Gala Gives Voice to Victims

Tired of the emotional abuse she was subjected to by her husband, Carol-Ann Marshall walked the three blocks from her office to Toronto Police headquarters, seeking advice on how to make a separation.

It was only when Const. Joanne Tawton, the officer at the front desk, said she would get someone from Victim Services Toronto (VST) to speak with Marshall did she know that such an organization exists.

The non-profit agency provides a lifeline for nearly 20,000 victims annually.

Those subjected to crime and sudden tragic circumstances can access the organization that offers response, trauma and support services.

Supervised by crisis counsellors, volunteers provide crisis intervention and referrals, assist on the telephone or attend the scene as requested. They also aid with fundraising and other community outreach initiatives.

Speaking at the annual Chief’s Gala on November 14 to support VST, Marshall said the work that the organization does is crucial and necessary.

“Joanne believed me, Lindsay (Upton – the crisis counsellor she met with the first time) believed me, the volunteers who checked up on me believed me,” said the former Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer who also sang with the Vancouver Opera Chorus. “There was no judgment, no questioning about whether what I was saying was true or not. From the time Joanne connected me with Victim Services, I felt that I had someone in my corner who could substantially help and not ask me questions about why I stayed and what took me so long to get help.”

Three women, on in uniform, stand together
Constable Joanne Tawton, Carol-Ann Marshall and Lindsay Upton Photo: Kevin Masterman

The annual Chief’s gala is VST’s major fundraiser.

“In order to help people like me and all the others who are enduring abuse, Victim Services Toronto needs your help and support, added Marshall who is a Certified Conscious Uncoupling Coach. “They cannot continue to do the work they do without your generous donations. Please keep this in mind. Your daughter, your sister, your aunt, your co-worker, your next door neighbour may be the person that’s being abused. You simply do not know who is being abused and who needs someone in their corner at a most vulnerable time in their life. Sometimes, it’s the person you least expect. Victim Services Toronto supports us all, so please open your wallets and give generously. You will be saving lives and may be one in your own backyard.”

Chief Mark Saunders thanked VST for the outstanding work they do as the only agency in the city that provides immediate crisis trauma to victims of crime and sudden tragedy.

“Victims matter and they can be forgotten really easily if there is not an entity that puts that at the forefront,"saidSaunders, who thanked the guests for their generosity in supporting victims. "This Gala is the lifeblood that makes it sustainable."

Attended by an event-high 1,300 guests, a record $674,420.38 was raised at last year’s gala, more than doubling the previous best of $301,533.54 raised in 2017.

Last year, it cost $316 to operate VST’s programs and services.

A total of 23,604 victims were helped of which 8,498 were children and youths. Through the Case Management Program, 2,673 victims were assisted which is a 30 per cent increase from 2017.

VST is staffed by about 50 people in full and part-time roles and supplemented by 200 volunteers who speak 35 different languages.

The organizations provides crisis services 24 hours, 365 days.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Attorney General Doug Downey, Toronto Police Services Board members Jim Hart and Mayor John Tory and former Boston, New York City and Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton addressed the audience.

A man at a podium also projected on a big screen in background
Former Boston, New York City and Los Angeles police commissioner William Bratton speaks to the audience about the importance of community working with police Photo: Kevin Masterman

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