Although crime stories tend to dominate headlines, media coverage tends to focus on details rather than on victims and their families. As a result, many Canadians may not see the effect that crime has on victims.

In fact, when a crime occurs, it doesn?t affect just one person. The entire community — family, friends and neighbors — feels its impact. Many of us know someone who has been victimized or have been victims ourselves. In fact, a study completed in 2004 found that 28% of all Canadians aged 15 and over — that is more than one in four adults — had been victimized by crime in the past year. And that number accounts for only those crimes reported to the police; the same study suggested that up to two-thirds of all crime goes unreported.

If you or someone you knew became a victim of crime, would you know where to turn for help? It?s important for Canadians to know that victims have a voice in our criminal justice system. April 17th to 24th is Victims of Crime Awareness week in British Columbia and April 23rd to 29th is National Victims of Crime Awareness Week — a time for our community to raise awareness about victims? issues, about the services and laws in place to help victims and their families, and to mark advances in the law for victims of crime.

Across the country, there will be public forums, memorials, seminars and other events organized around the theme People Services and Laws: Did you know? The goal of these events is to inform Canadians about victim issues and the role of victims in the criminal justice system.

This year, National Victims of Crime Awareness Week coincides with National Volunteer Week. It is particularly important to recognize the ongoing efforts of countless volunteer victim service providers who dedicate their time and energy to support victims of crime and their families.

With the help of victim service providers and victim advocates, advances have been made in the last ten years to strengthen the voice of victims in the criminal justice system. For example, the interests of the victim must be considered when a police officer, judge or justice of the peace makes a decision about whether to detain an accused person or order bail.

A judge can order a publication ban to protect the identity of victims and their families. The law obliges judges to consider victim impact statements — in writing or read aloud in court — during the sentencing portion of criminal trials.

While much has been done to address and advance victim issues, more needs to be done. National Victims of Crime Awareness Week is a time to recommit ourselves to making sure victims of crime have the help they need and a strong voice in the criminal justice system.

You can contribute by getting involved — by volunteering to help victims, by referring victims you know for service and assistance, and by being a source of personal support for victims of crime. During both the Provincial and National Victims of Crime Awareness Week, whether you have been hurt by crime or are concerned about justice, you can make a positive difference in the lives of victims and their families.

Contact Jerrilyn Schembri, Police Victim Services in Tumbler Ridge at 242-5252 for more information.