Why Hollywood Is Bad for Sexual Violence Survivors


Something has been bugging me – and some of our readers – for a few days. So, I decided to write about it.

On May 8, I received two email messages from a producer at CBC Radio in Winnipeg, Donna Carreiro, asking me to speak with her about the criminal case in which a former police officer, Richard Dow, plead guilty to 11 of 27 sexual assault and other charges against him. Here’s an excerpt from her message:

Last week, a former city police officer was acquitted of sexually assaulting a woman years earlier…..(it was alleged he got her very drunk, had sex and videotaped it….she had no recollection of it until years later, when he was investigated for related incidents).

The victim herself had to testify and it was a grueling cross examine for her…..the accused was then acquitted.

Today, however, that same accused pleaded guilty to several counts of sexual assualt-related [sic] offences against others.

We’d like to talk to someone about how a sex assault survivor ‘survives’ the whole court ordeal…..and is it things like this that dissuage [sic] victims from coming forward at all?

Ideally, we’d interview someone on our Information Radio show tomorrow morning.

The messages got my attention, so I called Ms. Carreiro and we talked for approximately 15 minutes. We talked about the case, about why so few victims of sexual assault report the crime to police, about the justice system re-victimizing survivors, and about why I started Survivors Guide. Ms. Carreiro asked if I would participate in an interview the next morning with the hosts of CBC Information Radio, Terry MacLeod and Marcy Markusa. By the end of the conversation, I agreed to do the interview. In a confirmation email she stated

the discussion will be much like what we talked about…. your experience, how difficult do the courts make it for sex assault survivors? Is this an example of why they’re reluctant to come forward? Are there any victories in this? (ie….accused pleaded guilty today to several other related charges involving other victims?)

The next morning around 9:00 AM EST, I received a call from CBC Information Radio that dropped me right into the interview. The voice on the phone simply told me to hold on the line and that the interview would start shortly. There was no chat with the hosts prior to interview to serve as an introduction.

Terry MacLeod opened the segment with this statement

When former police officer Richard Dow pleaded guilty to sex assault charges yesterday his victims were spared the ordeal of having to testify against him. The guilty plea comes just weeks after another alleged victim took the stand against him last month only to have Dow acquitted of those charges.

However, Marcy Markusa interviewed me. Although I was quite nervous, I thought the interview was going well. That is until Ms. Markusa stated that she imagined if she were ever the victim of sexual violence

As a woman, ever since I saw Jodie Foster in The Accused… and I’m sorry to go to a movie, but that was based on a real case. I’ve always been aware that should anything happen to me, I’d be ready to stand up…

I was surprised and a little thrown when Ms. Markusa used a movie as her point of reference to counter my argument about how sexual assault victims should be treated when they engage with the justice system because they are trauma survivors; and the inappropriate questioning they often encounter. I was also surprised by her conviction about how she would react if she were ever to experience sexual violence.

Here’s the thing Marcy. Even if the movie The Accused was based on a “real case”, Jodie Foster was acting. She was playing a character. She had to imagine how a sexual assault survivor would “behave” under the scrutiny of the justice system; and she was, regardless of how well she did it, repeating words from a script and mimicking actions as she was directed to.

For “real life” sexual abuse and sexual assault survivors there is no script. There is no director on the sidelines giving them cues about how to express emotion in a particular moment. Sexual abuse and sexual assault survivors do not have to imagine the violence because they lived it, survived, and most likely re-live it in some form every day. Furthermore, regardless of how strong and resilient we may each believe we are, sexual violence traumatizes a person and changes them in ways no one can predict.

I saw The Accused in 1988 and it did not compel me to disclose the sexual abuse I experienced. If anything, that movie deterred me from disclosing. It confirmed some of my greatest fears: I would not be believed. I would be blamed. I would be publicly shamed. I would have to stand on my own.

