Restorative Justice: meeting survivors’ needs

Published: Friday, January 27th, 2023

This is a blog by our Campaigns and Communications Manager Meka Beresford. 


Last week SkyNews published an extensive report looking into using Restorative Justice for domestic violence. Why me? were pleased to work closely with SkyNews on the piece, supporting our ambassadors Lucy and Janika to share their stories on film.


For Lucy and Janika, engaging in Restorative Justice enabled them to begin recovery. Unfortunately, both of them had to fight to access Restorative Justice. 


“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’s services 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.


In the report, Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs describes Restorative Justice as a low priority when looking at reforms needed for survivors in the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, we know that many victims of crime do not get the opportunity to be heard when going through criminal justice processes. In particular, survivors of domestic violence are dissatisfied with and/or re-traumatised by the criminal justice process. Many survivors choose not to pursue justice through traditional routes for this reason.


Restorative Justice shouldn’t take place instead of traditional justice. But when used alongside it, Restorative Justice can give survivors the chance to contribute meaningfully to the justice process. Being able to talk about the impact of the harm on them, how they have moved forward, and plan for their future safety is invaluable to some survivors’. 


When working with survivors of domestic violence, it is essential to ensure their safety comes first. For that reason, it might seem scary to explore the idea of Restorative Justice. 


Service providers are understandably concerned that the harmer might use the situation to manipulate or control the survivor in a coercive way. Restorative Justice facilitators are just as concerned about further harm occurring, which is why safety is the number one priority.


Facilitators across England and Wales are developing fantastic frameworks to work in a safety-first environment with survivors who wish to engage with Restorative Justice. This means that facilitators are meeting survivors’ needs, and navigating the barriers that can hinder healing. 


Restorative Justice can help survivors in so many ways. It is empowering, it allows them to feel safe and heard. Importantly, if it is what a survivor needs, we have a responsibility as service providers to do what we can to safely meet those needs. It might be the key to their recovery. 


“If someone had said ‘no’ to me having Restorative Justice, I don’t think the curtains would be open,” Lucy explains. “I wouldn’t be outside, I would be indoors, just a nervous wreck, panicking about everything, every sound with the telly on mute, subtitles on.”


Find out more about our domestic and sexual violence (DSV) project, which aims to safely increase access to Restorative Justice for people harmed by domestic and sexual violence.


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