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Sexual Violence and Abuse

Few crimes have more power to produce profound injury to victims or outrage and fear in communities than sexual violence. These articles and resources address the use of restorative justice with sexual violence and abuse victims and perpetrators.

White, Judy. Restorative Justice in Cases of Domestic and Sexual Violence: The Voice of a Survivior
There are different perspectives on the validity and effectiveness of restorative justice ideas and practices in cases of domestic and sexual violence. Some favor restorative justice in such cases, and others strongly oppose it. In this article a survivor of domestic and sexual abuse tells her story. It includes a recounting of the abuse that led her to seek relief through the current criminal justice system, her frustrations with that system, the patterns of an abusive situation and the effects of abuse on her, and her concerns about the use of restorative justice in cases like hers.
Avalon Sexual Assault Centre. Formal Response of the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre to the N.S Department of Justice. RE: The Restorative Justice Program.
In June 1998 the Nova Scotia Department of Justice introduced a restorative justice program for Nova Scotia. According to policy guidelines, cases of sexual and domestic violence are only to be referred to restorative justice processes at the post-conviction, pre-sentence phase. This report by staff of the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre expresses many questions and concerns about the use of restorative justice processes in such cases. Based on their experiences in dealing with abusive, violent situations, they maintain that sexual assault crimes are incompatible with the restorative justice model in its current form. In this regard, they also pose questions and make recommendations concerning community ownership, volunteerism, informal cautions and warnings, project timing, and research and analysis.
Bachar, Karen J. R.E.S.T.O.R.E.--A Restorative Justice Approach to Selected Sexual Offences in Pima County Arizona
R.E.S.T.O.R.E. is a collaboration of the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault, the Pima County Attorney's Office and the University of Arizona. The R.E.S.T.O.R.E. program (a pretrial diversion program using a community conferencing model) was developed to increase access to judicial relief for victims of gender-linked sexual crimes and to improve system accountability by holding perpetrators accountable for their acts to the people and communities they have violated. The presentation will include information about program development; describe the conferencing stages, and discus the preliminary evaluation plan. Author's abstract.
Daly, Kathleen. Sexual assault and restorative justice
Kathleen Daly looks at the question whether restorative justice is appropriate in cases of sexual violence. She cautions at the outset of her essay that the problem of responding justly to such cases- refraining from punitive responses that further brutalize perpetrators without appearing to accept their violent behavior - is ultimately unsolvable. Yet, because sexual assaults occur, Daly pursues the problem in terms of its two components: how to treat harms as serious without harsh forms of punishment or hyper-criminalization? and how to do justice in an unequal society? She contends there may be a way forward in addressing the problem of responding justly if three things are done, which she explores in this essay: (1) rehabilitate "retribution" and make it part of restorative justice processes; (2) redefine the harm of rape, other forms of gendered harms, and violence more generally; and (3) recognize the variety of meanings and contexts of sexual violence, domestic violence, and family violence. To illustrate her points, she discusses a number of cases of sexual assault in South Australia disposed of by conferencing.
Daly, Kathleen. Sexual Assault and Restorative Justice
Daly argues that the dichotomy between restorative and retributive justice needs to be revisited. In the case of sexualized violence, restorative processes have been criticized for leniency by not punishing victims appropriately. At the same time, the judicial process relegates the crime to the physical act and discounts the emotional harm created by rape and other crimes. Also, society is characterized by power imbalances between and within groups. These issues create a scenario that according to Daly cannot be solved. She argues for a rethinking of the term retribution and how it may be incorporated into the restorative paradigm. In analyzing conferencing cases from South Australia, Daly points out that the conference has a higher rate of dealing with the case than courts; while giving the victim the political space she needs to openly discuss both the physical and emotional damage created by the crime.
Ingraham, Deborah. Obstacles to Restorative Justice and Sex Abuse Issues
In this article, Deborah Ingraham asks whether childhood sexual abuse can be addressed in a restorative way for both offenders and victims. In general, according to Ingraham, people have come to believe that there is no hope for sex offenders to change, and that sexual abuse victims are not open to restorative processes. Discussing a number of ideas that she considers to be inaccuracies and obstacles, she challenges clinicians, law enforcement officers, and the public at large to consider new ways of looking at treatment for offenders and the possibility of restorative processes for victims.
