Creative responses to LGBTQ+ hate crime

Published: Friday, February 23rd, 2024

This is the second of two blogs on Why me?’s work on Restorative Justice for LGBTQ+ hate crime. This is a blog by our Deputy CEO, Kate Aldous.


In the last blog, former Why me? staff member and expert Restorative Justice practitioner Linda Millington wrote about the growing levels of LGBTQ+ hate crime and the obstacles to the use of Restorative Justice to address these incidents.

We know that LGBTQ+ hate has a big impact both on those directly affected and the wider community. Those harmed often say that they don’t want what happened to them to happen to anyone else. Restorative Justice can achieve this by ensuring that the harmer understands the impact of their behaviour. Being confronted by the hurt they have caused can be transformational. If that person stops their abusive behaviour, that could be hundreds of people who are spared that experience in the future.

As Linda said in her blog, there are many reasons why those affected by LGBTQ+ hate crime do not engage with Restorative Justice. As a result, practitioners in the field have developed creative approaches to take cases forward without the direct involvement of the person who caused the harm. This could include anything from written testimonials from the harmed person, read out by facilitators, to proxies from the LGBTQ+ community who either represent the harmed person or talk about their experience of hate and its impact. In some instances, facilitators have carried out an educational intervention, where the harmer takes part in a learning experience to understand the impact of their behaviour. 

As part of this project, we have collected case studies which showcase different approaches, some of which are used as examples in our Good Practice Guide. In most cases, the harmer has expressed remorse once they have gone through the restorative process. 

The following case was carried out by the Sussex Restore DiverCity programme, who are a leader in conducting proactive and innovative work in this field. In this case, the harmed person, Jack, was represented by the facilitators, and this was followed by an educational intervention. 

A 15-year-old, Jack, was involved in an argument over a football with five boys from his school. The argument escalated into a fight where he was assaulted and received homophobic abuse.  He didn’t want the boys to be prosecuted and he didn’t want to take part in a restorative meeting with them. However, he did want them to understand the impact of their behaviour.

Each of the boys and their parents attended separate online meetings with the facilitators. Jack’s responses to the impact of the event were relayed to them.

The second half of the session was educational, exploring the impact of hate crime on communities, hate crime legislation and the impact of a prosecution with a resulting criminal record.

Four out of the five boys apologised. 

Southwark Youth Justice Service ran the following intervention in a case that came to them: 

Matt wrote homophobic language on a school board. After a separate allegation, Matt was referred to his local Restorative Justice service. He admitted writing on the board. 

The restorative practitioners ran a session with Matt on identity and ‘othering’. He demonstrated remorse and expressed regret at what he had done.

Being creative is clearly critical to achieving the positive behavioural changes that restorative approaches offer. 

Where the harmed person is involved, it is essential that Restorative Justice gives them the choice about whether and how to be involved. Giving them control gives them back their agency in a situation where they have usually had little, and it also ensures they are comfortable with the approach taken. As a result, their response to the intervention is usually very positive. 

In a case handled by Why me?, Sarah engaged in a face-to-face meeting after a transphobic incident in a bar.

Sarah said she was very satisfied with the restorative process: ‘I was feeling tired and hopeless. I feel relieved that there are people organising an alternative to the institutional justice system. It was very important to have this service offered to me for free.’

The results are powerful. But if restorative interventions are going to fulfil their potential in reducing LGBTQ+ hate, we will need Restorative Justice services to be funded to proactively engage with the LGBTQ+ community in order to increase awareness and understanding. They also need to be flexible to take cases regardless of whether or not there is a prosecution. Finally, we need to ensure that all those in a position to refer are knowledgeable about Restorative Justice.

There is still a long way to go, but achieving real change is never easy!   

Read more in our Good Practice Guide.

All names have been changed. Why me? thanks Sussex Restore DiverCity and Southwark Youth Justice Service for permission to reproduce their cases. 

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