This was personally made clear to my family in the fall of 2008 when our pickup was stolen in the middle of the night. Though it was parked in front of our home in Edmonton and under a street light, neither we nor our neighbours heard anything.
The truck was recovered near Alberta Beach, but was written off due to a combination of damage sustained and the age of the vehicle. We received $3,700 for the loss, but our new second-hand truck cost $11,000 -- a financial hit that we had not anticipated.
The police and our insurance company treated us professionally and fairly, but still a lot of time was taken to talk to everyone. Time was needed to drive an hour to Alberta Beach to see if there were any personal items to be recovered, as well as to look for a new vehicle.
But the impact of this criminal victimization did not consist only of the property damage and the financial loss. It also included psychological and emotional after-effects.
My wife wondered if we had been targeted or singled out. Why was our vehicle stolen and not other trucks parked on the same street?
We will never know as no one has ever been arrested or charged.
Steering wheel clubs have since sprouted on vehicles on our block. They may be effective, but they are also a reminder of the communal loss of a sense of safety and security.
Shortly after the theft, I began work as restorative justice manager at the Mediation and Restorative Justice Centre (MRJC). Here, I have learned that my experience is shared by most other victims of crime.
Unanswered questions, emotional scars and physical symptoms like sleeping problems are common results of having been a victim.
But these results do not have to be permanent.
In the last 18 months, I have been witness to the power of restorative justice in cases ranging from road rage to a manslaughter case involving drunk driving causing death.
Restorative justice recognizes that crime is more than a violation of the law and the state. Crime is a violation of people and relationships and these violations create obligations.
Restorative justice's central focus is on victim needs and offender responsibility for repairing the harm that has occurred.
At MRJC we provide an opportunity for an interested victim, offender and community to meet in a safe setting to address what happened and why. The discussion includes the harm caused to the victim and how the offender may be held accountable.
The dialogue also works to an outcome that is meaningful to both the victim and offender and redresses the harm caused to the victim.
April 18 to 24 is National Victims of Crime Awareness Week. It is an opportunity to raise awareness about victim issues and about the services and laws in place to help victims and their families.
Victims of crime and their families deserve support from their community. Victims of crime need to know that they have a voice in our criminal justice system and that there are laws in place to help them.