by Louise Perry
Monday, 26
October 2020
Debate
09:28

For sexual violence, ‘restorative justice’ isn’t enough

The movement should not be seen as an alternative to prison
by Louise Perry
Restorative justice should not be seen as an alternative to prison

There’s been recent discussion in Australia over the case of an intellectually disabled teenager called Kimberly, who was sexually assaulted several times at high school by two fellow pupils. One of these boys was asked to leave the school after Kimberly reported that he had raped her, and he was later convicted of more than twenty sexual assault charges involving four children, including Kimberly.

The other boy was suspended for 30 days, but then returned to the school, where he continued to see Kimberly on a daily basis. She was upset about this, but was told by teachers to “stop dwelling”, “move on”, and “get over it”. Eventually, the school arranged a forgiveness ritual”.

In effect, instead of separating Kimberly from her attacker, the school coerced an intellectually disabled young woman into a hasty form of restorative justice that was in fact nothing more than an effort to make her shut up.

This distressing case highlights the risks associated with a restorative justice approach to sexual violence. The hope among its proponents is that asking criminals to face the people who have suffered as a consequence of their actions will reduce reoffending, but the evidence for this is mixed.

There is some evidence that the process can make victims feel better, particularly victims of a crime like rape which has a shockingly low conviction rate. Something in the region of 1% of rapes in this country are punished with a prison sentence, so for the 99% of victims who don’t see their attacker imprisoned, restorative justice may sometimes provide a source of solace.

But having worked with victims of sexual violence in a previous job, I’m sceptical. I’ve written in these pages before about the naiveté of the prison and police abolition movements, to which the restorative justice movement is closely linked.

These activists seem to have no recognition that physically separating offenders from potential victims is an essential role of the criminal justice system, and while restorative justice might, in extremis, provide the only possible source of comfort and closure for a victim of crime, it should never be seen as an alternative to prison. A criminal justice system that depends entirely upon the goodwill and self-control of convicted criminals is not a wise one.

My fear is that focusing on restorative justice as a solution to sexual violence, rather than working on increasing imprisonment rates, may provide a stealth means of de-emphasising other, more effective, forms of justice that make progressive activists feel uncomfortable. Kimberly’s case is a terrible example of what can happen when actual punishment and protection is replaced with an act of ‘justice’ that, in some cases, is worse than no action at all.

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Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago

I don’t think I can be objective about this, the thought of having to sit down with someone who had assaulted me and talk about what happened so that everyone can feel better – No, No and No.

But, there’s a difficulty in the UK today in that the definitions of rape and sexual assault have been expanded to include some very imprecise situations, at the same time as women have become much more free and prone to taking risks.

Rape will always be difficult to prove, that’s the reality, that’s why women needed protection down the centuries. There must be evidence to convict, there have been too many false accusations by women.
Keep safe and learn some self defence; there’s a great book I found recently, old-fashioned but still technically correct :
Hands Off ! Self Defence for Women by Captain W E Fairbairn.

cbarclay
cbarclay
1 year ago
Reply to  Claire D

‘ … the thought of having to sit down with someone who had assaulted me and talk about what happened so that everyone can feel better – No, No and No.’ Restorative justice was meant to only occur when the victim freely agrees to it. The idea has been perverted by the authorities who are not prepared to adequately punish offenders. Consequently victims are bullied into accepting these meetings and the authorities can then claim the victims’ consent to the non-punishment of serious offenders. Offenders who are genuinely remorseful will ask to send letters from prison and accept their punishment as their due.

Gerry Fruin
Gerry Fruin
1 year ago
Reply to  Claire D

Agree completely with you here Claire except your reference to a book. Small point, but one women, often young ones, should heed; you cannot learn self defence from a book. In my training (many years) of ‘up close and dirty’ (military speak) only continual close contact will succeed. Maybe. Indeed it would be an exceptionally gifted female who could defend herself or overcome a male attacker.
Far better to coach youngsters to avoid if at all possible situations that could become life changing. There are many out there. I feel we should be impelled to pass on our experience of the dangers. Frighten the ladies? If you don’t someone else might!

Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago
Reply to  Gerry Fruin

Thanks Gerry, I take your point. I believe the book was standard issue to many women in the services during WW II and it was to give women a fighting chance of defending themselves, even if that only meant momentarily disabling an attacker, do have a look at it.
Also I think perhaps you underestimate the power of self-confidence self defence training, even from a book, can give a woman, + it makes a woman acknowledge that there IS danger out there, it makes her more aware and take more responsibility for her safety.

Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago
Reply to  Gerry Fruin

Thanks Gerry, I’ve just responded to you but it’s gone into moderation, not sure why but I’ll try and repeat it more innocuously.
It more or less echos what you have said, except to add that a bit of self defence training can help with self confidence, as well as making women fully acknowledge that the world out there can be a dangerous place and take more responsibility for their own safety.

Gerry Fruin
Gerry Fruin
1 year ago
Reply to  Claire D

Again I agree Claire, and again I add a caveat helping anyone to move confidently is a very good thing. Martial arts of many kinds can do this. But… And I stressed this in all my coaching when close contact comes it is instant, violent and it hurts. All the coloured belts, badges and certificates will not deter a mindless vicious attacker. This is for all people, make and female.
The first lesson is survival. Don’t be in the wrong place if you are… Rules 1. Learn to run fast. 2. Practise screaming very loudly. 3. Panic! use any martial skill’s (or not) just punch, scratch, bite, kick like a maniac. If that sounds OTT it isn’t, it’s really the only chance of putting off an attacker.
Sounds awful on a discussion board but that’s because the end result of an attacker is worse and is life changing and can never be forgotten.

