Monday, April 2, 2012

Restorative Justice- What and Why?- by Jessica Mason-Paull

Restorative Justice is a way to seek "justice" that looks more at the needs of all those involved (in the community, Perpetrators, Survivors) than at simply punishing the Perpetrator.
It takes into account the needs of Victims and asks them to be a part of the restoration of community. It also asks that Perpetrators be accountable whether that be through acknowledgement, apology, community service or seeking professional help for their behaviours, often it involves all these things.

When we decided at VanSlam that we didn't want to make a monster of the Perpetrators and that we had genuine love for them we found the concept of Restorative Justice to be a great starting point. We looked at how previous sexual assaults had been handled in the community and realized often that we just moved the Perpetrators to other communities because we outed them as "monsters" and "others". We decided this isn't being responsible and accountable as a community. Lisa has a post that explain's more on why we choose this path.

Its a really important thing to remember that for me, my assaults had happened many years ago by the time I was ready to consider this option. Anger, shame and denial will make the process of Restorative Justice way harder to follow through with. At our meeting it was clear that the members of our community who were present had a great interest in not ostracizing the Perpetrator, but instead talked extensively about our need to rebuild our community including our perpetrator if they wished to participate.

As a community we are looking at creating an accountability plan for the Perpetrator which will address his behaviours and we are hoping to have policies in place for any future cases that may arise. This is a huge learning curve for us, Erich Haygun is the only person I know who has an in depth prior knowledge of this process in our immediate team and we expect we will screw up at some stage. Please read up on it with us, lets get smarter and work this out.


  1. I think this question makes more sense in this post than the principles one, so here goes:

    A problem that is being encountered for example in the local Occupy community is that of people who have caused harm, been called out for it, been given routes and options towards healing and reconciliation, and they refuse them.

    What happens then? When there is a pattern of continued lack of accountability? Everyone wants to move forward, but people who have had harm done to them want accountability and healing, and some people who have caused harm want to claim they are the ones being harmed all the while taking no responsibility for what they have done.

    What can we do in these all-too-common instances? I think that this process you're undertaking here is going to really inform what is happening elsewhere, so thank you for this.

  2. There needs to be a critical mass of people in the community who are willing to set community standards that say "this behavior is not okay". This is the step that Van Slam has struggled with for years.

    Once there's a critical mass, it's possible to have a series of what Tara Hardy calls "mounting consequences" for their behavior, and a lack of willingness to engage in improving their behavior could mean a temporary or permanent ban from the community.

    Without that larger community consensus, though, it's very hard to move anything forward. People will probably tell you that "you're undermining our progressive movement by bringing up women's issues" - am I right? Even in progressive movements, all of the isms are still embedded. I wish you all the best of luck in building a consensus that this issue is dividing your community and that it needs to be addressed. Good luck.