Using Restorative Justice for Domestic Violence
This is a blog by our Campaigns and Communications Manager Meka Beresford
This week Scotland began a consultation process on a domestic abuse prevention bill that would introduce mandatory rehabilitation measures including Restorative Justice in a bid to tackle rising incidents of domestic abuse.
The proposed use of Restorative Justice in preventing domestic abuse, particularly for repeat offenders, comes as Scotland nears the end of its five-year national action plan to make RJ services widely available across Scotland by 2023.
The commitment to a national action plan on Restorative Justice means that victims in Scotland are supported in their journey to accessing RJ. Alongside victims of hate crime, victim/survivors of domestic violence in England and Wales sometimes face additional barriers in accessing RJ.
Why me? ambassador Janika had to advocate for herself for well over three years before she could begin her Restorative Justice process after she was told no by numerous services.
“I wanted him to be accountable to me – not to a judge, not to the police not to prison officers but to me. I felt my voice wasn’t being heard – the police, the courts, victim support all were making assumptions about what was best for me,” Janika explained.
Eventually, Janika found Why me? who helped to facilitate a Restorative Justice meeting between her and her ex-partner.
“The first phone call with Why me? was like the floodgates opening and for the first time I felt I was being listened to. They facilitated my case, and helped me prepare for a Restorative Justice meeting.”
For Janika, having that conversation with the man who had attacked her was integral to moving forward with her life.
“I wanted to face my fear, I was nervous, it was the scariest thing I had ever done yet I felt driven to get the answers I needed. I wanted to see he understood the impact of his actions and what he had lost,” she added. “I did not want to stay a victim, I wanted to acknowledge what had happened but not be defined by it – I wanted to look to the future. Taking part in Restorative Justice was the key that unlocked the door to my future.”
Last week, Janika and Why me? met with politicians and policymakers to share her story and encourage the strengthening of Restorative Justice in the Victims Bill.
Why me? ambassador Lucy Fry was offered Restorative Justice nine years after having been a victim of domestic violence. She believes that all victims should be told about Restorative Justice as soon as they report the crime and throughout the justice process.
“All victims should have the right to Restorative Justice from right at the beginning of the process, all the way through to years later. For me, the words “Restorative Justice” mean closure and freedom. It gives people who are deeply traumatized a chance to get their questions answered and their voices heard, so it is unfortunate that many victims are not aware that it is an option,” Lucy said.
Why me? have set out three key changes that need to be made to the Bill in order to make information about Restorative Justice more consistently available for victims of crime like Janika and Lucy.
Restorative Justice in the Victims Bill would be further strengthened by the re-introduction of a National Action Plan on Restorative Justice for England and Wales.
You can help support secure Restorative Justice in this once-in-a-lifetime legislation by writing to your MP.