Victims of Crime Research Digest

Serving Canada's Crime Victims: Results from the
2005/2006 Victim Services Survey[1]

By Jodi-Anne Brzozowski, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada.


Until recently, there were no nationally available data on the number and types of victim service agencies in Canada. In an effort to fill this information gap, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS), with funding from the Policy Centre for Victim Issues, Department of Justice Canada, conducted its first national survey of victim services in 2003. Recognizing the need to monitor the number and types of victim service agencies and to address emerging issues in the field of victim services, the Victim Services Survey (VSS) was repeated in 2005/2006.

This study presents the findings from the second survey,[2] including the facilities and types of services that are provided to victims of crime and the characteristics of victims who seek assistance from victim service agencies.


The Victim Services Survey was developed in consultation with federal, provincial, and territorial ministries responsible for justice and victim services and with a number of victim service agencies from across Canada. The objectives of the survey are to provide a profile of victim service agencies, information on the types of services offered, and some insight into the clients who use them through a snapshot of victims served on a specific day. In addition, the survey collects standardized information from criminal injuries compensation and other financial benefit programs regarding applications for compensation and awards for victims of crime.

Victim services are defined as agencies that provide direct services to primary or secondary victims of crime and that are funded in whole or in part by a ministry responsible for justice matters. Through a mail-out/mail-back paper questionnaire, the survey is intended to be a census of all victim service agencies that fall within its scope. The survey covers system-based, police-based, court-based, and community-based agencies; sexual assault centres, criminal injuries compensation programs; and other financial benefit programs.

The survey defines a victim as a primary or secondary victim of crime. Primary victims are those who were the direct target of the crime, and secondary victims are those who were not the direct target of the offence but who were affected by it (e.g., family members, friends, classmates).


Canada's Victim Service Agencies

According to the 2005/2006 VSS, in the year ending March 31, 2006, there were 830 victim service agencies and 9 criminal injuries compensation programs that were identified as providing formal services to victims of crime through the survey. Survey responses were received from 697 victim service agencies and 8 criminal injuries compensation/financial benefit programs. A large proportion of victim service agencies were police-based (42%), followed by community-based (19%), sexual assault centres (17%), court-based agencies (8%), Ontario's Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Services (7%), and system-based agencies (7%). The remaining 1% comprised criminal injuries compensation programs.[3]

General information and emotional support most commonly provided services

In an effort to be responsive to the various needs of victims of crime, Canada's victim service agencies offer a broad range of services, either directly or by referral to other agencies. Research that has focused on determining the most frequently identified needs of those who use victim services most often points to the need for information and support (Prairie Research Associates 2004; Wemmers and Canuto 2002; Sims 1999). The VSS found that the most commonly reported services offered by agencies were directly related to these needs. For example, the most frequent types of assistance provided directly by victim service agencies[4] were general information (96%), emotional support (95%), liaising with other agencies on behalf of the client (90%), immediate safety planning (90%), information on criminal justice system structure and process (89%), and public education/prevention (87%).

Not all victim service agencies can offer the specific services that their clients require; therefore, it is not uncommon to see networks form between agencies. According to the survey, 688 of the 697 reporting agencies had established some type of working relationship with other agencies. The most common partnerships were with the police (98%), other victim assistance agencies (98%), transition homes or shelters (90%), social services (89%), and other government agencies (85%).

Some of the most commonly reported factors that have promoted the use of inter-agency partnerships include: maximizing effective referrals (95%); improving the range and accessibility of services to victims (95%); coordinating services (93%); and sharing resources (90%).

Many agencies offer specialized programs

Canada's population is characterized by its diversity. Being able to take this diversity into account may lead to the development and implementation of specialized programs or services that respond to victims in a way that reflects their diversity, whether they are differentiated by their age, sex, culture, language, sexuality, or physical or mental disabilities.

One way of meeting the needs of victims that has been identified is to target specialized populations (Stohr 2005).Almost half (45%) of agencies that responded to the survey reported targeting specialized populations.[5] Among those agencies, 70% targeted families of sexually abused children, 67% targeted adult victims of sexual assault, and 65% targeted child or youth victims of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation.

