When Anna Amy Ho was 13, she witnessed the brutal deaths of her mother and grandmother at the hands of an abusive stepfather who took his own life.
A few years ago, while exploring what she wanted to do in the social work field, Ho – after doing a placement – made the decision to be on the frontlines working with victims and people who needed help the most.
researching to see which organizations would fit her needs, she stumbled upon
Victim Services Toronto (VST),
which provides crisis response, trauma and support services to victims of crime
and sudden tragic circumstances 24 hours daily.
Supervised by crisis counsellors, volunteers provide crisis intervention
and referrals, assist on the telephone or attend the scene as requested, and
also help with fundraising and other community outreach initiatives.
It was only after applying to VST that she learnt that she and her family
received invaluable assistance from the organization after her close family
members were murdered in 2007.
“Everything we needed and didn’t know what to do, they were there for us,”
said Ho. “They were the first on the scene after the police.”
Three years ago, Ho joined VST as a crisis counsellor and violence
prevention program co-ordinator.
“When I discovered that VST had helped us in a big way, I had an even
greater passion for this kind of work,” she said. “I have found it very
rewarding even though it’s not glamorous.”
Ho was one of the keynote speakers at a one-day conference on June 2 organized
by Detective Ann-Marie Tupling, the Service’s Domestic Violence & Child
The theme was, ‘What About the Children? : The Hidden Victims of Domestic
“My story isn’t about trauma,” said Ho, who was the 2015 Attorney General
Victim Services Award of Distinction recipient. “It’s about resilience and how
can we use our stories and experiences to not only shed light on the issues,
but give a voice to those who don’t have one. There are children who often
times are the hidden victims of domestic violence. We want to empower them so
they can move from victimhood to survivorship.”
Dr. Diane Benoit, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto,
spoke about the effects of domestic violence on children.
“Domestic violence has an impact and it affects all children,” she said.
“The way children react, however, varies. I want the attendees here to have a
feel of what they can do when they arrive on a domestic violence scene where a
child is involved and what they can do to protect that child.”
Detective Constable Cheryl Tomlinson-Thompson found the conference was
“As police officers, one of our most important duties is to help the vulnerable who are usually children and women,” said the 42 Division Youth & Family Violence Unit officer. “The more we learn about how to understand what exactly happens to children who experience domestic violence and are physically affected, the more we can understand how we can help them effectively.”
Video: Toronto Police Leading the Path Award for Survivor of Domestic Violence.