For Immediate Release
ENSURING ALL VICTIMS ARE AFFORDED COMPASSIONATE, PROFESSIONAL, AND CONSISTENT SERVICE ACROSS BC
By Celine Lee
On the eve of what has become a week to raise awareness about the issues facing victims and survivors of crime, I am reminded of what brought me to a career within the criminal justice system.
Across the country, Victims and Survivors of Crime Week 2021 will be observed November 14 to 20. For the past 25 years, I have worked within the police-based victim services sector in various capacities.
Victims and Survivors of Crime Week 2021 falls around a significant date that I often wish to forget but is forever a part of me. Thirty-one years ago, I was introduced to police-based victim services (VS) in Surrey after surviving an early morning house fire that claimed the lives of my mother and younger sister. I was 15 at the time. It would take several more months for investigators to conclude the fire was deliberately set by a neighbour committing a break-and-enter, and 15 months more before the suspect was sentenced.
Being introduced to VS was my saving grace. My VS worker provided the critical incident support, criminal justice information and support, and the practical and emotional support I needed as I tried to comprehend the impact of what had happened. Assistance was provided to help me navigate the myriad forms that needed to be completed to gain access to the limited benefits and resources available. VS helped me survive in a system that often felt revictimizing.
You think it can’t happen to you. No one prepares themselves to be a victim of crime or a traumatic incident. The sudden and violent nature of victimization leads many to struggle with physical and psychological injuries. But with the support of caring and compassionate professionals in the immediate aftermath, the journey to a “new normal” is more bearable.
During 2020, over 250 police-based VS workers supported more than 50,000 victims and survivors of criminal and traumatic incidents across BC. Situated in police agencies across 95 communities, police-based VS workers work in close partnership with their policing partners to ensure support and information is provided consistent with the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and the BC Victims of Crime Act.
Supporting the frontline work of police-based VS workers is Police Victim Services of BC (PVSBC), a non-profit charitable provincial association. A small team of dedicated PVSBC staff advocates, represents and lobbies for the interests of police-based victim services workers to ensure all victims of crime and trauma across BC receive compassionate, professional, and consistent service.
I recognize the criminal justice system falls short for victims and survivors when there is no satisfaction or sense of “justice.” The lives lost, the physical and psychological injuries, and the lives forever changed are reminders of the violation they bear for the rest of their lives.
This is why it is important to recognize the issues victims and survivors of crime are faced with. Of equal importance is recognizing the legislative rights of victims and survivors of crime and ensuring a fulsome spectrum of victim supports are accessible to all victims and survivors from the immediate aftermath of crime and trauma as victims and survivors navigate territory nothing could have prepared them for.
Ensuring frontline victim support services, such as police-based victim services programs are sufficiently resourced is integral to ensuring victims and survivors of crime and traumatic incidents receive the support and rights they are entitled to. Ensuring every policing jurisdiction has access to a full-time police-based victim services program is a starting point for providing victims of crime and traumatic incidents with compassionate, professional, and consistent service across BC.
Celine Lee is the Coordinator of Administration for Police Victim Services of BC, a registered not-for-profit society. As the largest police-based victim services association in Canada, PVSBC provides leadership, support, advocacy and training to professionals working in the field of victim services. Celine is also the Chairperson of the Pacific Region Victim Advisory Council and a presenter at the Victims and Survivors of Crime Week 2021 symposium on November 17.