Welfare, Anne and Miller, Robyn. A confrontative interview for victims of intrafamilial sexual abuse: An alternative to an apology that reverses power differentials in a therapeutic way
In their work with victims of sexual abuse, Welfare and Miller use a confrontational interview technique developed in response to the feminist critique of family therapy in the area of sexual abuse. They use this technique in an attempt to redress issues of power and control in the victim-perpetrator relationship. To explain this technique the authors contrast it with an apology interview. They also summarize research (e.g., method and results) related to the confrontational interview technique. The paper concludes with cautions and critical recommendations by Welfare and Miller with respect to using this technique.
. The RESTORE Program of restorative justice for sex crimes: Vision, process, and outcomes.
The article reports empirical evaluation of RESTORE, a restorative justice (RJ) conferencing program adapted to prosecutor-referred adult misdemeanor and felony sexual assaults. RESTORE conferences included voluntary enrollment, preparation, and a face-to-face meeting where primary and secondary victims voice impacts, and responsible persons acknowledge their acts and together develop a re-dress plan that is supervised for 1 year. Process data included referral and consent rates, participant characteristics, observational ratings of conferences compared with program design, services delivered, and safety monitoring. Outcome evaluation used 22 cases to assess (a) pre–post reasons for choosing RESTORE, (b) preparation and conference experiences, (c) overall program and justice satisfaction, and (d) completion rates. This is the first peer-reviewed quantitative evaluation of RJ conferencing for adult sexual assault. Although the data have limitations, the results support cautious optimism regarding feasibility, safety, and satisfactory outcomes. They help envision how conferencing could expand and individualize justice options for sexual assault. (author's abstract)
Bhandari, Neena. Aboriginal violence against women.
A study of women survivors of violence in Queensland has shown that indigenous women tend to support restorative justice approaches as an alternative to the established criminal justice system, which has historically oppressed Aboriginals. According to the chairwoman of the New South Wales Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee, Winsome Matthews, locally developed schemes are working in several New South Wales communities, particularly 'circle sentencing programmes' where offenders sit down with their victims and others to confront their wrongs and reach for solutions. (excerpt)
Koss, Mary and Achilles, Mary. Restorative justice responses to sexual assault.
A large international literature promotes restorative justice options as satisfying and empowering to crime victims. This paper examines restorative justice for sexual assault from the perspective of three groups of survivors: (a) adults victimized by adult perpetrators; (b) adults or juveniles victimized by juveniles; and (c) adults sexually molested as children by adults. Sexual violence within a violent intimate relationship such as domestic violence is excluded from consideration. The use of restorative justice in cases of domestic violence is the subject of another VAWnet document by Ptacek and Fredericks (2008). Although it may involve forced sexual relations, domestic violence, compared to adult sexual violence, is more likely to involve longer standing and more committed relationships, multiple co-occurring forms of psychological and physical violence, repetitiveness and often escalation of the abuse over time, and the involvement of children directly or as witnesses. (excerpt)
Schroeder, Ainslie. Mediating Sexual Assault: Justice for Victims Within and Beyond the Criminal Justice System.
Restorative justice measures, such as victim-offender mediation and family group conferencing, have been touted as bringing a richer and more lasting justice to all parties involved—victims, offenders, family members and the community alike. Significant concerns exist, however, regarding the appropriateness of applying restorative justice to gendered violence, both because of doubts that restorative methods can benefit victims in this context and because of the perceived incompatibility of restorative justice with the women’s movement goal of establishing violence against women as a serious public criminal law issue. This paper will focus on both the appropriateness and efficacy of restorative justice measures in addressing sexual assault and on the proper forum in which it should occur. I conclude that restorative justice for victims of sexual assault has demonstrable benefits for victims and offenders, benefits that could reach more parties if offered completely apart from the criminal justice system. While restorative justice measures will have some negative impact on efforts to keep violence against women in the public eye, its demonstrated benefits would likely exceed any detrimental effect. Generating options for women who are ill-served by the current system and in need of help is the best feminist response to this very difficult issue. (excerpt)
Bletzer, Keith V. and Koss, Mary P.. From parallel to intersecting narratives in cases of sexual assault.
