May 29 to June 4 is Victims and Survivors of Crime Week in Canada. This year’s theme is The Power of our Voices and will include projects and events to raise awareness across the country. As a Victim Service worker at Women Against Violence Against Women Rape Crisis Centre (WAVAW) we were asked to take this time to reflect on what this work means to us.
At WAVAW we believe we are the women we serve. Only circumstances differentiate us from the women we support. We live in a society where violence against women is persistent and normalized, and where I could very easily find myself in the same situation as the women I serve. That makes the work so much more personal. And the personal is political. My work in victim services has led me to work with other like-minded women, to channel my frustrations into being of service to survivors of crime by supporting women and advocating to hold perpetrators accountable.
The work can be challenging at times when the stories we hear are distressing or when we work all hours of the day. But what keeps me going is the immense strength, hope and bravery I witness in the women even in times of tremendous horror and suffering. As victim service workers we help women within hours of a sexual assault taking place, helping them on their healing journey from trauma to recovery. In 2015 alone, WAVAW support workers answered nearly 4000 crisis line calls, accompanied over 100 women to Sexual Assault Services at Vancouver General Hospital, and spent nearly 200 hours in police interviews and in court with women as they testified against their assailants.
We still live in a society where victim blaming after a sexual assault is almost customary, where a victim must defend their actions in the wake of an assault even when it’s never their fault. After an assault takes place a survivor can easily feel isolated. It is easy to self-blame, self-harm and feel disempowered. An assault is just that – it takes power away from a person. So my focus is solely on supporting the woman. I am there to ensure the woman is treated with respect and compassion while she navigates the various systems. I am there to remind her that I believe in her and that she can move past victimization and start healing. It makes a difference in the life of a survivor to know they are not alone in their journey to recovery.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a world where this type of work is unnecessary, to live in a world free from oppression and violence? Rape culture is so prevalent in our society, and it has been made so much more noticeable to me in this line of work. It has made me more aware of the struggles and injustices in the daily lives of women all over the world, while making me blatantly aware of my own privileges. It is a privilege to be working in a field that brings validation and significance in my life. It is a privilege to use the power of my voice to join the multitude of others who work tirelessly to end all forms of violence against women.