Sun Youth program – In September 2006, the rise in the number of violent crimes and the tragedy at Dawson College inspired Sun Youth to create a special fund dedicated to crime victims, thanks to the generosity of the Montreal business community. “Typical cases referred to the program are linked to violent crimes such as fraud, domestic violence and sexual exploitation”, says Alex Vidal, Sun Youth Crime Prevention Supervisor. This program also works in conjunction with the Montreal Police Service (SPVM) Survivors project that allows police officers as well as hospital, community and school staff to be better equipped to intervene adequately with victims of sexual exploitation.
Since the beginning of the Crime Victims Program, more than 40 victims of sexual exploitation have received Sun Youth’s help. One of those victims is Laurence (fictitious name). She was working at a financial institution when she met a man who promised her a dream life. The man who she fell in love with was actually a manipulator and this is how her downward spiral started. She explains: “with time, the abuse and violence began (…) I lost a lot of money and I had a strong attachment to this man, it was very difficult for me to get out of this situation. I was ashamed of my situation and of myself. I felt like a burden to the world. I lost myself during that time”. After a particularly violent event, Laurence was fearful for her life and with the support of her family, she decided to report the man to the police. Thanks to her testimony, other women came forward. In April 2017, she was referred to Sun Youth by her CAVAC agent (Assistance Centres for Victims of Crime). “I felt supported. They took me as I was without any judgment. They were empathetic and understanding”, says Laurence. The help she received from Sun Youth gave her the strength to regain control of her life, “to be able to see people help others with conviction and passion made me realize that we need more people like that”. Through her path and with her strength, she is today a woman who is rebuilding her life. She will return to University in September. “If you are well supported and have a good support system, there is always a way out”, she concludes.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Sun Youth is proud to be able to help women who have the courage to get out of an unbearable situation. What still motivates the organization after 64 years is the desire to improve the quality of life of its beneficiaries and thus help make a difference whatever their situation is.
Feature image: Sun Youth’s Alex Vidal meeting a crime victim at the organization’s headquarters. Photo: Nicolas Carpentier.