Harmful Sexual Behaviour: A Restorative Justice Case Study
The offender had sexually abused her young daughter, taking inappropriate photographs that were distributed to a third party. Guardianship of the child was passed on to the child’s uncle, with his long term partner also caring for the child. Both the uncle and partner are extremely angry about what has happened. The mother retains 49% parental responsibility, which has a negative impact on their lives and makes it difficult for them to care for the child. They had numerous questions to ask the offender, including why she thought the behaviour was acceptable, and wanted her to know the impact of her actions and the long term damage to the child and family.
Due to the complexity of the case, certain permissions needed to be granted for Restorative Justice to take place. The offender had been groomed by a male perpetrator to complete these offences, and there was a lot of anger and anxieties surrounding the case. Risk assessments were continuously carried out throughout the process to safeguard vulnerable parties. One year after the initial referral, it was agreed that a face-to-face meeting would take place.
The meeting gave the uncle and partner the opportunity to explain the full impact of the offence on the child and themselves. They gave examples of behavioural and school issues, including how day-to-day tasks are now challenging.
The offender displayed remorse, explaining how she had gotten into the situation, but in no way condoning her actions. Despite being sentenced, she felt no one could punish her more than she punishes herself. She showed willingness to support her brother’s guardianship by signing documentation required. She expressed gratitude that they had taken her daughter on and that she was able to remain in a loving family home. The uncle and partner explained that if the time came where the daughter wished to meet her mother then they would fully support her in that process.
Following the meeting, the uncle’s partner said her previously all-consuming anger towards the offender had gone, allowing her to instead focus on the future. She no longer harbours ill-will towards the offender, hoping that she is able to move forward in a positive way. The uncle was relieved to have had the chance to see that his sister was remorseful for the negative impact on the child. He was glad that she understood the importance of providing indirect support throughout court processes to facilitate transfer of rights to her brother and his partner, to allow them to continue care and support of her daughter without any disruption.
This shows the value of face-to-face meetings in complex cases as they allow participants to see the genuine remorse of offenders, which can help them to gain closure. All parties were able to be open and honest in their discussion around the offence and its impact.