If you are a victim of crime, the first step you need to take is to ensure you and your loved ones are in no immediate danger. Then report the crime to police. The safety of you and your loved ones is your first priority.
Whether or not police are involved, you can get help from victim services and other agencies. If you are unsure about reporting the crime to police, you may find talking with a victim service worker helps you make this decision.
Your safety and the safety of your loved ones are the main concern. You may need to take immediate action, like calling police or leaving the house or area where the crime took place.
If you would like 24 hour information, support or referral to a local victim service worker, please call VictimLinkBC.
It is understandable you may still fear for your or a loved one’s safety, even when you are no longer in immediate danger. You should let police know if you are afraid the person who harmed you will hurt you again or if the person has threatened you or your family.
You have a legal obligation to report situations where a child or young person (under 19) needs protection. You must report the matter to the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
For more information and to receive help in making a report concerning a child or young person who needs protection, please call the Helpline for Children.
You can take several steps to help keep you and your loved ones safe. This section guides you to services and resources available to help protect you and your loved ones.
Speak With Someone
If you fear for your or your loved ones’ safety and you are in immediate danger, please call 911 immediately. If your community does not have 911 services, the local police emergency number can be found on the inside front cover of your phone book under emergency numbers
If you would like police assistance and are not in immediate danger, please call your local police non-emergency number.
Ask the police about a protection order to help keep you and your loved ones safe.
The police can also provide information about a local victim service worker.
Victim Service Workers
Victim service workers are specially trained to help victims of crime. They can speak to you in confidence about your safety concerns. They will discuss your options, answer your questions and can help you develop a safety plan.
A safety plan may be helpful if you fear for your safety, expect violence, are in an abusive relationship or believe you may become a victim of crime for any other reason.
If you would like help and support from a victim service worker, please call VictimLinkBC.
Violence Against Women
For safety information for relationship violence, please see Creating a Safety Plan (PDF) and the Personalized Safety Planning Template (.doc).
If you feel staying in your home places you in danger or leaving your home will help you escape or prevent an attack, go to an emergency shelter. You and your children can stay at an emergency shelter for free while you decide what to do next.You can go yourself or you can ask police to take you to a safe house, transition house or to another place where you will feel safe (such as a friend’s or relative’s house). Visit Shelters and Housing for more information.
Stopping the Violence Counselling Programs (PDF) counsel women who have experienced violence in relationships, childhood abuse or sexual assault, while Children Who Witness Abuse Counselling Programs provide individual and group counselling to children aged 3 to 18 who have witnessed violence in the home.
Outreach Services Programs (PDF) respond to the needs of women and their dependent children who have experienced or are at risk of violence. They deliver services including supportive counselling, referrals to community services, local transportation, accompaniment and advocacy.
Multicultural Outreach Services Programs (PDF) support women and their dependent children from diverse cultures who have experienced or are at risk of violence. They deliver services include supportive counselling, referrals to community services, local transportation, accompaniment and advocacy. Services are provided in 24 languages to ensure women are assisted by people who speak their language and are familiar with their culture.
Contact VictimLinkBC for more information about these and other counseling programs.
A protection order is a court order made by a judge to help protect one person from another. A protection order lists conditions for a named individual to follow that may require that individual to have no contact, or limited contact, with the person being protected or that person’s children and/or family. The conditions may include not going to the protected person’s home or workplace, no phone calls, emails, or letters, and no messages through a friend or relative. The order may include other conditions as well.
For more information about protection orders, including how to get one, please see additional information on protection orders.
Victim Notification – Victim Safety Unit
If you are a victim of crime, you can ask to receive information about the accused or offender. Visit Victim Notification to learn more about this service.
How You May Feel
Being a victim of crime can be scary and seriously affect your life. It is a traumatic experience that may produce physical, emotional and psychological responses you do not understand. It is important to know everyone experiences the effects of crime differently and that every reaction is normal.
Look after yourself and seek help and support from friends, family or victim services. To receive information or support and referral to a local victim service worker please call VictimLinkBC.
