Using Restorative Justice for cases of LGBT+ hate crime.  

Published: Friday, February 26th, 2021


We spoke to Deputy Director Linda Millington about how to use Restorative Justice for cases of LGBT+ hate crime, full details can be found here. 

 

Restorative Justice allows people affected by criminal and other harmful behaviour to communicate with the person responsible, often with the aim of a face to face meeting. The process is voluntary, and involves the people involved in the conflict, a trained facilitator, and other supporters or staff where appropriate.The role of the facilitator is to create a safe environment for this communication to take place, meeting the needs of the both parties. They also speak to both parties a number of times in advance, to prepare them for what to expect from the meeting. 

Why me?’s research as part of our Access to Justice project, showed that there are lots of benefits to using Restorative Justice for cases of LGBT+ hate crime. This is because it provides an opportunity for people harmed to have their voices heard and their questions about the incident answered. Speaking to people affected by incidents of hate in the LGBT+ community, many people agreed that it could give them an opportunity to educate the person that had harmed them, ensuring they would not commit similar offences. 

To understand more about using Restorative Justice for people affected by hate against their sexual orientation or gender identity we asked Deputy Director Linda Millington about what considerations facilitators need to consider when delivering Restorative Justice in LGBT+ hate crime cases.

There are a lot of things that facilitators need to keep in mind. Some may seem like small things but they really do make a huge difference in ensuring that those affected by crime feel supported and safe. Linda summarises five key considerations below, but further details can be found in an article she wrote for The Speak Out project’s Safe-to-be handbook

1) Use the correct pronouns

Check in with the person harmed about how they would like to be identified – their preferred name and pronoun. Facilitators may need to recheck in with the harmed person throughout the restorative process about their preferred pronouns.

2) Understand perspectives

Facilitators need to try and understand what it is like to be from the LGBT+ community. To help build rapport with participants, facilitators should not ask the harmed person, questions like ‘what does it feel like to be gay?, for example. If facilitators are not from a similar background then it’s essential they seek out specialist organisations that can work with them to ensure those harmed feel supported and understood. But a core skill for being a facilitator is empathy.

3) Know the context 

Our research showed that in some cases of LGBT+ hate crime, those harmed might not have processed or understood the gravity of the incident. Due to a history of institutional homophobia and discrimination there is sometimes an understandable mistrust of organisations, like the police, which are supposed to protect those harmed by these sorts of incidents. Therefore, sometimes when incidents of hate against someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation are reported to the police, it can be the case that this is only when the incident has become more serious or the person affected has been repeatedly targeted.The facilitator must be understanding of this and work to ensure the Restorative Justice process is inclusive, respectful and non-judgmental for everyone. 

4) Respect boundaries. 

Some members of the LGBT+ community might not be open with everyone about their gender identity or sexual orientation. Whatever the reason for this, it’s important that the facilitator understands that the harmed might not be ‘out’ to everybody in their community, family or workplace etc. This means that the facilitator needs to make sure when organising meetings, contacting the harmed and speaking to those they’re connected with, that they are respecting their boundaries. Meetings in the harmed person’s home or a local cafe may not be appropriate. 

5) Dealing with further harm 

Facilitators need to be prepared for how to deal with situations in which the person affected by crime is further harmed during the process. Facilitators should agree with the harmed person how incidents of dead-naming or misgendering will be dealt with, for example. Be this a mistake on the part of the facilitator (advice is to apologise and move quickly on) or by the harmer in a deliberate attempt to upset, it’s important the facilitator can react appropriately and re-establish the safe space they have created for the person affected, in which they feel respected.

 

If you have been affected by hate because of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability help is out there. Call 999 in an emergency, 101 or www.report-it.org.uk if you’re not in immediate danger. You do not need to suffer in silence. If you think Restorative Justice could help, then drop us an email to info@why-me.org and we can arrange a conversation with one of our trained facilitators. 

 

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