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Dear Family...

Dear Family,

I know this is not a journey you ever wanted to make… I hope Candace House can make it easier.

Suddenly after experiencing a crime, you may find yourself needing a completely different set of tools to survive a new world you didn’t know existed.

You may find you need a new set of words – for example. Somehow the language and vocabulary have changed. It’s like entering a new land without your passport in hand or a reliable translator.

You may find yourself inhabited by a volcanic set of emotions. Sometimes it is fear that takes control. Then it’s anger, frustration and extreme irritability. Sometimes it’s sadness – a longing for the way things were.

As you journey through this new land, you might find yourself obsessed with a deep longing for justice – for some outside authority that has the capacity to set it all right again. This often leads to incredible disappointment that everything is failing you and it will never be the same.

When we thought of creating Candace House, our main objective was to create a safe place that puts you the victim first. Much of the legal system is focused on the wider society’s need for safety and control. They are looking after the perpetrator – and rightfully so – but in all of this there needs to be someone looking after the needs of you – the victim.

Looking back on the murder of our daughter, I just remember the nightmare of 33 years. I remember the first time I was called the “parent of a murdered child.” My identity had changed. Everything changed. My world, which had been so safe, normal and fun, had turned into this strange wilderness with wild animals, dry heat and no road map.

During those early years, all I remember was my need to find something safe. I was always looking for simple relief or someone who was safe. My world had turned hostile and I needed to regain a sense of safety.

I found myself looking for a safe liaison to help us communicate with the police force. The process of investigation seemed cruel and heartless at times.

I looked for a safe support group – a people of like-experience to share my story so that I wouldn’t feel as if I was going crazy.

I needed help to deal with the concept of a mysterious murderer – some person within our neighbourhood had intentionally murdered our daughter. Who would do such a thing? Our whole world view shifted and we had to learn to deal with violence – a new concept for us. How do you deal with antisocial – people for whatever reason, intentionally break all the rules. How do you restore justice or even a sense of justice when crime becomes a norm or at least it feels that way?

Then after the person was arrested, I needed someone safe to ask my dumb questions about the process and not make me feel ignorant.

In the end, during deliberation, I needed a place off the law courts campus, a kind of home away from home. After a stressful day in the oak trimmed marble halls and rooms of the court building, I needed something homey to offset the feeling of isolation physically and emotionally.

My dream was to establish a house that would understand all of this and just “be there for all crime victims.”

There are many excellent devoted people who saw the need and made it happen. It is now a reality.

We want Candace House to be that for you. We want it to be a safe place for all those extremely important conversations that need to happen. A safe place to escape those courtrooms and become a home away from home. A place filled with new words and resources to help you navigate the systems. A place to hang out with those who understand you and your new story.

Finally, my hope for you, dear family, is that after you have survived the journey, which now might seem an impossible dream, you will be able to look back and feel that even though there never is any justification for violations of any kind, that the journey itself back to health was filled with new learnings, new friends, and supportive people who were on your side throughout. My hope is that your happiness will not have disappeared but was deepened with new understandings.

Respectfully yours,

Wilma Derksen

(An open letter to families written by Candace House visionary, Wilma Derksen, remains as true today as when it was written two years ago as we opened our doors and welcomed our first families. Please consider donating today.)


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