Storytelling for Victim Impact Panels or Restorative Justice.

12 Restorative  Storytelling Tips

  1. Speak from the heart.  Share your experience and perspectives, be completely honest, don’t edit or modify what you have to say based on assumptions about the audience.  This is your experience to share.  You can be real without being offensive, when you speak from your heart.
  2. Follow the 4 stages.  You may be tempted to start at the beginning chronologically, to be logical.  A “change of behavior by a change of heart” is a restorative justice slogan.  Emotions do not require rational, logical presentation, to be felt or experienced.
  3. Stage 1, Intro.  Tell us about who you are, where you live, what your work or hobbies include.  This gives you a moment to get in your storytelling zone and to get a feel for your presentation and audience.
  4. Stage 2, Incident.  This is what happened from your perspective and experience.  People who experience trauma were going about their lives and suddenly an incident changed the course forever.  Simply explain the incident.
  5. Stage 3, Impact.  Share what you have and are feeling, hearing, thinking and, doing on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels.  How have you been changed, how have those around you changed?
  6. Stage 4, Reflection.  This is the part of your story to reflect back on how and why you are story telling.  This is where you can share what you hope for the audience.  You can relate what telling the story does for you, why you tell this story.
  7. Use details.  Small details have a HUGE impact.  When you give people the color of a car, season of the year, a sound, a holiday, they get a mental picture.  These details help in describing the story.
  8. Restorative Perspective.  Please review the mission, vision and values of SCVRJP.  We respect all individuals that engage with the program.  The quickest way to shut down a listener is to judge them.  Present your perspective, your experience and avoid statements of opinion or judgment.

9.  Emotions are ok.  Tears are healing, restorative storytelling is healing.  If you become overwhelmed or emotional that is ok.  You do not need to say you are sorry; it may help to acknowledge what you are feeling in that moment.  Take a few deep breaths, gently bite your tongue if needed and continue. 

10. Tell your story.  Try to avoid reading from a script.  The four stages can be remembered by assigning them to bases on a ball field.  You do not have to be perfect or say the same thing every time.

11.  Eye Contact.  Find people in the room that are listening.  Take the opportunity to look at those you are speaking with.  Eye contact builds trust.  Defenses may rise and people may even project negative body language when in fact they are being deeply impacted.

12. Generosity is appreciated.  We know you are giving.  By telling this story in hopes of helping others you are a giver.  People appreciate those willing to give of themselves.  SCVRJP staff will support you at all steps, and are available to discuss any concerns, questions, ideas that you may have.

 How the 12 tips improve restorative storytelling

Restorative storytelling is designed to help both the speaker and the listener.  The goal is to bring healing to those impacted and those that have caused harm.  The stories are used to motivate others regarding future choices.  Often times we know our listeners have made a similar choice already.  Our goal is to leave people with immediate, short and long term benefits, highlighted below.


Tip Benefit to speaker Benefit to listener
  1. 1.   From the heart
You get to integrate your experience genuinely by speaking directly about it.

Often times we screen what we say to friends and family, considering their thoughts, perspectives and feelings.  This is a chance for you to speak about your experience.

Listeners appreciate a genuine and real person.  When you see someone being themselves, they become someone you can relate to. Honesty, even when the topic is difficult, is still respected. Speaking from the heart is a positive thing to witness.
  1. 2.   Four Stages
This gives you an outline to follow; if you get emotional speaking you can easily remember which stage. The story flows in a manner that builds connections, identifies the risk and inspires different choices.
  1. 3.   Intro
A trauma leaves you feeling like you are a different person that you don’t even know.  This will help remind you that you are still you.  These things about you don’t change. Listeners can connect to general things about the speaker.  Common things like hobbies, employment, siblings, are things listeners can connect to. Once connected you are more impacted.
  1. 4.   Incident
Trauma can leave PTSD; talking about it helps.  By describing the events that impacted you, you can begin to make sense of it in a different way, a way that helps you heal. Hearing about an incident brings the reality of risk.  Firsthand accounts help people realize just how real the risk is. Incidents can be dismissed as “happens to others” until heard firsthand.
  1. 5.   Impact
Everyone experiences trauma differently.  By sharing your impact, you can relate the pieces hardest for you.  You are actually working with the oldest part of your brain and releasing the experience and by being in the safety of telling the story you are improving your coping. Impact gives people a deeper perspective in how they could have and how people experience trauma.  The impact is a place where listeners realize how they would have felt and this motivates them to avoid these difficult experiences.
  1. 6.   Reflection
This allows you to describe the meaning you are going to make of this trauma.  This allows you to offer to others what you might have done differently.  This is a place where you have control over what happened.  This is a place to share your motivations for sharing, something others may not always understand. This brings the story to reality for listeners.  They understand how deeply changed people are.  This is a stage where hope is clear.  The non-judgmental sharing impacts people; they are given an opportunity to decide for themselves future actions.
  1. 7.   Details
Our brains remember snapshots as we experience trauma, small details remain in our memory.  By speaking about them we reduce the impact of flashbacks or being negatively impacted.  Sharing these details gives further reality and integration to our experiences. Details benefit the listener, by giving set points for the story.  The next time they see a red truck or drive past the funeral home mentioned, they can think of the story and the emotion felt when it was shared.  Local details stay with people longer.
  1. 8.   Restorative
Restorative approaches promote healing.  By speaking without judgment you are supported in directions of hope and coping rather than staying in stages of anger and resentment. Restorative Justice approaches deal with the social and emotional aspects of crime. Storytelling is the means to deliver the message. Participants expect to be put down, and when they are provided an experience and the opportunity to decide, people are more responsive.
  1. 9.   Emotions
Trauma hurts our emotional state, things that are emotional need expressing. Tears are healing by getting emotional you are facilitating healing and bearing witness to your experience. Humans are equipped with mirror neurons, when we see someone cry, it triggers a response for us. When we are touched to tears, we will remember the circumstances.
10. Telling When you tell your story, you are demonstrating your ability to talk about it. You are establishing an ability to cope by relating the experience. When you tell it you are able to speak to the parts that impact you at that telling. Defenses protect us; it is easier to dismiss someone reading than it is someone telling. By seeing a person get up and talk, listeners realize the task of public speaking is not easy.  Listeners are generally impressed to see someone share experiences.
11. Eye Contact It may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first. Over time you will begin to build confidence. Talk to the person you are looking at; consider one person at a time. You can look at staff or volunteers for support. People find speakers with good eye contact to be credible. Knowing the speaker is looking at you helps listeners stay engaged. Eye contact builds an understanding that the speaker is committed to helping.
12. Generosity Volunteers often find that helping others helps themselves. Volunteering eases depression and general health and well-being. Giving your story is giving a piece of your life for the greater good of others. It helps people talk about the experience in a constructive environment. Listeners have often done the same risky behavior that the story is about. Storytellers have often been harmed by the same hurt. Sharing demonstrates a caring for those that deserve it least. This type of giving often leaves listeners feeling obligated to do the right thing.