Use of Restorative Justice in non-recent cases
Whilst some people want Restorative Justice almost immediately after the offence has happened, others begin the process years down the line. There are no time constraints on when Restorative Justice can take place following a crime where there is an identifiable victim and offender.
Non-recent sexual assault
Cases of sexual assault may be addressed in Restorative Justice years after the abuse has taken place. Joshua was sexually abused for a number of years in the 1980s, and years later sought Restorative Justice. Joshua wanted to pursue Restorative Justice for the opportunity to take back control, and let his abuser know the impact of the abuse.
As sexual assault cases are complex and sensitive, the team worked with both victim and offender for 14 months to prepare for the face-to-face meeting. In the meeting, Joshua shared a lot of information about how the offences made him feel at the time and their impact. The offender apologised for what happened; he said that he could see that Joshua had been badly affected and said that he regretted what he had done, acknowledging that it had been abuse. After the meeting, Joshua said, “I feel that I have reclaimed power back. I no longer feel like a victim since the meeting because it no longer has a hold on me”. So many years after the offences, he was able to begin to find closure.
Harmer-initiated Restorative Justice
Harmers can also initiate Restorative Justice. Harmers can also initiate Restorative Justice, although there are certain cases that have to be victim-initiated, including sexual offences and domestic violence offences. These vary depending on the Restorative Justice service provided, so please get in touch to find out more.
In this particular case, the harmer had been involved in a burglary at a time when they were struggling with substance misuse. They were now substance free and eager to make amends with those they had harmed during this period. The victim agreed to participate.
During the meeting, the harmer apologised, which was accepted by the victim. The meeting ended with both parties staying for refreshments and continuing conversations for an additional hour. Upon leaving the venue both parties engaged in a hug.
The harmer said she had got more than she had hoped out of the process, saying she “feels lighter as a person”. She also said, “It was the first time I felt that I deserved good things to happen to me, or at least the first time of feeling that without it being clouded by a sense of shame for my past”.
Fears can often resurface when a victim knows they may see the offender again, such as when they are due for release from prison. Seven years after he had committed a violent attack on her, Lucy met her ex-partner in a restorative meeting. The offender was due for parole, and the meeting provided Lucy with a chance to gain closure and move on with her life. She says, “I don’t know where I would have been with him back in the real world [without Restorative Justice]. I spent six years locked indoors when he was behind bars. I probably would have been forever chasing my own tail.” She added, “The best thing for me was seeing him as just one person. It was like just a big black massive cloud consuming my life and then when I got to the meeting it was like ‘what’s all this been about”.
When is the right time to engage with Restorative Justice?
The most suitable time to engage with Restorative Justice depends entirely on the individual. If you have been involved in an offence, it is never too late to pursue the Restorative Justice process if you feel as though it’s the right choice for you. Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more.