Have you ever wondered about the support the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre can give to survivors who wish to access the criminal justice system?
Shannon, one of our Victim Services Workers, and Carissa, our Resource Development Manager, sat down and talked about the services provided by our Victim Services Program. They also discussed what accessing justice means for survivors, the impact of our services, and the power of speaking one’s truth.
Carissa: Why might a person want to engage with the criminal justice system?
Shannon: There are many reasons a survivor may wish to access the justice system, each person is different. I often hear from survivors that they want to be heard and believed. For many, breaking the silence about what happened to them is significant.
Carissa: What supports do VSAC’s Victim Service Program provide to those who wish to access the criminal justice system?
Shannon: It takes courage to seek justice. Without assistance, many survivors may not feel they are able to manage the criminal justice process. We liaise between the client, police, Crown prosecutors, and help familiarize the survivor to the court process. We are there to anticipate their needs, explain each step of the process and be an empathetic supporter. In a system that focusses on the offender, we are the ones looking out for the survivor.
Carissa: Seeking justice through the courts can be challenging and conviction rates are low. How do you help survivors find a sense of justice when the system doesn’t offer them the results they were seeking?
Shannon: Unfortunately, the system doesn’t always provide my clients with the verdict they hoped for. No matter the court decision, the victim’s experience is real and shouldn’t be diminished. So I like to talk to my clients about the reasons they want to go through the justice system that aren’t tied to the justice outcome. Then I remind them of these reasons if they feel discouraged by the process: They are strong, they stood up for themselves, they are no longer silenced.
Carissa: What else do you want the community to know about the justice system experience?
Shannon: When a survivor speaks their truth to police or in court, it is powerful. It can give survivors the feeling that they are no longer holding the burden of their story alone. It allows them to take action and leave behind feelings of shame and uncertainty that they may have carried for years. They can move forward knowing they are not defined by the violence they endured – that the sexual assault is a part of their story, not their whole story.
For many survivors, speaking truth to power is a healing experience. As a donor, community member and supporter, you give survivors the opportunity to have their voices heard. Thank you for supporting this important work.
Want to learn more about options for police reporting or accessing the justice system? Find more information here.
For intakes to our Victim Services Program call our Service Access Line: 250-383-3232 or email