to you. These recordings may be used as evidence at a later date. At the end of your interview you may be asked to confirm your account of the incident(s) by signing a copy of the statement you have made.

If you are reporting a case of historical sexual assault or long-term sexual abuse, it is important to know that you may be asked why you waited to file a report. Do not be discouraged by this question. Remember that there is no statute of limitations for reporting a sexual assault or sexual abuse in Canada. You are filing your report now because it is the right time for you do so.

Also, if you are asked by the interviewing officer(s) to provide corroboration of this crime, it is important to know that under the Criminal Code of Canada you are not required to provide corroboration. Where an accused is charged with an offence of sexual assault or sexual abuse no corroboration is required for a conviction3.

Fourth, at the end of the interview request the case number for your records. You should also request the names and badge identification numbers of the interviewing officers. This information will be on their business cards. You will need all of this information when you make follow up inquiries about the progress of your case because you have the right to have access to information about the progress of criminal investigations4.

Finally, before you leave the police station request information for support services because you have the right to have access to information concerning services and remedies available to victims5. These services may be available through Victim Services or other agencies within your community. These agencies will either provide you with or help you to locate the emotional and psychological support services you may need as you move forward.

Below you will find the reference notes for the information that has been tagged in this posting.

References:

Points 1,2,4,5 are taken from principles in the Victims’ Bill of Right. They are principles (1),(4),(3) and (2) respectively.

http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/ovss/rights.asp

http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_95v06_e.htm

Point 3 is taken from the Criminal Code of Canada which states:

Corroboration not required under the Criminal Code of Canada 274. Where an accused is charged with an offence under section 151, 152, 153, 155, 159, 160, 170, 171, 172, 173, 212, 271, 272 or 273, no corroboration is required for a conviction and the judge shall not instruct the jury that it is unsafe to find the accused guilty in the absence of corroboration.

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 274; R.S., 1985, c. 19 (3rd Supp.), s. 11.

The following Criminal Code offences may apply in sexual abuse situations:

  • Sexual assault (section 271)
  • Sexual assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm (section 272)
  • Aggravated sexual assault (section 273)
  • Incest (section 155)

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

Survivors Guide