We all know the basic tenets of our justice system; doing something wrong, you risk going to jail. This is true for all crimes. However, our punitive judicial system isn’t the only one out there. Restorative justice or ‘justice’ in the eyes of the victim and the community, is often practiced in indigenous societies. When it comes to sexual assault, restorative justice offers new answers to questions of both punishment and prevention. Forms of restorative justice may be conferences amongst offenders and victims, support or sentencing circles, victim-offender dialogue or discipline within educational settings. The idea behind restorative justice is that our present justice system unfairly targets marginalized communities, poor men of color are by far the most incarcerated of all groups.
Restorative justice seeks to find solutions that work for the victim, do not disproportionately target marginalized communities, but also meet the victims’ needs and desires. One thing that is noted about restorative justice as it relates to sexual and intimate partner violence is that men are the majority of perpetrators and men are the majority of authorities and men are also seen as ideal in terms of leadership and decision making. The fact that our culture is still a patriarchy damages womens’ abilities to seek justice, regardless of its nature. Our culture is also often unflinchingly cruel in its punishment. Those who may commit simple crimes, like theft, may be unfairly treated for the rest of their life despite making positive changes in their life and giving back to their community.
Who takes on the burden of the changing justice system?
Organizations like RCASA, service providers familiar with these issues, can step up and assist in implementing these changes.