Teresa was sexually abused by her father when she was very small. He never admitted the crime, which caused rifts in the family. After years enduring trauma and with her father having passed, Teresa sought Restorative Justice.
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Why me? would like to thank Beacon: Hertfordshire Victim Care Centre for their support to publish Teresa’s story.
Over time, Teresa felt safer and less vulnerable to blame if she kept away from her relatives. She had heard about Restorative Justice through her work and her local police force but was prompted to find out more when she saw an advertisement on a bus.
Teresa was initially sceptical; therapy had had some benefits over the decades that had passed since the abuse. However, when the restorative process started, Teresa was greatly helped by the facilitators’ approach.
“Their whole thing about dealing with it as a crime and using crime language was a revelation. They said ‘we’re here to do the heavy lifting; we are here to do the stuff that’s difficult for you to do; you don’t have to struggle to find a way to ask questions of your family, that’s what we do and here are some options.’”
The facilitators never promised that everything would work perfectly, but assured Teresa they would do their best to help get what she wanted from the process. For Teresa, Restorative Justice had a clear plan of action and reinforced that she was not at fault for what happened. Her confidence began to grow.
“I was really worried about contacting my mother to get answers. She has never believed me. The facilitators showed they were going to be the safety barrier that I needed to be able to have contact with my mother, without risking further damage to my mental health. I liked that they drafted the letter to my mother, doing the hard bits for me. I was very scared but, very unusually, I was trusting someone to do something for me.” The facilitators met with Teresa several times before they made first contact with her mother.
Restorative Justice can take place many years after the crime took place. It can be carried out in different ways – through letter exchange, a face-to-face meeting or shuttle mediation – where the facilitators pass information between the two parties. Restorative Justice can take place between the harmed person and a person not directly responsible for a crime.
Teresa didn’t meet her mother at a restorative meeting. The facilitators talked to her mother on her behalf and then shared her responses with Teresa. She had hoped that her mother believed her and “maybe wanted to rebuild.” But this didn’t happen.
“She downplayed and denied things in order to cope. This was such a hard truth and I was really disappointed because I had hoped to get a different picture of her. Restorative Justice confirmed the picture I always had: that she would protect herself, even if this harmed me. As the hard truth of this settled, it acted as an antedote to the shame of having been used for sex. I found a different picture of myself and this benefits my whole life.”
The facilitators continued to meet with Teresa after their two meetings with her mother and the focus was on moving forward.
“I am so grateful for their work, skill and experience. I am much stronger.”
Restorative Justice has also enabled Teresa to reconnect with her family, particularly her sister, whom she’d had little contact with for many years. She has attended family gatherings that she had previously avoided, and has found support that she didn’t know was there.
“Suddenly, I’m not an outcast of the family anymore. This all happened because of Restorative Justice.”