On March 16th, 2018, a conference was held by the NYC Domestic Violence Task Force, to explore the use of Restorative Approaches to Intimate Partner Violence.
My question: Are restorative approaches a viable, sensible, safe option for supporting victims of Intimate Partner Violence, (IPV)? I entered the conference believing that they are not! I was open to being shown otherwise. The keynote speeches were excellent, and what I heard from the panel members about their work was wonderful. I could hear and understand that restorative approaches are successful with certain populations, in certain situations. For example, with young people in schools, when there are conflicts. I can also imagine success in the case where a crime such as a burglary has been committed.
BUT, what was barely mentioned was how anybody envisages, with any amount of clarity, restorative approaches being used in the case of IPV. I had been expecting, and wanting, to hear about some potential restorative approach models, specific to IPV, that had been thought up, proposed, by somebody. We could have then discussed those.
One restorative practice that was talked about a lot was the “circle”. Circles allow, possibly, for those in it to speak and listen to one another, in a safe place. Or is it a safe place?! I, as a survivor of IPV, know from my experiences and from hearing about the experiences of other survivors, that abusers are cunning, manipulative actors. Furthermore, they do not care that they inflict harm upon their partners. Do perpetrators of IPV want to change? In my opinion, they basically have no desire to stop abusing their partners. Are they even able to change, for the better? I highly doubt this.
“Circles”; Victim-Offender Mediation; Family Group Conferencing. Call a restorative approach practice what you will. When I heard people talking about Restorative Justice at the conference, I thought: “Sounds like Couples Counseling, or Family Therapy, to me!”
My conclusion: Use funds more wisely. Forget about restorative approaches; concentrate on improving the current systems.