How You May Feel After Being a Victim of Crime
You may be feeling:
- Shocked, panicked or powerless
- Afraid, unsafe, empty, numb or lonely
- Stressed, anxious, irritable or tired
- Sad, depressed or angry
- Guilty, embarrassed, ashamed or dirty
Some common reactions you may experience include:
- Having trouble controlling your emotions
- Suffering from loss of self-esteem or sense of self-worth
- Having trouble concentrating or being forgetful
- Feeling constantly on the alert (or paranoid)
- Having flashbacks or memories about the crime
- Pushing others away and being alone
- Changing sleeping or eating habits or having nightmares or insomnia
How to Deal With Your Feelings
Everyone reacts and deals with their feelings in their own way. Different coping mechanisms work for each person. The following tips may help you deal with your feelings and reactions.
- Talk about how you feel with someone you trust.
- Do not make major life decisions at this time.
- Eat regularly and make sure you get physical exercise.
- Limit the use of alcohol and drugs.
- Be kind and gentle with yourself.
Help and Support Available to You
Victim support services are available to help you with the healing process. They can often refer you to other community agencies that can help you. Your local victim services program can help you deal with the impact of being a victim of crime. To receive support or information and referrals to local resources, please call VictimLinkBC.
If you are a victim of crime in British Columbia, you can register for the Ministry of Justice’s victim notification service.
Victim Safety Unit
This Victim Safety Unit provides victims with information about the accused or offender. Once you register, the unit gives ongoing information to victims while an accused or offender is in the community (on bail or probation) and in custody. The type of information you may receive will depend on your situation. The Victim Safety Unit will go over this with you when you register.
You can register at any time but you should register as soon as possible, especially if you have significant safety concerns. You do not have to wait for a conviction.
How to Register
To register for the victim notification service, you will need to contact the Victim Safety Unit. You can register with them by providing your name and contact information. You can apply by:
- Calling the Victim Safety Unit at 1-877-315-8822, free of charge anywhere in Canada to register by phone
- Completing the Victim Safety Unit – Notification Application Form (PDF) on page two of the Help Starts Here, Victim Notification information sheet. Then mail or fax your completed form to the Victim Safety Unit. The address and fax number is provided on the application form.
You can get help filling out the form from VictimLinkBC or the Victim Safety Unit.
If you would like information about an offender who is in a federal correctional centre, the Victim Safety Unit will send your form to the Correctional Service of Canada, Victim Services and the Parole Board of Canada so you continue to receive notification.
Information You May Receive
The Victims of Crime Act states the information you may be able to receive as a victim. For example, it may include:
- The area in B.C. in which the accused or offender may be living
- If the accused/offender has to stay away from you (if you are named in a protection order)
- Court dates and what happens at court
- Whether the accused or offender is in the community or in custody
- If they are out in the community, what conditions they must follow
- If they are in custody, the name and address of the correctional centre
- If the offender is in jail, the release date, length of their release and conditions the offender must follow when they get out of jail
- Their probation officer’s name and location.
If you are not a victim of crime, but you still have very serious safety concerns, you may be able to receive information about when the offender will be released from jail.
Offender in Federal Custody (Sentence of Two Years or More)
An offender sent to jail for two or more years will be in a federal Correctional Service of Canada jail. The service and Parole Board of Canada notify registered victims of offenders under federal jurisdiction.
To receive information about an offender in a federal jail, the Victim Safety Unit can forward your application to the Correctional Service of Canada and Parole Board of Canada. If you would like to contact either agency directly, please visit their websites for contact information:
The Correctional Service of Canada has a team dedicated to victim services. As a victim of crime or their family member, you can register with their victim services team to be kept up to date on what happens with the offender during their sentence. These officers will also address any safety concerns you may have.
The Correctional Service of Canada will take information provided by the victim into consideration when making decisions about an offender’s suitability for temporary releases, programs designed for offenders and security or risk levels that should be applied to the offender.
Financial Assistance & Benefits
There are many ways a crime can affect your life. If you have been physically or emotionally hurt as a result of a violent crime, you may be entitled to financial assistance.
Crime Victim Assistance Program
The Crime Victim Assistance Program (CVAP) assists victims, immediate family members and some witnesses in coping with the effects of violent crime. It provides financial benefits to help offset financial losses and assist in recovery.
