Wendy was sexually abused by her father when she was 14 years old. He pleaded guilty and received a £20 fine and a one-year conditional discharge. Over 40 years later, Wendy met her father in a restorative meeting.
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It was important for Wendy to have the proof that the abuse took place as her father had always denied it to the outside world. At the time of the abuse no one spoke about it, she was soon removed from her home and left thinking that she had done something wrong. Wendy had always wanted an apology from her father, she knew that this would also serve as an admission, so she spent many years looking for ways to achieve this. She sought help from different agencies to get the legal evidence required that was essential, if she were to be successful with her pursuit. However, no matter who she turned to she was blocked by the very agencies who would hold the missing information. Then, by chance a colleague pointed her in the direction of Restorative Justice.
Wendy explains in her own words what happened next.
“The facilitators made it clear to me that there was no guarantee that I’d get what I wanted, but they would do all they could to help me. The fact that Restorative Justice was victim led, made me feel that for once I was actually being listened to. They asked me if I would actually like to meet up with my father and confront him with the questions I had always wanted him to answer, as well as achieve the apology I had yearned for”.
After her father agreed to the meeting, Wendy says “Once the ball was actually rolling, I was quite determined for it not to stop, even though I knew it could; I was quite desperate for it to happen. I was concerned that the meeting may not go ahead, as I’d been warned, at anytime my father could pull out even at the last minute. I was also concerned that I might regress back to the 14-year old child that I was when the abuse occurred. All of these thoughts made me more determined to go through with it and focus on why I was there, that was to get the long, long awaiting apology from him”.
A Restorative Justice meeting between the offender and the victim can take place many years after the crime took place; there is no time limit as long as all parties agree to take part. Restorative Justice does not have to be about forgiveness. Everyone has their only personal reason for wanting to take part.
“I prepared a list of questions before the meeting, as they were of great importance to me and I didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity to get answers. I also told him on many occasions how he made me feel because I don’t honestly think he realised or even cared. In fact, he stated that he thought I would just get on with my life, like he did”.
During the meeting, Wendy’s father tried hard not to admit to most of what had happened, but once he did, he actually apologised. “There’s a lot of adrenaline. I was trying to be as calm as I could, with so much going on, I didn’t want to forget what he’d said and what I’d said”.
Wendy describes how she felt after the meeting: “Amazing. At the time I don’t think it really hit me, I was too absorbed with the meeting itself, once the meeting had finished I felt elated. There was a lot going on in my head but I got the apology and ran with it. I also recognised the importance of the facilitators. They had both made notes of our conversation I’d had with my father, which gave me their insight of what was said”.
Reflecting on the meeting Wendy says “I am definitely a totally different person than I was before the Restorative Justice experience”.
Restorative Justice hasn’t just helped Wendy: “Once the weight had been lifted from me, it helped so many more around me. My nearest and dearest had suffered alongside me for as many years as I had, once that darkness had gone from me, it was and still is a far brighter day for all of us.”