Restorative justice alternatives to criminal justice are designed to balance the needs of victims, offenders, families, friends, and the community at large to achieve social justice, repair of victims, and deterrence of crime. In the model we evaluated from RESTORE (Responsibility and Equity for Sexual Transgressions Offering a Restorative Experience), each offender and victim received individual services and met in guided conferencing to mutually determine reparative actions for the offender. At the exit meeting, the offender, as the responsible person, read a written apology to the survivor/victim. In this article, we analyze the expression of empathy in the apology, in which the initial mitigation of responsibility in early documents was replaced by acknowledgment of harm to the survivor/ victim and acceptance of responsibility for the assault. Those accused of felony rape and those targeting a visible person in cases of misdemeanor indecent exposure expressed greater regret and remorse than offenders of indecent exposure with an indeterminate victim. (Author's abstract)
Kirkegaard, Hugh and Northey, Wayne. The Sex Offender as Scapegoat: Vigilante Violence and a Faith Community Response.
Many have witnessed the hostility of the community to people like Bobby Oatway and other sex offenders. How does the dialogue happen that moves beyond such scapegoating violence to address the real needs in the situation, the concerns of the community for safety and the need for the offender to move on with his life in a responsible and accountable way? Our experience in Circles has been that when we engage the offender and the community in this kind of dialogue that we can get to a different place. It is possible that in embracing rather than excluding sex offenders, or the strangers that we see them as, we embrace a part of ourselves.19 In a paradoxical way perhaps the sex offender has something to teach us about ourselves, our own sexuality, our understanding of community. (excerpt)
Daly, Kathleen . Conventional and innovative justice responses to sexual violence.
Despite 30 years of significant change to the way the criminal justice system responds to sexual violence, conviction rates have gone down in Australia, Canada, and England and Wales.1 Victim/survivors continue to express dissatisfaction with how the police and courts handle their cases and with their experience of the trial process. Many commentators and researchers recognise that the crux of the problem is cultural beliefs about gender and sexuality, which dilute and undermine the intentions of rape law reform.2 These beliefs affect victims adversely, but at the same time, increased criminalisation and penalisation of offenders is not likely to yield constructive outcomes. This paper reflects on the limits of legal reform in improving outcomes for victim/survivors. Given the extent of reform to procedural, substantive, and evidentiary aspects of sexual assault legal cases, we may have exhausted its potential to change the response to sexual assault. We may need to consider innovative justice responses, which may be part of the legal system or lie beyond it. (author's abstract).
McGlade, Hannah and Cripps, Kyllie. Indigenous family violence and sexual abuse: Considering pathways forward.
Australian Indigenous experiences of family and sexual violence have received much media and government attention since 2006. Three state government reports into the problem have been published in this time. These reports highlighted the disproportionate incidence of sexual assault and family violence within Indigenous communities and the many complexities associated with such experiences. They also illustrated that Indigenous communities are actively considering pathways forward for healing and for justice for victims, their families, and the broader kin network who inevitably feel the ripple effects of such violence. Increasingly, international examples of pathways forward are being considered for their applicability in the Australian Indigenous context. This paper critically examines the international case study ofthe Community Holistic Circle Healing process developed by the community of Hollow Water, Canada. Australian Indigenous family violence reports since 1999 have identified this process as an example of best practice in the management of sexual violence in Indigenous communities and have recommended that similar such models and processes be considered for implementation in Australia. This paper critically examines the program in its own context and reflects on the feasibility of its transference into the very different geographic, social, cultural, political and spiritual contexts of Australian Indigenous communities. (author's abstract)
Mercer, Vincent and Julie Henniker. 2006. Can Restorative Justice Work with Adolescent Sex Offenders?
This PowerPoint presentation provides an overview of a programme using restorative practices with juvenile sex offenders.
McElrea, FWM. Rape: Ten Years' Progress?
In this 1996 presentation, McElrea discusses the possible relevance that restorative justice could have to rape cases.
Restorative Justice in Responding to Sexual Offending: A Web Review
The use of restorative justice in response to certain crimes requires special expertise and careful preparation. Sexual offending is one area that raises many questions. There are concerns about revictimization, power imbalances, the return of sex offenders to the community, and the prevention of reoffending. Nevertheless, many programmes are working in this area.

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Restorative Justice Online - Featured Video

A long-time repeat offender describes the impact of meeting with his victims.