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Does ‘restorative justice’ in campus sexual assault cases make sense?

Sep 04, 2014

from the article by Meg Mott in the Washington Post:

It makes sense that victim advocates put personal safety above all other considerations. They meet her when she is most distraught. But that particular emotional reality, while very big, is not necessarily permanent. In cases of acquaintance rape, the urge to be protected from the offender often competes with the equally strong urge to be heard.

Researchers in the United Kingdom found that sexual assault victims who participated in a restorative justice conference experienced a “really big turning point.” For one victim, being able to speak directly to the offender was not traumatic but deeply healing. “I just wanted him to hear me,” she said.

In Arizona, RESTORE (Responsibility and Equity for Sexual Transgressions Offering a Restorative Experience) uses restorative justice to adjudicate cases of acquaintance rape. Parties in these cases work out a plan for “accountability, healing and public safety.” Safety in this model of justice is not protection from a certain offender but collaboration with others to create a healthier atmosphere.

Rather than seek protection from the offender, which tends to increase his power and her powerlessness, restorative justice allows victims to be more than just afraid. Victims can use their knowledge to create the conditions for better sexual encounters. For students living in co-ed dormitories, this model improves residential life in general. In the current disciplinary system, either the expelled student or the disappointed accuser disappears. Any opportunity for education is lost.

Read the whole article.

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