Nov. 22 through 28 is Victim and Survivors of Crime Week, and if you’ve experienced this, you can get help locally.
The Community Based Victim Services (CBVS) is a program that runs out of the Comox Valley Family Services office. It is a comprehensive service available for people of all genders who are victims or survivors of sexual assault and domestic or intimate partner violence.
“We’ve been supporting and assisting survivors for … about 30 years,” says CBVS’s Isabel McKinnon. “We’re a different program from the police-based program.”
Under the program, they define sexual assault as “any form of sexual activity with another person without her/his consent. It includes forced kissing, grabbing, fondling and attempted or completed rape.” Domestic or intimate partner violence is defined as “verbal or physical acts used to control a person by creating fear, isolation and entrapment. Abuse can take many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual and financial. Abuse can occur in intimate relationships regardless of gender and/or sexual identities.”
One of the concerns since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has been an increase in the rates of domestic violence and sexual assault as people have had to stay indoors and curb social interaction. In the Comox Valley, CBVS had 228 referrals for domestic violence and 56 for sexual assaults between October 2019 and October 2020.
Some cases are referred through police, but people can contact them directly. Locally, the number of referrals has been steady, says McKinnon, with many people calling for support or information about counselling, getting protection orders or crisis support.
“We’ve had a lot of phone calls in regards to one-on-one support,” she says. “People just want to talk…. We’re just there for them.”
CBVS can provide a range of services to help people: one-on-one support; assistance with reporting a crime; explanation and clarification of the process a person might face, from the investigation to the court process if charges are approved; support with accompaniment to the RCMP through to appointments with Crown counsel; court orientation and accompaniment if needed (and where possible under COVID protocols, such as when testifying); direction to appropriate community resources if additional supports are required; and assistance in filling out crime victim assistance forms, victim impact statements or other related forms.
“We make sure the client understands how the process works … especially with COVID happening now,” McKinnon says. “It can be a little intimidating for somebody to be in that position.”
Comox Valley Family Services is located at 1415 Cliffe Ave. in Courtenay. The office has COVID-19 protocols in place, and people are asked to call first. Call Amy, Isabel or Melissa at 250-338-7575 for more information.