Healing the divides: restorative solutions for hate crime

Published: Friday, March 10th, 2023

This is a blog by our Director Lucy Jaffé.

Over recent months, Britain has seen a sharp increase in hate crimes. Reported racially motivated hate crimes surpassed 100,000 cases in October last year, and homophobic and transphobic hate crime is at an all-time high. 

The impact of hate crime on communities is vast. Those who perpetrate hate crimes may randomly select their victims but always have ‘othering’ at the heart of the action. Motivated by hatred and phobia, the impact of hate crime affects not only the direct victims but also their families, friends, and communities. For every person who shares that identity, they too are affected by the act of violence. 

It is imperative that hate crime is taken seriously and that these communities are protected. We also need to consider how we might equip these communities to live alongside each other in the future and heal from the harm caused. Restorative dialogue and storytelling have the potential to build trust and shift relationships in a positive direction. They can create channels to restore respectful and constructive communication in a safe and supportive setting.

Restorative Justice offers a really important contribution by providing people who commit hate crimes the opportunity to acknowledge the deep harm caused by their actions. For victims of hate crime, they have an opportunity to tell their story, to be seen and heard, and to regain agency for themselves and their community. It steps into the gap left by prosecution and punishment.

 Restorative Justice enables the following:

Education: breakdown of stereotypes, attitudes and world views that foster hate. 

Support, empowerment and voice: people affected by hate crime want to be heard and taken seriously, but this is often not the reality. A restorative meeting allows the harmed to have their voices heard in a controlled, secure environment which can be deeply empowering. People who have committed a crime want to apologise, reintegrate and ultimately move on with their lives. 

Meeting needs: social acknowledgement and support, establishing a sense of power and control over their lives, and having the opportunity to tell their stories in their own way.

Why me? has worked with marginalised communities over many years to create more opportunities for them to speak up, be heard, and for people who have perpetrated harm to hear how much damage they have done. Just this week we have been asked to collaborate with schools through our LGBTQ+ project to use restorative approaches to address homophobia and transphobia. This gives me hope that there is increasing recognition that individual hate crime acts cannot be taken out of context and that restorative approaches are being drawn down to address the problem. 

Elsewhere, we continue to work with partners on Project Articulate, which seeks to improve access to Restorative Justice for people who speak English as an additional language. Why me? has also collaborated with a group of European experts on the use of Restorative Justice in cases of Violent Extremism to produce two ground-breaking policy and practice papers – to understand and develop restorative responses in these situations.

People affected by hate crime should have the same access to Restorative Justice as anyone else. This means that they should be given information about Restorative Justice, and made aware that it is an option they can consider. Enabling restorative solutions which strengthen individuals and communities to speak up, ensure harmers hear about the impact of the harm they have perpetrated, and allow communities to heal after harm, will be a crucial tool in reversing the downward spiral of hate.

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