Systemic abuse also referred to as institutional abuse or abuse by institution occurs when rules, regulations, laws, policies, programs and/or practices developed by an institution harm and/or discriminate against an identifiable group or a member of an identifiable group.
Institutions are organizations or corporations established for a particular purpose such as education, social/cultural programs, or governance and include schools, churches, and the health care system.
In some cases, an organization’s rules, regulations, laws, policies, programs and/or practices cause harm to groups and/or individuals. The type of harm can be psychological, physical, sexual, as well as financial. For institutional abuse to occur there is usually a power imbalance between the organization and the targeted group or person. It is often due to the organizational structure of the institution that it and the offenders within it are shielded from accountability. Historically this practise has led to the systemic abuse that we continue to confront today.
For fear of disbelief and/or repercussions victims of systemic abuse may be reluctant to disclose the abuse to the institution where they were harmed, or report it to the authorities. Slater Vecchio’s goal is to assist and find justice for those who cannot go up against the establishment on their own.
There are many resources available for individuals who have experienced systemic abuse. Sometimes by assisting survivors to recognize past experiences as abuse, addressing the trauma of the abuse, and guiding survivors toward a future of dignity and well-being.
However, communicating an experience of abuse to others can be triggering and re-traumatizing. When accessing any abuse-related resources all survivors need to be encouraged to proceed at their own pace. Because trauma is complex and individual, the goal of information and support is to minimize any additional negative impact.
If you are in need of services, the following list includes some examples of the types of organizations and resources that might be applicable to your situation.
Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only 24/7, national support service. They offer professional counselling, information, and text-based support to young people across Canada.
The Battered Women’s Support Services is a feminist voice against violence and oppression. They are a strong, dynamic organization that provides support and advocacy for women who have experienced abuse. In addition, they provide community education and training about violence against women.
The Ending Violence Association of Canada (EVA CAN) is a non-profit organization whose main purpose is to educate and respond to gender-based violence.
The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime (CRCVC) provides support, research, and education to survivors of serious crimes in Canada. They offer assistance and advocacy to all, regardless of the status of a legal case. The CRCVC believes in victim empowerment, to help them regain control of their lives.
The Men’s Therapy Centre provides support and counselling services to masculine-identified persons and their family members.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is a National Indigenous Organization representing the voice and needs of Indigenous women and girls in Canada. They are inclusive of all First Nations, including on and off reserve, status and non-status, disenfranchised, Métis and Inuit.
Tsow-Tun Le Lum, meaning “Helping House”, is a society that provides services for Indigenous survivors, families and communities. They provide community outreach programs and services as well as supplying services to help survivors of trauma and residential schools.
The goal of the Victim Justice Network is to promote access to justice information, innovation and resources through an online network for victims of crime.
The Lukas' House Society is a not-for-profit organization that was created in the memory of Lukas Goguen. The organization was created with the goal of raising awareness about opioids and educating individuals about harm reduction. Their goal is to help eliminate the stigma around mental health and substance abuse.
The WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre provides support services to survivors of sexual assault and other sexualized violence. They advocate for change, both societally and systemically. through activism, education, and outreach. They work to build a better future for survivors by offering support systems and advocating for a greater understanding of the causes of violence.
The Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services provides leadership, coordination and collaboration of sexual assault services in Alberta.
The Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre is a non-profit organization helping individuals located in the central Alberta region. They specialize in healing sexual trauma and provide support so you can freely discuss any hardships.
The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton helps individuals impacted by sexual violence and helps to uphold a culture of consent. They are there for all people who have experienced sexual assault.
The Indian Residential School Survivor Society (IRSSS) is a BC organization providing services to Indian Residential School Survivors.
The Ending Violence Association of British Columbia (EVA BC) works to coordinate and support the work of victim-serving and other anti-violence programs in British Columbia.
The Crisis Centre of BC is dedicated to providing help and hope to individuals, organizations, and communities dealing with issues related to crisis support, suicide prevention, and postvention.
The Children of the Street is dedicated to preventing the sexual exploitation and human trafficking of children and youth in British Columbia. They engage in education strategies, public awareness initiatives, and family support to help protect children and youth.
The British Columbia Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse (BCSMSSA) is a non-profit society established to provide services for males who have been sexually abused. They provided treatment and support services, develop educational material, assist with government agencies, and ensure clear communication and consultation with the community.
Métis Nation BC represented nearly 90,000 Metis individuals in British Columbia. Their goal is to develop and enhance opportunity for Métis individuals and communities by providing relevant social and economic programs.
Phoenix Society is a BC not-for-profit society helping individuals with addiction, employment, education and transitional housing. They are dedicated to innovation and initiatives that help individuals exit the cycle of addiction and homelessness.