The VSS also asked agencies if they provided specific programs that were dedicated to certain segments of the population. Forty-three percent of agencies reported having such programs.

The most common groups to receive services through a dedicated program were children or youth (30% of agencies), followed by Aboriginal people (28%), and adult victims (27%).

Dedicated programs for other specialized groups such as visible minorities, homosexual or bisexual victims, seniors, and victims with disabilities were also available from a number of agencies. According to the VSS, 22% of victim service agencies had programs for ethnocultural or visible minority groups. Agencies most often delivered dedicated services to Black (African, Jamaican, Haitian) and Latin American visible minority groups (20% and 18% respectively).

In addition, results from the VSS show that 25% of agencies reported having programs for lesbian or bisexual women and 18% reported having programs for gay or bisexual men. Twenty-two percent of agencies offered programs dedicated to senior victims (aged 65 years and older), 24% offered programs for those with physical disabilities, and 22% to victims with mental disabilities.

While certain agencies may not offer dedicated programs, they may have resources to help victims who speak languages other than English or French. Twenty-four percent of agencies[6] reported that they had staff or volunteers who were able to speak at least one Aboriginal language. The other most common languages spoken by staff or volunteers were Spanish (20%), German (19%), and Italian (10%).

Agencies made audio or visual resource materials available most commonly in Aboriginal languages[7] (21%), Chinese (21%), Punjabi (20%), and Hindi (17%).

Majority of agencies are able to help clients with physical or mental health issues

The majority of agencies surveyed (92%) indicated that they were able to accommodate clients with mobility impairments, with 89% reporting having at least one wheelchair-accessible building entrance.

Of the 461 agencies that were able to accommodate clients with hearing impairments, the most common methods used were sign language (66%), teletypewriter or telephone device for the hearing impaired (29%), and other services (11%).

Furthermore, 455 agencies reported being able to accommodate clients with visual impairments, either through large print material (34%), other services (19%), or Braille (8%).[8]

Eighty-one percent of agencies reported being able to provide assistance to clients with mental health issues. Of these 565 agencies, 92% relied on partnerships or assistance from other specialized or professional agencies, 68% used informal assistance such as a family member, friend or caregiver to meet the needs of victims with mental health issues, and 52% used trained staff members.[9]

Over 10,000 people providing direct services to victims of crime

For 2005/2006, 662 victim service agencies (95%) reported the equivalent of nearly 1,800 paid full-time staff having worked that year, representing an average of almost 3 staff members per agency.[10] Victim service agencies rely heavily on volunteers. Almost eight in ten victim service agencies used the services of nearly 9,000 volunteers between April 1, 2005, and March 31, 2006. These volunteers worked an average of 4 hours per week during this period, the equivalent of 912 full-time volunteers.

Being able to provide services to victims of crime often requires high levels of education and/or specialized training. About two-thirds (66%) of agencies reported that their minimum educational requirements for employees was a university or college degree, diploma or certificate. Requirements were less stringent for volunteers, with only 8% of agencies reporting that their minimum educational requirements for volunteers was a university degree or college diploma.

Due to the scope and nature of the work of victim service agencies, the decision to recruit an employee may be based not only on educational qualifications, but also on the completion of certified workshops, seminars, or professional skills training directly related to the delivery of victim services. Seven in ten agencies (71%) reported having requirements such as these for the recruitment/staffing of employees.

Nearly all agencies (93%) reported delivering some type of training to their employees. The most commonly administered types of training were related to professional skills (94%), orientation training for new employees (94%), and awareness training for new or existing policies or practices (93%).

Over two-thirds of agencies offered training to their volunteers (68%). The most frequently delivered training sessions for volunteers were related to orientation (95%), followed by awareness training (92%), and professional skills training (88%).

The cost of serving crime victims

The cost of providing formal services to victims of crime in Canada in 2005/2006, based on responses from 628 victim service agencies (excluding compensation programs), totaled $152.2 ;million[11]. Approximately $85 million of this was spent on salaries, volunteer incentives, and training. The remaining $67.2 million was allocated to overhead costs (rent, supplies, utilities,insurance), capital expenditures, direct client costs ( food, supplies, transportation), travel, fundraising, promotional material, professional services, and other costs.

