THE ROLE OF A RAPE CRISIS CENTRE
The role of a rape crisis centre was unknown to me as it is to most people. The name seems to indicate the services are exclusive to rape, but that is far from the case. I recently sat down with Dionne Newton of the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre- Multicultural Women Against Rape, to get a better idea of the role they play in helping survivors of sexual assault and to share that information to others. I was truly amazed at all the services they provided.
The rape crisis centre offers support to victims of sexual assault who are over the age of 16. This includes all forms of sexual assault and violence, including historical. This is for some, the first place to contact immediately after an assault, and for others, it may be the place they contact many years after the assault. They welcome everyone.
WHAT TO EXPECT
I asked Dionne what a victim could expect when calling the centre after an assault. She told me that they book an appointment to meet with the victim and that all conversation are highly confidential. To further ensure this, no notes are taken, and all conversation are verbal. This also protects the victim from having records subpoenaed should the matter be taken to court. If there is a need to do a rape kit, the centre will direct the victim to the best hospital to do that. Depending on availability, it’s sometimes possible to have one of their staff attend this appointment. The kit should be done within 72 hours. If a victim decides to pursue reporting the incident to the police, Dionne said the rape crisis centre may be able to attend this as well.
The centre also offers counselling. Unfortunately there is a waiting list of approximately 3 months. Dionne mentioned that other centres throughout the country will have different wait times, with some waiting as long as a year. This is due to the demand and lack of staff. They can also redirect victims to other counselling services outside of their facility. It was interesting to learn that if other agencies and organizations within the country were to call, the TRCC have a referral list given to their counsellors and staff to provide information for support.
There is a group offered to survivors of sexual assault to further help the healing process in a supportive environment. Healing from sexual assault can be very isolating and lonely and this form of therapy brings victims together to explore this as a group.
The TRCC also runs an outreach program in the GTA to bring education to high schools and colleges about their programs and services and about the issue of consent. I was yet again impressed by the support being offered by this organization.
Another area of support offered by TRCC is court support. I wish I myself had known about the court support because I would have asked for it in a heartbeat. I had no shortage of people offering to attend my trial, but the missing piece was having someone who could truly support me by understanding the process. Its a difficult enough to go through a trial and just as difficult for a support person who has no idea what they have just volunteered for. These types of services should be made known to all victims by the Victim Witness Assistance Program. VWAP assist witnesses during a trial but in a very limited capacity. They are there to help the Crown, they are there to make sure you get to and from the court in a timely manner and to help with little issues, but they are limited in the amount of time they have to help with emotional and moral support. A TRCC support person can be with you all day. Some VWAP will get assigned to another court trial part way through your trial. A TRCC support will be with you from beginning to end. A TRCC support has been through other trials and has some understanding as to what to expect.
TRCC offer information about the trial process. They’re there to talk to you about the cross examination you will go through and give you some knowledge about the process. In Ontario there is a pilot project offering 4 hours of free legal advise. The TRCC can help connect you with these services. This can help alleviate some of the stress of testifying.
CRIMINAL INJURIES COMPENSATION BOARD
After testifying in a sexual assault trial, you can to apply to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board for a hearing to decide if you are eligible for an award for your injuries. This is open to all and does not depend on a guilty verdict to proceed. This process is not a trial and the victims are not under cross examination. It is however, a hearing to fully understand the impact the assault has had on the victim and what lasting damages there may be and to compensate them accordingly. The TRCC can discuss the procedures with you and if you wish to have a support person at your hearing, they can accompany you.
My limited knowledge of the services available through this and other rape crisis centres was an eye opener. I didn’t know until post trial about the potential services I could have used to help me through. Although the sexual assault and rape crisis centres are helpful they are not able to handle to demand. This is a sad state of affairs given its 2016 and sexual assaults have existed from the beginning of time. Until the system changes to support survivors in a more contemporary manner, until we can rest assured that our sexual assault cases are going to be tried in a fair and just manner, we need to support what we do have at the present time. Please go through the website and try to get involved with the fundraisers when possible or be a volunteer. It’s going to take a village but it starts with just one. http://trccmwar.ca
by L.C. Redgrave