The Surrey Women's Centre helps provide women and children with a safe place, emergency food and clothing, to help rebuild lives.
The Friendship Centre provides programs in health, welfare, social services, human rights, culture, education, recreation and equality for all genders of aboriginal people of all age groups.
MCSBC is a non-profit Society that is empowered by Metis citizens in BC to provide holistic services that ensure the health and well-being of the Metis community.
Provides support to women who have experienced male violence including wife battering, incest, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and prostitution.
Offers free counselling and services for youth and children who have been affected by sexual abuse.
Provides free and confidential care to those who have been recently sexually assaulted. On-call examiners are available 24/7, 365 days a year.
A sexual assault response program available to residents of North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Lions Bay, and Bowen Island. Provides free support hotline and other services.
Multilingual support line offered through phone, email, or text. They can connect you to their network of social, health, and governmental resources 24 hours a day.
Embrace Clinic is the outpatient clinic of Fraser Health’s Forensic Nursing Service. They provide short-term trauma-informed medical care and limited forensic care for survivors of recent violence.
The AMS Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) is committed to the survivors of sexualized violence. They serve UBC students, staff, faculty, and those with a connection to the UBC campus.
This hotline is available to anyone ages 16 and up who has experienced sexual assault. They offer support and numerous other services related to trauma recovery, victim services, and family therapy, to those that need it.
Survivor’s Hope offers Sexual Assault Recovery and Health to all individuals 15 and older who have been affected by sexual assault. They provide emotional support, information, referrals and support services to those in need.
Sexual Violence New Brunswick is the only sexual assault centre in New Brunswick. They work with the provincial government and communities to enhance and establish sexual assault services.
Chimo Helpline is a 24/7/365 provincial crisis phone line available to all living in New Brunswick. They provide crisis intervention, referrals and any helpful information in a caring and confidential manner.
NL Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre provides 24-hour support and resources for any individuals affected by sexual violence. They are a non-profit, charitable organization that supports individuals of all genders.
Thrive helps vulnerable individuals achieve their full potential and enhances the capacity of social serving agencies. They work in part with the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Community Youth Networks.
The Avalon Sexual Assault Centre is an organization working towards eliminating sexual violence and helping to change the current societal culture that leads to sexism and this type of violence.
Provided by the Family Service of Eastern Nova Scotia, the Men’s Helpline is a free, confidential service for men who have concerns regarding their safety and wellbeing.
The Assaulted Women’s Helpline provides a safe space to support, listen and guide women who have experienced any type of abuse anywhere in Ontario.
The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres provides listings of centres all across Ontario. These listed centres provide free counselling and provide information about sexual violence.
The Canadian Mental Health Association provides numerous different support resources to those struggling with any mental health issues.
The Island Helpline provides emotional support and crisis intervention to individuals of all ages. They provide free and confidential services 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
The PEI Rape and Sexual Assault Centre provides free and confidential counselling services to all individuals who have experienced recent or historical sexual abuse.
The Montreal Sexual Assault Centre offers free bilingual services to anyone that has been victimized by sexual violence. They additionally provide medical, legal, and clinical support services to all victims and their loved ones.
The Crime Victims Assistance Centre provides help to victims, close relatives of victims, and witnesses of crimes. They provide free and confidential services regardless of the type of crime, when it occurred, and if any charges were filed.
The Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan is a non-profit organization that works to provide support and advocacy for those affected by sexual violence in Saskatchewan. They work along with agencies, community partners, and governments to help those in need.
Mobile Crisis Services in Saskatchewan offer support to individuals facing a wide range of problems. These include a crisis hotline, walk-in support, a crisis suicide helpline, and a child abuse helpline.
Understandably, some survivors are apprehensive about participating in a lawsuit due to the possibility of public exposure. This is a valid concern and unfortunately may be a barrier to accessing the justice system. If this is the case for you, please know that there are options to safeguard your identity. We want to be the ally for those who need to right a wrong.
Legal services can help survivors of systemic abuse hold the offending institution accountable and claim financial compensation for the harm suffered. Often, filing a lawsuit will lead to more survivors coming forward to corroborate abusive systemic practices. Legal services should also provide guidance and information about the legal process. If you are looking to pursue legal recourse, then a knowledgeable and dedicated legal team is vital.
We acknowledge it can be difficult to recount experiences of any type of abuse. All your feelings are valid, and we as a legal team are capable of having conversations about sensitive issues in a non-judgmental and compassionate manner.
Or if you’d rather to talk to someone, give us a call:
 Statistics Canada – Gender-based violence and unwanted sexual behaviour in Canada, 2018: Initial findings from the Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces
 Canadian Women’s Foundation – Sexual Assault and Harassment in Canada | The Facts
 Amelia Rising – Learn About Sexual Violence & GBV