Benefits for victims of crime include:
- Medical and dental services
- Prescription drug expenses
- Protective measures
- Replacement of damaged or destroyed eyeglasses, clothing and disability aids
- Childcare and homemaker services
- Disability aids and related disability expenses or services
- Support for a child born because of a crime
- Vocational services
- Income support or lost earning capacity
- Transportation and related expenses
- Crime scene cleaning
Benefits for immediate family members include:
In cases involving fatalities, benefits also include:
- Funeral expenses
- Bereavement leave
- Other benefits to support spouses, children and financially dependent family members
Benefits for witnesses include:
- Prescription drugs
- Transportation to attend counselling
- Crime scene cleaning
Services the Program is Unable to Cover
Where services or expenses can be covered by some other source, such as a health insurance plan, make your claims against that source first. If there are additional, eligible costs not covered by other sources, the Crime Victim Assistance Program can provide reimbursement.
Funding provided by other sources, such as Employment Insurance, is deducted from benefits provided under the Crime Victim Assistance Act.
The program cannot cover the following types of losses:
- Compensation for pain and suffering
- Property-related offences, including stolen or lost items or money
- Injury or loss from motor vehicle accidents
- Injury or loss from work-related incidents covered by workers’ compensation
Applying for Benefits
Application forms are also available from victim service programs or through the Crime Victim Assistance Program.
In most cases, the application must be received within one year from the date the crime took place. You do not have to wait for charges to be laid or for the offender to be conviction before applying for benefits.
Extensions to the one-year time limit are made in the following situations:
- The applicant is under 19. In this case, the victim has until they turn 20 to apply. Minors can apply on their own or a parent or guardian can apply on their behalf.
- The crime is a sexual offence that occurred after July 1, 1972. In this case, the victim (including minors) can apply at any time. The victim’s immediate family members must apply within one year of the date the crime took place or when the crime became known to them.
- The program provides an extension because the applicant could not, for a variety of reasons, reasonably have been expected to complete an application within one year.
When a victim experiences a financial loss or damage, such as property damage, as a result of a crime, they have the right to have the court consider making a stand-alone restitution order at sentencing under section 738 or 739 of the Criminal Code.
Restitution may be ordered by the criminal court judge once an offender has been found guilty. The judge can order restitution in different ways – either as a condition of an offender’s probation or conditional sentence, or as a stand-alone restitution order, enforceable by the victim in civil court if the restitution is not paid.
This page provides information on requesting and receiving restitution and also provides details on how the Restitution Program can be of assistance.
How does a victim request restitution?
A victim can advise the police at the time of the investigation about the financial losses or damages they have suffered. Where criminal charges are approved, a victim may request restitution by completing a Statement on Restitution form (Form 34.1):
- In many cases Crown Counsel offices will mail the Statement on Restitution form to victims along with a Victim Impact Statement form after charges are approved.
- A Victim Impact Statement is a written description of how a crime has affected the victim and is considered by the court at sentencing if the accused is found guilty or pleads guilty, however restitution can only be requested by completing the Statement on Restitution form.
- Victim service workers can assist victims in completing both the Statement on Restitution form and the Victim Impact Statement.
For the courts to consider making a restitution order, the victim’s financial losses or damages that he or she has suffered as a result of the crime must be “readily ascertainable” or easily determined:
- Victims must be able to clearly document their losses and damages and must submit supporting documents with their Statement on Restitution.
- It is important to include with the Statement on Restitution supporting documents such as copies of any relevant bills, receipts, invoices, estimates, etc. These types of documents make it easier for the court to determine the amount of the victim’s losses and make it more likely that restitution will be ordered.
- If any of these documents have personal information that a victim does not want others to know, such as his or her address or credit card numbers, the victim should delete that information before providing the document.
When does a victim request restitution?
Restitution is considered by the judge at the time of sentencing. However, it is sometimes difficult to predict when sentencing might take place. For example, if there is an unexpected guilty plea by the offender then sentencing might occur sooner than expected. Therefore a request for restitution and supporting documents should be provided to the Crown prosecutor as soon as possible after an offender is charged.
What types of financial losses and damages may be compensated by restitution?
