Victims and Restorative Justice. How, why and be a better practitioner.

I like to play around online – searching blogs, images, google scholor articles.  I don’t want the top three things that pop up on the web, I want something off the beaten path.  I want someone making strong arguements out against Restorative Justice.  I know it seems wierd, but it helps me.  I get to know what weaknesses appear around RJ, what misunderstandings are out there.

I read something by a very angry victim.  Not a great deal of knowledge or direct experience with Restorative Justice, but a real anger.  “I will not fucking be restored!  I can never be the same after ___”.  The person experienced rape.  Hey I hear ya, Sister.

So my thoughts for readers.  Remember only 40-60% of victims pick restorative justice.  Personally I don’t know how they got that number.  Where I am at, I think we are at like 5%, but 90% don’t get the option clearly explained to them.  Of those who show interest in the process, we actually have close to 80% participate in something.

Restorative Justice
Restorative Justice

We know Victims want – safety.  First and foremost, physical safety.  When people have been harmed, that doesn’t come back overnight.  At a recent Victim-Offender Conference, the victims had a new story to tell.  Although they had 2 or 3 pre-conference meetings, they had a new story.  It has been over a year since the initial crime, and there was only two weeks between the final pre-conference meeting and the actual conference.   The story:

There was a bump in the night.  Prior to the crime, the victims might have woken gently to the bump and returned to sleep.  Not since the crime.  Now the bump in the night – one strikes fear.  “Are we being burglarized again?”, “why didn’t the alarm we installed go off”, “please go check it out, I’m scared”.

This example is to give you the tip, empower vicitms by asking them to relate a story to the offender, a story about how they are affected by the crime, yet TODAY.  If you have a victim who wants to be angry and blame the past.  It makes the ‘restorativeness’ a little more difficult. 

Restorative Justice is not about turning back time.  The person who “can’t fucking be restored”.  That’s a mindset.  And not to minimilize ONE second of that crime.  How do you help people that want to be in that mindset.

Well . . . one option is to screen them out of your program/service.  Here’s another option . . . USE Empathy.

Ask another question, or reflect something genuine to the person.  For example, if someone said that to my face, I might say (ok honestly before a word came out of my mouth – I would try to deal with the angry energy, and meet it with love or compassion).  This little moment of consideration, would help guide my words and body language.) “gosh, I would never try to push that on anybody, sounds like your life was really impacted”. 

Some people take a high dosage of compassion.  Sometimes you need readminister frequently.

I think I would guide the discussion to a crossroads – finding that the victim and I both have the same understanding about Restorative Justice.  And then the option for decision making.  One thought that crosses my mind, is for the victim to tell the offender that they will never be restored. 

My other piece of wisdom, to help vicitms.  Is to be very clear on the point of the dialogue.  Think of a continuum.  On the left – agreement style – on the right dialogue.  If a victim is getting an agreement style facilitator, the focus will be on the agreement.  If the victim wants clear accountability, plans for repayment, that is a good fit.  When doing the dialogue for the sake of having the dialogue, make clear victims aren’t hung up on a specific agreement – outcome.

This link will take you to an excellent resource that highlights – specificly Victim Sensitive – Victim Offender Conferncing.

I think Restorative Justice practitioners can continue to be mindful to the needs of victims.  Remember, vicitms are more than just those that get support when a criminal is in the legal system.