Advocating for victims of crime
Sheryl Sheppard disappeared nearly 17 years ago; her mother, Odette Fisher is still holding out hope of justice and looking for closure.
Fisher was one of the victims in attendance at an event held by Hamilton’s police service marking National Victims of Crime Awareness Week.
The event is now is in its ninth year, and it's the fifth year that the victim services branch of the Hamilton police is involved.
“It hurts because my daughter has been [missing] 17 years now,” says Fisher with tears in her eyes. She reveals a T-shirt with Sheppard’s face on it.
“Her body has never been found yet. The police found her wallet, her ID card and driver’s license. It’s quite painful.”
Fisher says the Hamilton police victim services branch have helped a lot, including helping her find counselling and meeting with her once a month.
I think that victims need access to information about what’s available to assist them. They need coordinated service. They need financial assistance and emotional support.- Dr. Lori Triano-Antidormi, psychologist and victims advocate
Victim’s week is held in April every year to raise awareness about issues facing victims of crime and the services, programs and laws in place to help victims and their families.
“Often what the victim needs is just someone who sits and listens,” Deputy Chief Eric Girt said. Girt says many victims are not
aware of the services and resources that are available to them.
Dr. Lori Triano-Antidormi, a well-known psychologist and advocate for victim’s rights also spoke at the event. Triano-Antidormi’s son, only two and a half-years-old at the time, was stabbed to death in 1997 by a mentally ill woman.
Triano-Antidormi remains critical of parts of the proposed Canadian Victims Bill of Rights that promises more access to information for victims.
“It’s never going to change in terms of what victims can be told because of the on-going investigation. The police and the crown don’t want to give that information because they want to solve the crime,” she said.
Triano-Antidormi worries that victims continue to be re-traumatized in the criminal justice system due to its adversarial nature.
“I’m very protective of victims and their pain. I think that victims need access to information about what’s available to assist them. They need coordinated service.
"They need financial assistance and emotional support. I don’t think throwing them more into the criminal justice system where they have no role is the best thing in terms of their healing.”