There are limitations on the types of losses and damages for which a judge in a criminal case can consider making a restitution order. A judge in a criminal case may order an offender to pay the readily ascertainable financial losses or damages that a victim has experienced as a result of the crime up to the date of sentencing, but not for any future losses. A restitution order may include compensation for losses such as:
- the amount of an insurance deductible;
- lost income;
- medical, counseling or treatment expenses not covered by insurance;
- expenses for moving, such as temporary housing, food, childcare and transportation, if the victim and the accused lived in the same household and the crime caused the victim to leave that household;
- the cost of any property that was damaged, lost, or destroyed and the cost of repairs or replacement;
- the amount of money lost due to fraud or theft.
Will a victim receive restitution for the financial losses and damages described in their Statement on Restitution?
Completing a Statement on Restitution may lead to an order that the accused repay a victim’s losses or damages either as a condition on a probation or conditional sentence order or in a stand-alone restitution order, but such orders are not automatic.
Whether or not the judge orders the accused to pay restitution does not affect a victim’s right to seek compensation through a civil lawsuit or to apply to the Crime Victim Assistance Program.
- Information about starting a civil lawsuit and about the enforcement of restitution orders can be obtained at the Court Registry. A victim may also wish to consult with a lawyer.
- If a victim is injured (physically or psychologically) as a result of certain crimes, they may be eligible for benefits under the Crime Victim Assistance Act to assist with the costs resulting from the injury. A victim service worker will be able to provide information about eligibility for the Crime Victim Assistance Program.
When a restitution order is made when and how will the victim receive payment?
- If the offender is ordered to pay the victim restitution as a condition of a probation order or conditional sentence order, the restitution must be paid within a specific period of time, either by a date specified in the order or by the date the order expires.
- A stand-alone restitution order is usually payable immediately on the date it is made.
- The order may state that the victim is to be paid by the offender directly or it may state that restitution is ‘payable through the clerk of the court’.
- If the order states that restitution is ‘payable through the clerk of the court’, then the Court Registries will accept payment and forward the restitution payment to the victim.
What if the offender does not pay the restitution ordered?
If the restitution order is part of a conditional sentence order or probation order, and the offender does not pay the restitution, they may be charged with a breach and have to return to court.
If it is a stand-alone restitution order, or the restitution remains unpaid following expiry of a conditional sentence order or probation order, a victim may commence a civil proceeding in small claims court to pursue collection of unpaid restitution for amounts under $25,000 (amounts over $25,000 are handled in BC Supreme Court).
A victim may choose to file a certified copy of the restitution order in civil court, without commencing civil proceedings, in order to have the amount of the order registered as an outstanding debt of the offender.
The Restitution Program
The Restitution Program is available to provide victims and offenders with additional information and assistance regarding restitution.
The Restitution Program recognizes that even in cases where restitution has been ordered, victims may face challenges receiving payment including:
- The offender may be reluctant or unable to pay
- The victim may feel intimidated by the offender and reluctant to enforce the order in civil court
- The victim may be unable to afford the cost or time to enforce the order in civil court
What does the Restitution Program do?
The Restitution Program:
- Helps victims who have unpaid restitution orders
- Encourages offenders to comply with restitution orders
- Liaises with probation officers, parole officers, victim service workers and other service providers about unpaid restitution orders as needed
- Answers inquiries about restitution orders and provides referrals to resources
- Gives general information (not legal advice) about civil court processes
Applying to the Restitution Program for Assistance
- Do you have an unpaid restitution order?
- Is the restitution order part of an adult sentence?
- Was the restitution order issued by a criminal court in B.C.?
If you are a victim and answered yes, apply to the Restitution Program using the Restitution Program Application Form for Victims (PDF).If you are an offender and answered yes, apply to the Restitution Program using the Restitution Program Application Form for Offenders (PDF).
If you are unsure of the answer to these questions, contact the Restitution Program using the contact information shown above.
Victim services are available to anyone who has been a victim of crime in British Columbia. It is not necessary for you to report the crime to police to access these services.
Reporting a Crime
If you are unsure about whether or not to report a crime or would like to talk to someone, you can call VictimLinkBC. It is a 24-hour, B.C. toll- free information, support and referral line for victims. You will find a safe and confidential service where you can discuss your experience and decide what you want to do. They will not discuss your situation with anyone else without your knowledge and permission, except as required by law (such as in cases of child abuse or neglect or a crime that is about to be committed).
Regardless of whether you choose to make a report to police, VictimLink can refer you to a victim service program in your local community.