B.C. adding support to sexual assault and violent crime victim services

The province has announced new support services for those in B.C.’s survivors of sexual assault and other violent crimes.

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says this expansion of services further covers victims of gender-based violence in addition to a broader variety of crimes. As he explains, more British Columbians will now have “access to the services and supports they need to recover.”

“Victims of crime, their immediate family members, and witnesses are impacted by crime in different ways, and supporting them means that they can take the time they need to recover and heal,” he stated in a release.

The province says everyone on the victim’s side of a crime — from the victims themselves, their families, and even witnesses — can receive both recovery and financial support, but current legislation restricts who is eligible for these supports.

The B.C. government is proposing changes to its current system, including; expanding services to grandparents and grandchildren, expanding witness eligibility to those who have a “strong emotional attachment” to the victim of a crime, and extending the time limit to make an application to two years, among other changes.

In addition, the province is restoring funding to sexual assault survivor support program centres in Vancouver, Victoria, Kamloops, Prince George, and Surrey. These restored centres build on 70 freshly expanded services that include survivor-driven and trauma-informed support from people in local communities.

Prince George Sexual Assault Centre Executive Director Lynnell Halikowski says her facility is “honoured” to be among the centres receiving support and funding.

“As the only sexual assault centre in the north, this funding will assist the Prince George Sexual Assault Centre in supporting survivors in the northern region of our province, in providing critical wraparound care and mitigating the impacts of sexual violence to provide a clear path of healing for survivors,” she said.

Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity Kelli Paddon says sexual assault and gender-based violence can have a “devastating effect” on survivors and those closest to them.

“Wraparound support means making it easier for survivors who may need to work with several care providers and the justice system on the path to healing, which is also intended to empower people on this difficult path and ensure they have the best possible care,” she added.

The province received over 4,700 support applications from victims, family members, and witnesses in 2022-23, distributing $16.9 million in response. It also provides over $54 million in annual funding to victim service programs and centres.

The province says these moves come as part of a multi-year plan aimed at putting a stop to gender-based violence.

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