Antidomestic violence advocates have been skeptical about using restorative justice in domestic violence cases. Concerns about safety, the ability to truly hold offenders accountable and the emphasis on offenders in restorative initiatives are all regularly cited as reasons to avoid the practice.
But restorative justice processes, which include victim-offender mediation and conferences bringing together victims, offenders and members of their communities, put a great deal of power in the hands of victims: they have the power to determine whether a restorative approach is appropriate, to confront their partners, to have their partners admit responsibility for their actions, and to seek reparations.
Restorative initiatives can be victim-centered, deployed only at victims’ requests and only in ways that are acceptable to them. They engage the community in condemning the harms inflicted and provide outside support for victims who may previously have been isolated.
Mandatory prosecution is disempowering. Restorative justice practices that are attentive to the dynamics of domestic violence and needs of its victims can empower those victims uninterested in separation from or criminal punishment of their partners.