Port Alberni city council has granted the Alberni Community and Women’s Services society (ACAWS) $5,000 to help produce an educational video for victims of crime.
The society is looking for funding, through community donations and grants, to produce an informational video to help break the barriers for women affected by domestic violence and learn what they can anticipate when going through the criminal justice system.
Originally, council sent ACAWS a letter after the society requested the funding at a July 11 council meeting stating the city acknowledged the importance of the initiative and the video’s intent but that they do not have the funds available in their budget to help at this time.
Coun. Sharie Minions made a motion at a July 25 regular council meeting to further discuss the society’s funding request which was carried.
“I think this is an initiative that is going to be very important to our community, it’s definitely needed, and I’d like to see us at least discuss funding this request,” Minions said.
The motion was seconded by Coun. Denis Sauve.
“I encourage the Regional District to match this. This has been proposed to Regional District [but] they haven’t answered,” Sauve said.
Mayor Mike Ruttan questioned where the money would come from and to what extent would council be setting precedent for groups coming forward in the middle of a budget year asking for money.
“We have pots of money for various things and is there some pot of money we could tap into without taking off some other project?” Ruttan said.
Eventually council voted unanimously to approve the request.
Ellen Frood, ACAWS’ new executive director, believes education and awareness for victims of crime is one of the most powerful ways of helping people.
Twenty six reports of violence against women have been reported to ACAWS this quarter but only three chose to report the incidents to the police.
“There are many victims from rural or outlying areas who are fearful or anxious about reporting and giving evidence and it’s often due to ignorance or fear of the procedures or consequences involved in giving evidence,” Frood said.
“People are afraid of the system or afraid they aren’t going to be listened to.”
The video, called Witness, would demonstrate the process in which women affected by violence should take when going through the justice system following an incident. It would aim to demystify the process of giving evidence in court by showing examples of scenarios of what a victim could expect.
“If we have 26 reports and only three people chose to go to the police there’s a huge statement right there and that’s only in one quarter of a fiscal year,” Frood said.
Production costs for the video are close to $20,000.
“We feel that it’s a critical to produce. It would be on Youtube, Facebook and websites for everybody to access,” Frood said.
“We will be reaching out to the community, different resources, individuals and doing what we can to get it going right now. To wait we feel is another year of not helping and not educating and that’s not what we’re about. We really want to be proactive in how we approach and help people and this is a tool.”
The script was written by producer, Lorna Bennet, who has received many awards and nominations for her previous works. She has been writing scripts and producing videos since the 1980s.
Prior to writing Witness, Bennet did extensive research on the topic of violence against women and the process of going through the justice system. She spoke with victim support workers, members of the RCMP, crown counsel and staff at the Port Alberni transition house.
“The first thing you ever do is research. You find everything you can about the topic,” Bennet said.
The video will be about 11 minutes long and will be told in a voice-over narrative style so that it could easily be adapted into different languages. Bennet said she’d prefer to use local cast and crew for the video to help create work for people.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about the video or to donate can call ACAWS at 250.724.7111.