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Criminal Injuries Compensation Board still sucks and still doesn't really want to help victims of crime.

Sensational, I know, but it's actually true. See, I was hoping to start going to see a therapist again, but Criminal Injuries has to approve my request to have therapy expenses covered (as part of their "benefits" for victims).  Pesky rape victims! Always trying to play the rape card to get things their way! Skip to the bottom ("Can I go to therapy, please?") if you know the background and just want to know the latest chapter in my almost 9 years' worth of dealing with them.

$$RAPE DOLLAZ$$

As some of you may know, I was raped on March 29, 2003 outside of Kennedy Subway Station in Toronto. By a stranger.  While the cops watched.  Because even though having sex in public is illegal, they decided to watch instead of interfering, because they assumed what was happening was consensual.  But that's a whole other story.  So is the story of how the rapist got acquitted. If there was one silver lining to said traumatic incident, it was that because of the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act, which meant I was eligible for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board of Ontario. Wait.  You can get money if the accused is acquitted? Yes.  You can get compensation even if the accused is acquitted.  Now before people start worrying/planning to scheme the government, I suspect it is close to impossible.  You need to fill out forms and get others to fill out forms that support your claims.  This includes forms filled out from the police, therapists, doctors, employers, court documents, lawyers (I might be wrong there); you send in photocopies of prescription receipts, of sick notes from your doctors; corroborating evidence from the HR at your work that shows you missed the 2 or 3 days following your rape, only to so indignantly go back to work when you don't know how to function.... cause rape or no rape, you have bills to pay.   AND then after all of that, you have a hearing which takes a couple of hours.  You get interviewed and questioned about everything you had said in your forms, and about what happened in court, and it all gets cross-referenced, cause you need to prove you are not making it up, and that you really did suffer.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, Bureaucracy and "colossal failures"

Unfortunately, my experience from 2003 through 2008 -- when I finally received compensation was a bureaucratic nightmare. (See: Ombudsman of Ontario's scathing report on the "colossal failure" / or read the press release here). To get an idea, the Ombudsman of Ontario's report opens with the following:
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is in deplorable shape. Instead of holding out support for victims of violent crime, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board often greets them with bureaucratic indifference and suspicion. Instead of giving steadfast and urgent assistance, it trades in technicality and embraces delay. As a result, instead of providing relief, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board too often adds insult to injury.
By bureaucratic nightmare, I mean filling out form after form after form.  Filling out a form to send in so that the Board could send a form to someone else, who would then send a form back so that the Board could send me a form to sign and send back, which would ultimately mean "yes that other party can now speak to the Board about their role in the victim's post-rape life" --  therapists, doctors, EMPLOYERS, people who you wouldn't want to talk about being raped to once, letalone multiple times. Do you know how stigmatizing it is for victims to have to repeatedly involve their employers in a matter related to "Criminal Injuries"? Oh, also the employees at the Board were unpleasant and accusatory which made the whole process even more unpleasant.

Can I go to therapy, please?