All of these things – disbelief, blame, shame, and isolation – and many more happen to survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault when they disclose and engage with the justice system in Canada and throughout the world. All of these things further traumatize survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault. All of these things are the reasons why 93% of sexual assault survivors do not file reports with the police. All of these things are the reasons why sexual abuse and sexual assault survivors report feeling re-victimized by the justice system.

Even as an adult, I was reluctant to speak out. When I did, I experienced all of the things I feared – disbelief, blame, shame, and isolation. However, I expected these things. What I did not expect, were the unspeakable affronts I experienced at every stage of the justice system, which took every ounce of psychological and emotional strength for me to endure to the end the criminal case process.

All of these things Marcy are why we cringe at and doubt your conviction about how you would react in the face of sexual violence.

Instead, the conviction we must all have is to working to eliminate the possibility of any of these things happening to a single survivor of sexual abuse or sexual assault when they engage with the justice system and to eliminating sexual violence from our society.

You can listen to the 8-minute interview here:

CBC Radio Winnipeg – Information Radio Interview with Terry MacLeod and Marcy Markusa

If you are unable to open the link above, copy and paste this address into your browser’s address bar: http://www.cbc.ca/video/watch/Radio/ID=2232479631

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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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Annual Reports of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime


On September 19, 2011 the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, tabled the 2008-09 and 2009-10 annual reports of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.

The reports provide information about the progress and accomplishments of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. The Office was created in 2007 as an independent resource to ensure the federal government meets its responsibilities to victims of crime in Canada by addressing their needs, promoting their interests, and making recommendations to the federal government about issues that affect victims negatively. According to the reports, there was a continued rise for its services in the Office’s second and third year of operations.

Sue O’Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime stated, “The Office has made tremendous progress in the few short years since it opened its doors and I am proud to share those accomplishments with Canadians. Our dedicated staff work everyday to effect positive change for victims – whether it’s helping victims one-on-one or talking to the decision and policy makers in this country about what needs to change to make the system work for victims. I look forward to continuing this good work in collaboration with victims, the federal government, and various victim-serving organizations across Canada.”

The 2008-2009 Annual Report overviews the following issues and recommendations:

  • A Voice for Victims – working closely with victims, victim service providers and other federal government departments to push for change and to build an office where victims’ voices matter
  • Awareness and Partnership Building – reaching out to stakeholders at conferences and other forums that helped to raise further awareness of victims’ rights and concerns in Canada
  • Progress towards positive change
    1. Making offenders convicted of child sexual exploitation ineligible for accelerated parole
    2. Expanding the network of Child Advocacy Centres in Canada
    3. Notifying victims of the deportation status of offenders
    4. Making offenders accountable to harm done to victims
    5. Providing support to victims of crime through Bill C-550
  • Updates on 2007-08 recommendations

The 2009-2010 Annual Report overviews the following issues and recommendations:

  • A Voice for Victims – providing victims of crime with a voice and to ensure that the Government met its commitments to victims
  • Privacy Laws and Victim Referrals – providing an opportunity for RCMP officers to provide proactive, active and passive referrals, depending on the circumstances to victims of crime
  • Sexual Violence and Harassment in the Military – recommending the Minister of National Defence consider the unique challenges that some recruit victims face in reporting sexual violence and to ensure that existing support and services available were meeting victims’ needs
  • Missing Persons Index – recommending the Minister of Public Safety develop a Missing Persons Index (MPI) for victims to be given high priority
  • Victims of Hate Crime – recommending that the Government consider amending the Criminal Code to allow for community victim impact statements, since hate crimes attack an entire community based on a certain characteristic that ultimately define their identity as a member of a particular group

You may read the full reports on the web site for the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime:

2008-09 Annual Report

2009-10 Annual Report

If you have questions or concerns about the reports contact the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime:

Telephone (toll-free): 1-866-481-8429
TTY (Teletypewriter): 1-877-644-8385
Outside of Canada: 1-613-954-1651
Email: victimsfirst@ombudsman.gc.ca
Fax: 613-941-3498
Mail: Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, P.O. Box 55037, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1A1

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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

 

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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