news and updates
With financial support from The Law Foundation of Ontario, Our Centre is pleased to announce the pilot of a new, precedent-setting position at our Centre - Sexual Violence Legal Advocate. The Sexual Violence Legal Advocate will support survivors of sexual violence in seeking out the justice they deserve. This free service will soon be open to all genders and includes case management, individual advocacy, assistance with documents, and court accompaniment.
We're setting a precedent for change
We know that the justice system is often retraumatizing, frustrating, and overwhelming for victims of sexual violence. Earlier this year, our community witnessed this fact when a local survivor faced a $2,600 fine after her rapist reported her for sharing a transcript of her case that contained her name with members of her family and close friends.
As a response to this case, lawyer Pamela Cross (one of Canada’s leading women’s advocates) called on Ontario to "Implement a province-wide system of community-based sexual assault legal advocates, similar to Ontario’s Family Court Support Workers, who could provide case-management style support to survivors throughout their legal proceedings."
We agree that a province-wide system of community-based sexual assault legal advocates is necessary. Victims of gender-based violence often have to navigate several legal systems simultaneously because of their sexual assault, including criminal court, family court, tribunals, and immigration proceedings. Black, Indigenous and Racialized survivors, those living with disabilities, and/or those living on lower incomes experience additional barriers to accessing justice.
In the end, the barriers faced by survivors impact whether or not they are willing to report. A study by Justice Canada found that ⅔ of victims of sexual violence were “not confident in the court process and justice system in general.” The study found that the most frequently reported reasons for not reporting sexual assault were:
The study recommended creating a Legal Advocate position “to support sexual assault victims through the entire legal process, that is, from the time the incident occurs through to the court process and after the trial has ended.”
Therefore, the goal of this pilot will be to demonstrate the ability of this model to improve access to justice for victims of sexual assault. Through external evaluation, we will assess the impact of this service on survivors of sexual violence. Evaluation results will help grow this model at our Centre and beyond, so more survivors can receive support in navigating the legal system. We will share results with the 31 members of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres to bolster advocacy efforts for this much-needed service.
Our sincere thanks to The Law Foundation of Ontario for making this pilot program possible. We also wish to thank the following organizations and professionals for their non-monetary support of the Sexual Violence Legal Advocate position:
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