Profile of Victims Served

Over 400,000 victims served in 2005/2006[12]

There were over 400,000 victims of crime who sought assistance from the 589 victim service agencies that provided annual counts between April 1, 2005, and March 31, 2006. Among those agencies that were able to provide a breakdown of annual counts there were 161,000 female victims and 48,000 male victims. The sex was not reported for 190,000 victims.

Majority of victims served on snapshot day were victims of violent crime[13]

The VSS also captured information on the characteristics of victims seeking formal services on a specific snapshot day. On April 19, 2006, 8,080 victims were served by 636 agencies.[14] Among these victims, 72% were victims of violent crime such as sexual and physical assaults. Research suggests that victims of violent crimes suffer more debilitating and psychological effects (Sims et al. 2006) and are thus more likely to turn to formal sources of support such as victim service agencies (Stohr 2005).

Another 24% of clients had experienced other types of incidents such as property crimes, other Criminal Code offences, or non-criminal incidents such as suicides, drownings or motor vehicle collisions. The type of crime or incident experienced was unknown for 4% of victims served on snapshot day.

Over two-thirds (68%) of victims who sought assistance on April 19, 2006, were female. This proportion is similar to what was found in 2002/2003. The high representation of females may be related to the fact that female victims in general are more likely to use formal support services than their male counterparts (AuCoin and Beauchamp 2007).

Over half of female victims of violent offences experienced spousal violence

Agencies reporting that their clients had been victims of sexual assaults and other violent offences were also asked to specify the relationship of the victim to the perpetrator. Among the more than 5,200 victims of these offences, 47% had experienced violence by a spouse, ex-spouse, or intimate partner; 26% had been victimized by a family member other than a spouse; and the remaining 27% of victims were victimized by a non-family member (e.g., friend, neighbour, acquaintance or a stranger).

There were differences between the sexes when considering the relationship of the victim to the perpetrator. Among female victims for which the relationship of the perpetrator was known, 53% were victims of spousal violence, 24% had been victimized by a family member other than a spouse, and the remaining 23% had a non-family relationship to the perpetrator. In contrast, 49% of males were victimized by a non-family member, 28% were victimized by a family member other than a spouse, and 23% had experienced violence at the hands of a spouse, ex-spouse or intimate partner.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Programs and Other Financial Benefit Programs[15]

According to the VSS, during fiscal year 2005/2006, nine provinces had compensation programs for victims of crime, and responses were received for eight of the nine.[16] The aim of compensation programs is to alleviate the financial burden victims of crime and their families can incur as a result of the incident (Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime 2007). Each program is established according to its respective provincial legislative authority and is administered either by the ministry responsible for victim services or a compensation board.

While there are variations across the provinces in terms of eligibility criteria, in general the programs are available to the victim of a criminal offence (usually violent crimes), family members or dependants of persons who lost their life, and persons who are injured or killed while trying to assist a police officer or while preventing or attempting to prevent a crime (Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime 2007; US Department of Justice 2005).

The eight criminal injuries compensation programs that responded to the VSS reported a total of 11,437 applications that were adjudicated or concluded during 2005/2006 and another 14,747 that were carried forward to the following fiscal year. Of the total adjudicated, 75% were allowed or granted and 18% were disallowed. The remaining 8% of applications had another status, such as decision pending, withdrawn, or abandoned by the applicant.

Seven reporting agencies indicated paying a total of $93.2 million in compensation for victims of crime in 2005/2006.[17] The largest proportion of this total was paid out for pain and suffering (44%), followed by lost wages (23%), and medical/rehabilitation/dental/eyewear costs (20%). The remaining 13% of compensation monies were allotted for other reasons such as child maintenance, counseling costs and funeral and burial costs.

Based on a subset of just over 6,600 applications that were accepted,58% were for female victims, and 42% were for male victims.[18] Over three-quarters (76%) of applicants were over the age of 18.

When looking at all accepted applications, the majority of applicants (96%) were victims of crimes against the person. Among those victims, the most common types of crimes were assault (40%), sexual assault (20%), and assaults with a weapon or causing bodily harm (18%). Four percent of applicants were victims of other crimes such as arson, other property crimes and traffic offences.


For Further Reading