PRIDE: Empowering the LGBTQ+ community through Restorative Justice

Published: Friday, June 2nd, 2023


This is a blog by our Youth Justice Lead Leah Robinson and Communications and Events Coordinator Keeva Baxter.

 

This week marks the beginning of Pride Month 2023, a month dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ community at a global level. While much progress has been made, there is still a long way to go towards the rights of the LGBTQ+ community being recognised and respected. Unfortunately, hate crime is a huge issue which affects many LGBTQ+ people and has ripple effects into the wider community. Why me? wants to take this opportunity to highlight the importance of raising awareness of and increasing access to Restorative Justice for those affected by LGBTQ+ hate crimes or incidents. Below are some key features of the restorative process and how they apply to cases of LGBTQ+ hate crime.

PRIDE, participant-focused, repair the harm. information, dialogue, empowerment

Participant-focused

Restorative Justice is catered to the needs of the individuals involved. Therefore, each case is designed to repair the harm caused and meet the needs of the participants. Being a participant-focused process means that Restorative Justice is specific and flexible to the needs of the people involved. For example, if someone wanted to remain anonymous due to a fear of being outed, the facilitators would work with them to accommodate this. 

Repair the harm

The aim of a restorative process is to repair some of the harm caused by crime or conflict. The effects of crime can be deep and far-reaching, leaving victims of crime with fear, anxiety, PTSD, insomnia or an inability to work or leave the house. This can be particularly problematic when the incident occurs in the victim’s local community or somewhere they previously considered to be safe. Victims of crime are also often left with unanswered questions playing on repeat in their minds. 

The effects of crime, particularly hate crimes, can also go beyond the immediate victims. Targeting someone because of their identity can have ripple effects into their community, affecting others of a similar identity as well as those directly targeted. 

A restorative process allows the voices of victims of crime to be heard, enabling them to take back control and, as a result, can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of trauma. Having their questions answered, expressing how the incident made them feel, seeing the person who harmed them in a different setting and hearing from them about why they did it can all help to reframe what happened. This can allow the victim of crime to move forward in the way which best meets their needs. 

Information

Every victim of crime has the right to information about Restorative Justice, as per the Victims’ Code of Practice. However, 95% of victims of crime unfortunately do not report being given this information. Why me?’s LGBTQ+ project strives to increase awareness of Restorative Justice, ensuring that those affected by LGBTQ+ hate crimes and incidents know about the options available to them. We are currently working with the London boroughs of Wandsworth and Richmond to do this. 

Dialogue

At the heart of the restorative process is dialogue. By facilitating a dialogue between the person who was harmed and the person who caused the harm, you can work towards empathy, understanding and respect. 

In cases of LGBTQ+ hate crime, this dialogue can allow the harmer to see why their actions were harmful and the importance of the harmed person’s identity. It can be an opportunity for re-education, allowing them to see the deeper implications of targeting someone because of their identity. This level of understanding can only come about through an open and honest dialogue. 

Whilst the restorative process can take many forms, such as a face-to-face meeting, videos or a letter exchange, it will still revolve around a central dialogue that addresses the harm that has been caused, allowing the participants to move forward. 

Empowerment

We believe that everyone affected by crime and conflict should be told about Restorative Justice, empowering them to make a choice about whether they want to take part. This is particularly important for victims of crime, as they often feel disempowered and silenced by the Criminal Justice System, where the primary focus is on punishment rather than the needs of the people involved. 

Having the opportunity to make decisions about your own healing, being heard when you express your needs and having the chance to speak about what happened from your point of view can all contribute to the sense of empowerment that many participants feel. 

 

Whilst hate crime is still something experienced by many members of the LGBTQ+ community, Restorative Justice can help to repair some of the harm caused by these incidents and reduce the likelihood of the harmer doing it again. We envision a future where access to Restorative Justice is not dependent on the type of crime you experienced and the LGBTQ+ community can live safely in their local area, free from fear of crime. 

If you would like to hear more about the work Why me? is doing to help those affected by LGBTQ+ hate crimes and incidents or have any questions about the project itself, please get in touch with Project Lead, Leah Robinson at leah.robinson@why-me.org

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