Knowing if you are at a window, a gate or a wall.

The gifts from Bikram Yoga are in action again.  The practice promotes Discipline, Determination, Self-Control, Faith and Patience.

I employed all of these while contacting victims regarding Restorative Justice.  I had seven different phone calls to make regarding three different cases.  I left a few voicemails, the conversations that I had were all uniquely different.  I had my new employee sitting near to shadow and learn.  As I made these calls and dealt with each person individually I realized I had windows, gates and walls.

Here is my two-cents for dealing with each.

The Window  – This type of response is one ready and open to do the process.  An open window means let in the fresh air.  My job is build a connection.  Schedule the pre-conference meeting.

The Gate – This person is willing to talk to me, willing to chat over the fence if you will.  My job here is to explain the different options, briefly.  For example letting them know they have a choice.  The options include sending information to attending a meeting.  I am trying to get an appointment to explain the victims options.  If I can get face to face and in a conversation about what happened, I can likely get the person to attend the conference.

People just don’t know, what they don’t know.  The thought of meeting with someone who broke the law, is scary.  The thought of meeting someone who broke the law – and YOU were the victim is filled with MANY emotions.   Our society in general is about reward and punish.  A star for good behavior and a consequence for bad.  The general notion of helping a stranger is cancelled out by fear.gate

So when I get with people face to face, I can show compassion.  I can let them express and explain the impact of the crime to me.  This experience tends to get them feeling differently.  The police want a written statement or facts.  They also take the report near the time of the incident so the victim is still in shock or disbelief this has happened.  When people are traumatized they need to “re-story” their lives, after the tramatic incident.  The first stage of “re-story” is to reflect what happened.  When the heat of the moment is still fresh, there is little understanding to reflect on.

Meeting with victims to talk about conferencing allows them to fully understand the choices before them.  I try to be clear about 3 choices  1.) to pass on information 2.) to send someone and 3.) attend the conference.  One of the most transformative responses I have used – is to suggest that what they are telling me, would be very powerful for the offender to hear.  This has gotten me more than one vicitm who says, yes to attend.

I still think as a society we are quick to place blame.  I think from the outside, when we here someone was a victim – we ask ourselves “I wonder what they did”.  Meaning – did we leave our door open, our keys in the car, live in a crime filled neighborhood.  See when you are about reward and punish – you have to be about blame.  Which brings on shame.  Being a vicitm can be a shamefull experience.  When victims experience a crime, they ask “Why Me”.  Sometimes they answer that with something they themselves did.  The “re-story” response leads people to take on responsiblility where they need not take responsiblity or blame.

The above paragraphs offer insights into working with victims who are giving you a gate.  Now for dealing with people who give you a wall response.

Carefully proceed and do not confuse strong gates with walls.  It takes good social skills including compassion to navigate gates.  Ask permission to ask questions.

But when it comes to a wall.  Thank them, turn kindly and exit.  (as best you can on the phone).  I got a cheerful voice on the phone.  I explained who I was.  Her voice shifted down and got tight.  “Yes, I recieved your letter, NOT interested.”  I said “okay, thank you”  before I could move on BrickWallor say another word, she said “we are putting this behind us”.  My response was to say “I understand”  not to say I understood her feelings, or I understood the impact.  From her tone, her brevity of speech I need to “understand” she was not going to talk to me about this.  We ended with “goodbye”. 

As a restorative justice practitioner – you have to be able to accept that 40-60% of victims are NOT going to want to do restorative justice.  That is okay.  Just keep the spirit of your practice consistent with Restorative Justice principles and values.