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Restorative Justice for Victims of Sexual Assault

Daly, Kathleen
June 4, 2015

Source: (-0001) In, Karen Heimer and Candace Kruttschnitt, eds., Gender and Crime: Patterns of Victimization and Offending. New York: New York University Press. pp. 230-265.

This article analyzes the use of restorative justice (RJ) practices in cases of juvenile sexual assault through the use of two case studies from South Australia. Following the analysis, the authors conclude that the empowering process of RJ for victims of sexual assault may be one way of “redefining the realities” of these crimes. The two cases of sexual assault involved youthful male offenders and youthful female victims and both were finalized by a family conference in South Australia. The first case involved a confident victim who was described as knowing what she wanted from the family conference process. Although she had a positive experience, the victim had two main criticisms of the process. First, she believed the process was procedurally unfair in that she had no influence over what should be included in the agreement. Second, the victim believed the agreement was too lenient on the offender. In the second case study, which involved intrafamilial sexual intercourse, family conflict clouded the conference and the victim reported feeling intimidated by the offender during the process. Each case is followed by a discussion of the problems and benefits of using RJ practices in sexual assault cases in light of the experiences of the victims. One of the main problems cited with the use of RJ for sexual assault cases was the power imbalances that were evident between victims and offenders as well as between victims and offender advocates and youth court staff. Benefits to utilizing an RJ approach included victim empowerment through telling their stories and the requirement that offenders take responsibility for the offense. The case studies presented here were drawn from an in-depth study of 14 sexual and family violence cases finalized by family conference during the last part of 2005 in South Australia. An archival analysis was also performed on 387 juvenile sexual offenses finalized between 1995 and 2001 by formal caution, conference, or in Youth Court.


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