Chris Mochan
Chris Mochan
1 year ago
Reply to  Gerry Fruin

My jiu-jitsu coach is a big proponent of the idea that you win 100% of the fights you avoid. Most of the moves I’ve learned are to allow you to minimise the chance of injury or gain an upper hand so you can leg it. I’ve read a few women online say things like they carry their keys between their fingers in case of attack or recommend kicking an assailant in the b***s, when the reality is these would probably only make the situation worse.

Gerry Fruin
Gerry Fruin
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Mochan

He’s a good coach (sensei). Training anyone to defend themselves is a healthy activity. However, my first sessions were to disabuse the student (usually female) that they can master a sick perverted, drugged and drunk attacker. This is very negative but essential to demonstrate that if attacked it is not a practise session in a ‘safe’ environment. That upset most martial arts practitioners. Tough. But nobody ever quit because of that.
Now we begin. The most important lesson was the opposite. It is very rare to be attacked and with a few sensible precautions you shouldn’t be. Take care it’s a wonderful world. Enjoy the good things.

emmelinaogilvy
emmelinaogilvy
1 year ago

“Restorative justice” is a myth for rapists. I am convinced that to rape you have to lack any empathy for your victim and probably totally lack empathy or conscience. Prison is the only answer. They imprisoned their victims psychologically…sometimes for life. they deserve the same. Sentences are way too short. Apologising means nothing to them…except maybe a bit of humiliation. Its not enough.

cbarclay
cbarclay
1 year ago
Reply to  emmelinaogilvy

20 years standard sentence.

Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago
Reply to  cbarclay

According to the CPS Rape and Sexual Offence sentencing guidelines on their website, easily found, sentences vary (according to age of culprit and victim, whether it’s a first offence etc) between 5 and 15 years. Aggravating factors can make it longer and it can be a life sentence.
Which seems reasonable to me.

Iliya Kuryakin
Iliya Kuryakin
1 year ago

It would be helpful to point out the obvious fact that there is no evidence that restorative justice has any impact on re-offending rates.

Ray Hall
Ray Hall
1 year ago

Having been recently stabbed by a burglar , I can only say that I agree with the writer. I would like to comment on the CPS but I will not as they have not yet properly responded to my complaint . The criminal who stabbed me was convicted but did not get a custodial sentence.

cbarclay
cbarclay
1 year ago
Reply to  Ray Hall

Stabbed and no custodial sentence. Disgusting. I hope you have or are recovering from the mental and physical scars.

Ray Hall
Ray Hall
1 year ago
Reply to  cbarclay

Thank you. Not doing too badly . The infuriating thing is that I do not know whether the sentence was a result of CPS incompetence or perversity by the sentencing judge.

F Wallace
F Wallace
1 year ago

Restorative justice seems like the sort of thing that should be in addition to regular justice, in an attempt to rehab someone and show them the damage they have done. It can’t be used in place of actual punishments. This isn’t teenage vandalism or whatever, things like rapes and violent assaults are massively damaging and perpetrators need to be taken away from society for a significant period of time.

ralph bell
ralph bell
1 year ago

I can totally acknowledge the issues you raise and concerns you have for the effects on the victims. I would add three points: firstly physical sexual interaction is a very blurred area that can lead to injustice to either accused or victim. Therefore, I would suggest for some cases restorative justice would be suitable process in clarifying both parties understanding of the event and agreement by the victim of a suitable consequence(s). Secondly, convictions for this offence has been recently seen to be unsafe and the CPS Head was discredited, along with the very high bar needed to now take a case to court. Thirdly although locking people up to safeguard the victim and public is necessary for some cases, the frequent lack of rehabilitation taking place and a woeful record in reducing crime is not an effective strategy for many of these crimes.

M Spahn
M Spahn
1 year ago
Reply to  ralph bell

Exactly. I’m all for prison for rapists, but first we need to distinguish the actual rapists from the misfortunate fellows who merely an afoul of ludicrous, ever-expanding “affirmative consent” standards and the young women who’ve been indoctrinated into them by the Wokehadi.

cbarclay
cbarclay
1 year ago
Reply to  ralph bell

Restorative justice is meant to be a form of resolution, once it is accepted by the perpetrator that s/he has committed a crime or misdemeanour. It is not meant to be part of the ‘process in clarifying both parties understanding of the event’.

And what with putting the word ‘victim’ inside speech marks? Still throwing doubt on the credibility of every victim even when their rapists have been convicted?

David Stanley
David Stanley
1 year ago

I think this issue highlights the fact that people on the left don’t like to deal with the ugly reality of life. The idea that prisons are bad and that we should find a nicer way of dealing with things is naive. Restorative justice can be effective but some people are scum and need locking up. The truth is we don’t have perfect solutions to these problems and no one knows how to eliminate rape. Big, burly policemen throwing the perpetrator into a cell might upset the sensibilities of delicate, middle class liberals but often it’s all we have.

As for this nonsense about rape conviction rates being low, please see the article below along with the report by Baroness Stern:

https://www.theguardian.com

I appreciate that the author was talking about Australia but this myth gets repeated ad nauseam in the UK. The whole issue has been politicised by feminists to push the lie that rape has a low conviction rate because of some kind of institutionalised misogyny. As a result the CPS has come under pressure to increase conviction rates. It has done this at the expense of the total number of convictions. Feminists are now complaining about that instead and saying it is too low. All this because of feminist insatiable desire to maximise the perception of female victimhood.