New Calgary program aims to help victims of sexual assault get better access to legal support

The Calgary Courts Centre on Monday, March 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A new program has been launched in Calgary that aims to help victims of sexual assault get better access to legal support.

The Sexual Violence Legal Advice project is being launched by Calgary Legal Guidance. It’s a four-year program that is being funded in its entirety by the federal government.

The program aims to provide free legal advice, lawyer support and an advocate who specializes in responding to trauma, to help victims better navigate the legal and court systems.

“Too often, survivors of this kind of violence are revictimized through the legal system as they are forced to tell their abuse stories over and over, and justify their experience as a victim,” said CLG executive director Marina Giacomin in a news release Wednesday.

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“This program will help them make decisions about how they want to heal from the assault, and sometimes that means not going through the stress of the legal system.”

Sasha Best, a lawyer at CLG for the new program, said she hopes this initiative will help victims feel safer when it comes to reporting sexual assaults as well as ensure their rights are being protected.

“We would love to see — as a result of this program — survivors feeling more comfortable and supported coming forward,” Best said. “Ultimately, our intention is to meet survivors where they’re at and respond to what they articulate their needs to be.”

Best also noted that since this program is federally funded, she hopes to see other initiatives like this one “popping up all over the country.”

As for how the program will work, Best said CLG aims to adapt to the needs of the community to create the best possible project for survivors.

“Our funding is at this point for four years. Of course our aim is to build something that is sustainable and can keep going after that,” Best said. “But that is quite a bit of funding, and that gives us some leeway to really build a program that is responsive to the needs in the community.

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“Our intention is to be very flexible and responsive to the needs that we see in the community and from survivors that do reach out to us.”

Anyone looking to access the program can do so by contacting CLG directly at 403-234-9266. For more information on the project, you can visit their website.

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