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Restorative Justice with stranger or acquaintance victims, different angles apply.

September 15, 2010

Outcomes – it is so important to understand what
victims want out of the process.  In incidents of strangers I see people
shift.  For example the victim that thought the juvenile was just an
unsupervised tart.  When the victim meets the family and learns more
about the child, the victim actually has offender empathy!  So clarify
and clarify again why the victim is seeking restorative justice.

Relationship Context – School settings are places where
people who know each other are harmed.  Sometimes the harm happens
between students that don’t know each other very well.  When focusing on
restorative justice it is good to explore the nature of future
relationship.  I screened out a case once because the offender said she
would do it again.  She also told me that the victim deserved it and
other people felt she was justified and supported her behavior.  I
always say Restorative Justice is about repairing the harm, not causing
further harm.  Sometimes people with a long history of conflict want
just another place to have that conflict.  This is where being VERY,
VERY cautious in situations of domestic violence or partner issues is

Flexibility – each case is different.  Victims
experience crime differently.  So often harm from the past is triggered
when dealing with incidents.  Allow people to express that these older
hurts & wounds are opened again, but ask how to focus on healing
now, with this person at this time.  Keep true to the primary focus of
RJ (harms, needs, obligations & engagements).  Be aware that victims
and offenders may have had history and that the criminal justice
process it to look at only the crime.  Consider how that process impacts
te relationship, be flexible in addressing the harm caused by a trial
or “not-guilty” plea as much as addressing the incident itself.


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