For years I was completely crippled as a victim of post-traumatic stress. To make matters worse, in May, 2003 -- not even two months after the rape -- my dad died unexpectedly.  I was still a teenager. To make matters even worse, in July, 2004, I was randomly assaulted by a stranger.  Violently.  Like, head smashed off pavement violently.  That case also went before the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and I was also compensated for that. Simply put, I was a very traumatized individual and did not function well for a long time. Years later, I am living in Vancouver.  I have dealt with adversity pretty well.  For the last two years I have been functioning about as close to a "normal" person as possible, and that is quite the accomplishment for me.  I am almost finished a university degree, I have good friends, I am living healthily, etc etc etc Why do you need therapy then?  It seems like you are doing just fine and have fully recovered. Well, yes and no.  There are a few reasons why I am doing well.  Support from family and friends has helped.  So has my own strength and determination.  So has moving far away from Toronto.  Another reason is because of being able to access therapy so that I can deal with the things that continue to haunt me and plague me, that I can't talk about in a social/friendly/family environment.   That I can't really talk about because it marks me as dirty or crazy or whatever because of the stereotypes about rape victims and seeking help for mental health issues. Therapy has served me well over the years. And right now, it would be in my benefit to have access to therapy.  In addition to getting a little bit of money, victims of violent crime are also entitled to have therapy costs covered in the event that they are not covered by provincial healthcare. But... there is a catch PESKY RAPE VICTIMS.  Look how lucky they are! You could almost say that they get to go to university for free, using that compensation money! Using their rape to get a free ride! And investing it?  Greedy, dirty rape victims. You have to prove that you need the therapy.  You have to get authorization from the Board before you can claim the expenses of psychotherapy/counselling.  And it is a bureaucratic process. This morning I called up the Board and asked them how the therapy thing works.
  • They will send me a form.
  • I find a therapist.  Therapist seems me and confirms "yes, that girl needs therapy".
  • Therapist fills out form.
  • Therapist sends form back to the Board.
  • An adjudicator will review the form and determine whether or not I should have therapy costs covered.
Granted this is a money-saving tactic to deter people from using the Board and claiming expenses to them, but it really sends the wrong message.
It says: prove to us, oh "victim".  Prove to us that you are still wounded from a horrible thing -- from the worst that ever happened to you in your life.  Seriously.  Even after a judgment that outlines and stresses OVER AND OVER how the victim experienced years of pain and suffering from the trauma of a violent incident, the victim still has to prove that they need therapy.
BURNED
How does that make victims feel? It makes me feel like maybe I should just "man up" when I have nightmares about being raped, or "man up" when 9 years later I won't walk alone at night, which I never used to be afraid of doing.   Or "get over it" when I can't watch certain scenes in movies, cause they trigger me, or how I get so angry when I hear people make rape jokes.
I'm a pretty headstrong individual who really loathes being pushed around and bullied, so I am happy to stand up to the Board and go through this BULLSHIT BUREAUCRATIC PROCESS so that I can assert my rights and receive my benefits, but not everybody  else is like me, or has the means.
So this was my account of my history with the Board leading up until today.  Usually I prefer not to be so sensational and prefer to be rational.
Please feel free to share this with other people.  It's not easy to talk about, because it deals with stigmatizing subjects.
EDIT: sorry about the grammar/typos... I tried to correct them. I was just so incensed I didn't bother to edit :p EDIT 2: "Still sucks"  in the subject refers to the fact that in 2007, the Ombudsman conducted a huge, in-depth review of the Criminal Injury Compensation Board of Ontario which highlighted many of its failures and proposed some solutions, which may or may not have been acted upon.    

6 Comments

  1. Brenda Darling says:
    Hi Leora, It breaks my heart and makes me very angry that you have to continue to "go public" on this horrible event. I remember speaking with your traumatized Mom when it happened so shortly after your Dad passed away. I still feel personally connected in a creepy sort of way since the man who married my daughter was the character witness for the accused. You have so many gifts and one of them is that you are so articulate, Leora. In your life I hope you are willing to speak out time and again for those who are silent and unable to demand justice. All the best, Brenda

    February 8, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

  2. Leora says:
    Hi Brenda. Thank you for that! And wow... I did not know that there even was a character witness... or maybe I did at some point, but I have forgotten a lot about what went on during the trial and was not present for the other cross-examinations. Casey probably remembers better than me. The only thing that I remember from the whole trial was when the defence lawyer asked me if I did anything like "wiggle a leg" to make the rape more pleasurable. It was the grossest thing I have ever been asked in my life. I still remember the look on his face, and how his eyeballs sort of popped out of his face while he made a very subtle gesture implying some kind of sexual body language. It was so gross and it made me feel sick. That might have been at the pretrial though; I can't remember. But that is all that I can remember from court, but I think that one short memory captures how dehumanizing it all is. Leora

    February 11, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

  3. Blogging at Life :: Ferrets and more Criminal Injuries says:
    [...] from the good ol’ Board so that I can go see a therapist to fill it out. See my post “Criminal Injuries Compensation Board still sucks and still doesn’t really want to help victims of c...“ .  I am really curious about the language; language in forms and in literature related to [...]

    February 11, 2012 @ 4:15 pm

  4. Matthew Fabb says:
    Perhaps I'm a bit too native about this whole process but to me this is something a newspaper or some sort of media should pick up on and make a stink about. Anyways, I'm so sorry to hear about how you had to go through with all of this and how sucky the bureaucracy is. :(

    February 13, 2012 @ 11:56 pm

  5. Leora says:
    It's funny that you bring up the media thing, Matt... A few years ago when I was looking at the possibility of getting a retrial (all but impossible ), I was advised the better route would be to go to the media as well. But was also advised that I would have been more successful getting media attention had I done it closer to the date of the crime. The Toronto Star covered the Board a bit in 2007 after the Ombudsman's report! But I think the media prefers to actually focus on how police officers can get compensation. Depending on how the therapy thing turns out, I guess that will affect how I handle the situation.

    February 14, 2012 @ 7:12 am

  6. Blogging at Life :: Existential angst and Criminal Injuries – Continued. says:
    [...] two weeks after calling up the Board asking how to go about getting therapy expenses, I have received my forms.  They are pretty [...]

    February 17, 2012 @ 2:49 pm

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