Academic journal article Suffolk Transnational Law Review

Justice beyond Bars: Exploring the Restorative Justice Alternative for Victims of Rape and Sexual Assault

Academic journal article Suffolk Transnational Law Review

Justice beyond Bars: Exploring the Restorative Justice Alternative for Victims of Rape and Sexual Assault

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

"I forgive you for what you did to me." (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT)

Six years after she was raped, Jo was finally able to find a sense of closure by facing her assailant in a restorative justice meeting. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) Her perpetrator's life sentence was not enough for her. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) The judge's statement in court also was not enough: "you have destroyed this woman's life." (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) Both parties had something to gain from a restorative justice conference that the traditional criminal justice system could not provide. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) For the perpetrator, acknowledging his wrongful acts was an opportunity to do something good. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) For Jo, the conference presented a chance to free herself from the burden of grief, to take control of her life, and to transform herself from a victim into a survivor. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) Both the victim (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) and the offender could make something good out of a horrible situation. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT)

Under the traditional criminal justice system, achieving justice for the rape victim usually equates to the offender's conviction and incarceration. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) But rape victims seek justice in many different ways. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) For some, justice is simply the perpetrator's conviction and incarceration. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) For others, justice is receiving compensation from the offender or the state to help with civil matters like securing safe housing, affording counseling, or repairing property damage. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) To others, it is having a meaningful opportunity to tell one's story to the community, or perhaps directly to the offender. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) And yet still, to other victims, justice is having the offender publicly acknowledge and apologize for the harm caused. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) In short, justice to rape victims can manifest itself in many diverse forms that often do not necessarily rely on the traditional criminal justice idea of punishment. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT)

Restorative justice programs offer an alternative route to justice by providing the victim and offender with an opportunity to meet and discuss the consequences of the crime. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) The restorative justice movement has increasingly gained global attention over the past thirty years, but most jurisdictions still exclude sexual offenses from the restorative justice process, limiting their programs to non-sexual offenses by youths. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) In fact, there are just a few programs in the world that apply restorative justice to sexual assault offenses. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT)

This Note will explore the merits and shortcomings of implementing restorative justice in the criminal justice system in sexual offense cases by looking at various alternative programs that have been implemented across the world. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) Part II of this Note will examine the roots and evolution of restorative justice, its application to crimes of sexual violence, and the historical response to rape in various global jurisdictions. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) Part III will explore the process of restorative justice programs, as well as current trends and criticisms of its effectiveness in several criminal justice systems across the world. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) It will also highlight restorative justice pilot programs dealing with sexual assault cases throughout the various stages of the criminal justice system. (NOTEREF _Ref220848217 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) Part IV will suggest the implementation of restorative justice programs that work pre-conviction, within the criminal justice system as part of a community's response to crimes of sexual violence, as modeled after Project RESTORE in Arizona. …

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