Restorative Justice for victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence

Published: Wednesday, April 13th, 2022


This month, Why me? are launching a new project which will seek to understand the access that domestic and sexual violence victims have to Restorative Justice (RJ).

The project, kindly funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, builds on our paper and subsequent forum from 2021 on the topic, which found that RJ can empower victim/survivors, make them feel safer, and provide a sense of closure that the traditional justice system does not.

Our lived experience ambassadors who have suffered from domestic and sexual violence have told us how going through the Restorative Justice process transformed their lives:

“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 and victim support were all making assumptions about what was best for me. It drained my energy to feel those who could help were putting barriers in my way instead.” Janika explains.

“The meeting absolutely changed my life. I did not want to stay a victim, I wanted to acknowledge what 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.”

Restorative Justice can help victim/survivors move past the substantial trauma they have suffered, it can transform their lives.

However, survivors of sexual violence and domestic abuse are not consistently being offered access to Restorative Justice – in part because of the misunderstanding about the positive role RJ can play, as well as an inconsistency in complex case skills amongst restorative providers.

As always, the victim’s choice is at the heart of restorative practice, and if there’s any concern surrounding a meeting between a domestic and sexual violence victim and offender, then the meeting will not go ahead. However, it is so important that they have the choice to engage in the process, which is entirely voluntary and led by the harmed. Importantly – the harmed should not be shut off from RJ only because of the nature of the crime.

At Why me? we are experienced in supporting survivors through this process and ensuring that all safeguarding measures are strictly adhered to.

Funding support from the National Lottery Community Fund and Hollick Family Foundation

The National Lottery Community Fund have provided crucial funding for this work by making a grant of £10,000 from their Awards for All programme. This will support our Campaign and Communications Manager Meka Beresford to launch the first stages of this project over a nine-month period, from April to December 22. It will also pay for our ambassadors’ costs.

Furthermore, we are pleased to announce the Hollick Family Foundation have pledged to support this work over the next two years with a grant of £20,000.

Why me? would like to thank both of these funders for their support, which has enabled us to launch this pioneering project.

The next steps

Meka will be working with our ambassadors to help them build their confidence and skills to talk about their experiences of using RJ for domestic and sexual violence. Our ambassadors will then help us to engage with survivor organisations, to understand their needs, concerns and opinions on using RJ for these offences.

Further steps will include engaging with RJ providers, including statutory authorities, and evaluating the current provision. Long-term we want to ensure RJ is consistently available and consistently of a high quality.

We recognise the concerns that many organisations and individuals will have about this work, but we hope to address and alleviate these concerns with everyone involved in the domestic and sexual violence sector. This will ultimately mean that we can improve the lives of more survivors, who so often suffer in silence.

If you would like to contribute to this project, or find out more information, please contact Meka at meka.beresford@why-me.org

 

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