Rena Kundu, the Community Based Victim Services co-ordinator, and Zoe Langlois, the Family Law advocate, are seen here at The Advocacy Centre offices located at 205 Hall St. Photo: Submitted

Rena Kundu, the Community Based Victim Services co-ordinator, and Zoe Langlois, the Family Law advocate, are seen here at The Advocacy Centre offices located at 205 Hall St. Photo: Submitted

HOW WE CARE: Learn about family law, victim services at Advocacy Centre

The centre has helped low-income residents of the West Kootenays for nearly 30 years

by Stephanie Myers

This is the second of a two-part article that shines a light on The Advocacy Centre program at Nelson CARES. Read the first part here.

Separating from a partner, experiencing relationship or sexual violence – these are highly personal, emotional and often traumatic events that may also bring individuals into contact with courts and authorities such as the police. Over the years, The Advocacy Centre’s Family Law and Community Based Victim Services programs have helped thousands of residents navigate the legal and justice systems, sometimes during the most challenging times of their lives. These services are free of charge.

Funded by the BC Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the Nelson and Area Community Based Victim Services (CBVS) program supports individuals who have experienced relationship or sexual violence, regardless of whether they choose to report to police. CBVS isn’t a crisis service but is often the first point of contact for people who need help to leave a relationship or speak about a sexual assault for the first time.They can get information, help with safety planning, learn about the systems and decide how to move forward.

“Our work is client-based and client-driven, giving individuals the support that their personal situation requires,” says Rena Kundu, CBVS and Safe Kids and Youth co-ordinator.

Jane (not her real name) has had first-hand experience in dealing with relationship violence. She and her family dealt with almost nine years of psychological and physical terror from her partner. His behaviour escalated to the point that Jane felt she had to do something, so she reached out to The Advocacy Centre for help.

Of that first meeting with Rena at Victim Services, Jane says, “I was still in shock, and I didn’t realize what kind of situation I was in.” After five months of working with Rena and other community support organizations, Jane “found the courage” to make a statement to the RCMP.

Jane says, “I think that maybe I might not be alive … because I didn’t realize what danger I was in. Rena really helped me see the danger I was in — her level of alarm knocked some sense into me.”

Jane’s situation could have easily gone another way, and the statistics bear this out – approximately every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Jane is one of the fortunate ones.

Family law is another area where intensely personal issues intersect with the law. The Law Foundation of BC funds the Advocacy Centre’s Family Law program. Through the program, people who cannot afford a lawyer can get support navigating the family law system and legal information about separation, divorce, parenting arrangements, child and spousal support, property division, and family violence.

Zoe Langlois is the family law advocate. While not a lawyer and therefore cannot provide legal advice or representation, she offers information on out-of-court options such as mediation, referrals, support in accessing legal advice and resources and help with court documents and preparation.

Reflecting on her work at the Advocacy Centre, Zoes shares, “I really enjoy the Family Law Advocate role. It combines emotional support with a strong legal focus to help people who cannot afford a lawyer take the steps they need to resolve their family law matters.”

For nearly 30 years, the Advocacy Centre has helped low-income residents of the West Kootenays. To contact the centre, visit advocacycentre.org, call 250-352-5777 or email advocacycentre@nelsoncares.ca.