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Justice for Victims of Sexual Assault: Court or Conference?

Daly, Kathleen
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. Paper prepared for K. Heimer and C. Kruttschnitt (eds.), Gender, Offending, and Victimization (working title). New York: New York University Press. Downloaded 7 September 2004.

In this article, we describe in detail two sexual assault cases that were diverted to conference. Both cases had youthful male offenders (17 at the time of the offense) and female victims (12 and 13), and both were finalized by a family conference in South Australia. In a conference, an admitted offender, victim (or victim representative), their supporters, and other relevant parties, along with a police officer and a facilitator meet to discuss the offense, why it came about, how it affected the victim and others, and to decide on a penalty. We shall document the victims’ experiences with the police and the conference process, what they hoped would happen at the conference, and what did occur in their face-to-face encounter with the offender. Along with the girls’ views are the facilitators’ thoughts on the case, their concerns in planning and running the conference, and their opinions of the conference dynamics and its benefits (or not) for the victim.
The two cases were drawn from an in-depth study of 14 sexual and family violence cases finalized by a conference in the second half of 2001. Joined with the in-depth study is our archival analysis of 387 sexual offenses involving youthful offenders and finalized over a 6.5 year period (1995 to mid-year 2001) by formal caution, conference, or in the Youth Court in South Australia. From the archival study, we can compare the legal journey and outcomes of court and conference cases; and with the in-depth study, we can explore the aftermath of crime and conference dynamics largely, although not exclusively, from the viewpoint of victims. Ours is the first study to shed light on the potential and limits of court versus conference processes for victims of sexual violence. Before presenting the cases, we review what happens in the criminal justice system in response to sexual assault, and what is known about victims’ experiences with the legal process. (excerpt)


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