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Victims' Experience

Victims who go through the justice system can face a challenging journey. Addressing serious crimes, such as sexual assault and murder, can be particularly difficult for victims, their families and their friends. From when a crime is first reported to when offenders are sentenced, serve their time, and work towards rehabilitation and release, much of the Criminal Justice System focuses on the people committing crimes, though victims may struggle through the process as well.

Transcript

This is a story from real people, told in their own words.

It contains information about themes that may be difficult for some audiences.

Nicole Hillman:

My name is Nicole and six years ago, I was raped by someone that I know.

Sexual assault offenders are often known to the victims.

A little over half (52%) of self-reported incidents of sexual assault were perpetrated by a friend, acquaintance or neighbour of the victim and 4% by a spouse.

You never really think that something like that would happen to you. You know, you have a sense of trust and that kind of, is gone and the shame that, you know, what did you do to deserve this?

Nicole’s Aunt - Karen Kuntz:

It was early, early morning when I had received a phone call from Nicole’s friend and all she said to me was, ‘I’m bringing Nicole to you’ and my heart hit the floor and I can, even now, feel that emotion because I knew in that instant, Nicole had a story like mine.

Karen Kuntz is Nicole’s aunt.

When she was 20 years old she was the victim of a violent rape. Karen now works in Victim Services. She wanted to help others through the trauma of sexual assault.

When Nicole came to me and of course, my role with Victim Services I believe and believed in fighting the good fight. I wanted women to report and make people accountable. I wanted to see justice. That was my job and I felt confident. But, as Nicole’s story started to unfold and different people got involved and, I think right from policing to nursing to, um, the court process itself, at every turn, my heart dropped for the way that Nicole had been treated.

The case went to trial. Two weeks after being convicted, the accused was released on bail pending an appeal. The accused was subsequently found not guilty. The entire process took five and a half years.

Nicole

The courtroom is where the shame comes from you have a room full of people who are questioning who you are as a person and trying to tear that apart. You have to stand the whole time that you’re there. Through the appeal, I was standing for 5 hours being questioned and you just feel like you’re up on display. It does feel like I’m the one that did something wrong and they’re trying to tear apart what I have to say and you don’t have the ability to respond to it. It’s, you get asked a question, you’re only allowed to answer that. You can’t elaborate on anything. You can’t defend yourself. You’re just standing there helpless.

Aunt:

I feel the justice system fails the victim in the courtroom.

Nicole:

It’s a never-ending assault because you constantly, for the entire time, every trial that there is, so the preliminary, the actual trial and then the appeal, you are made to relive in vivid detail every single aspect of that night.

It makes you feel like you don’t really matter. Getting called as a witness all the time instead of a victim and not being informed of trial dates and having to constantly call and find out all that information yourself.

Quite a few court dates where they either gave me the wrong date or they didn’t even tell me about them at all. When the final verdict came through for the appeal, they told me the wrong date. They told me it was Friday and the crown prosecutor called me Thursday night and left a voicemail. I thought she was calling to remind me about the next day and she called and left me a voicemail about everything that had happened. All of the events, in a voicemail, and the fact that he had been released.

They didn’t have any sensitivity towards the fact that this is something that happened to me. They never treated me like this is something that happened to me. They treated me like this is something that’s happening to him and I need to make sure that, you know, this is what I want to do because of how it could affect him but nobody ever seemed to care about how it affected me.

Aunt, Victims Services front line worker:

When I would compare my story to hers, I felt we had gone backwards. I, I believed that we should be more sophisticated in, in our way of managing victims but we’re not.

Nicole:

I guess you question whether or not it was worth it to do it in the first place. The process and everything behind it, it never gives you a chance to heal. It never gives you a chance to get passed it and the way that the system worked, I would never tell someone to go through with it.

How can we transform Canada’s criminal justice system to better address victims’ experiences?

Join the online discussion on this page and share your ideas!

To learn more go to justice transformation.ca

End

Overlay Facts Used in the Video

  • Sexual assault offenders are often known to the victims.
  • A little over half (52%) of self-reported incidents of sexual assault were perpetrated by a friend, acquaintance or neighbour of the victim and 4% by a spouse.
  • Source: Statistics Canada, 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization.
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