Is restorative justice right for me?

Restorative Justice provides the opportunity for people who have been harmed, and those responsible for the harm, to come together to talk about what happened and why, how they have been harmed and some of the ripple effects on the wider community. Together we look collectively at how the needs that have occurred as a result of the harm can be addressed.

There are a range of ways that those who have been hurt, those responsible for causing hurt through their sexual behaviour and their families can participate in restorative justice processes with Project Restore. We will work with all involved to tailor make a process that meets the needs of all participants while remaining driven by the victim/survivor’s needs at all times.

The process is not right for everyone all of the time – to ensure that the process can be done safely, it is important that victims/survivors have good support (from friends and family and/or a counsellor) and ways of managing the intense emotions that these processes can trigger, and that those who might have caused harm are ready and able to take responsibility and make honest amends.

Woman standing on bench looking over city

Options for participation may include

  • A facilitated face to face meeting between the person who caused the harm and the person who was hurt (with support people for both to be present).
  • Facilitated meetings with others who have been hurt by the sexual behaviour of the person (for example, another parent).
  • Writing a letter to a person who caused harm.
  • Being represented at a community panel process by a victim/survivor advocate
  • Shuttle mediation – where messages are taken between parties and agreements are negotiated.

We can refer victims/survivors to a counsellor or therapist if they don’t already have one and will encourage them to work with this person to support them in preparing for and during the restorative processes.

We will ask the person who caused the harm to be assessed for a therapeutic treatment programme and if assessed as requiring treatment, to agree to enter into a programme to address the underlying causes of their behaviour. There may be an extra cost to the person for this.

Project Restore NZ aim to offer a safe and supported environment. Our specialists will discuss what this means
for you personally, once you are engaged in our service.

All referrals are assessed for safety of all parties by our specialist team. Where there is a current safety risk, particularly in situations where there has been family violence, we may not be able to proceed with restorative justice until the police/court proceedings have been dealt with.

Type of Referrals

To access Restorative Justice or an Alternative Process via Project Restore a referral can be made as follows:

We receive referrals from the court once a guilty plea to a sex crime charge has been made and prior to sentencing. If you are the person harmed, the Officer in Charge of the case may ask you or the Specialist Victim Adviser if you wish to participate or hear from Project Restore. You can inform them at any time if you do not wish to be contacted.

We can also receive referrals from the court before a guilty plea has been entered where the Judge requests a diversion to see if an alternative justice process can be held. In these cases, a Judge’s memo is required noting any information/disclosures from the process will not be able to be accessed by the court if the process does not proceed – as per provisions in the evidence act section 27a. Both the Crown and Prosecution and the parties have to agree to the referral. We call these Court Diversion cases.

Referrals to Project Restore can come from;

  • Anyone harmed by sexual violence.
  • Anyone who has caused harm through sexual their sexual behaviour.
  • Therapists working with either the person harmed or the person causing harm.
  • Agencies responding to sexual violence or other social service agencies.

We may be able to provide an alternative restorative process where a person or persons have been harmed or has experienced sexual harassment within the context of an organisation and seeks to hold that organisation to account for not protecting them e.g. churches, schools, or workplaces.

Sometimes the person harmed (or the person who has caused the harm) will refer themselves to Project Restore. This is a fantastic achievement for anyone involved in harmful sexual behaviour and we will work closely to assist your healing and ability to move forward.

Whether an incident of harm/sexual violence happened yesterday or a whole lifetime ago, Project Restore can help you. It’s never too late to heal from the hurt.

We can also receive referrals post sentence – pre or post release, we call these post sentence referrals. In some instances, the offender may still be in custody or under the care of the Department of Corrections.

Usually one party initiates the referral, if the other party is willing to engage with us, we can proceed.

We also receive referrals from the police where a decision not to proceed to laying of charges has been made but where parties may be willing to engage in an alternative justice process – a pre charge referral.

In most situations, Project Restore can access funding for the process. If we are not able to do so, we will discuss this with you.

  • Confronting the person who hurt you and holding them accountable for their actions is an opportunity to regain a sense of power that you may have lost in the process of being hurt.
  • The opportunity to express pain, be heard by the person who caused that pain, and to tell our stories in a safe and supported environment can greatly assist in progressing our healing journey.
  • An opportunity to ask questions and to understand more about why that person hurt you can help healing and recovery.
  • An opportunity to break down and challenge some of the distortions commonly used to silence us by those who have hurt us with their sexual behaviour, can bring back voice.
  • The opportunity to have our justice interests and needs met such as: voice, vindication, validation, participation and accountability, can bring more of a sense of real justice than that often available from the criminal justice system.
  • An opportunity to gain more understanding of the impacts of your offending and help to develop empathy for the survivor/victim which can assist you in making full apology.
  • An opportunity to ‘take responsibility’ for your actions directly to those involved, and “put things right” can assist in healing yourself and your family and community from the impacts of your behaviour.
  • An opportunity to improve treatment outcomes by restoring life & relationships in ways that can reduce the risk of re-offending.
  • An opportunity to minimise stress and isolation by ensuring that support networks are put in place, therefore reducing your risk of re-offending.
  • An opportunity to address safety concerns and aid reintegration back into your community.
  • An opportunity to validate and support the victim/survivor and to challenge any minimisation of the harmful behaviours the person responsible for causing the harm might attempt.
  • Alerting those within the support systems of both parties to any patterns or risks of harmful behaviour. This enables support systems & communities to support those causing the harm to keep themselves safe, particularly those within a family and their surrounding community.
  • An opportunity to transform relationships so that victims/ survivors and the person responsible for sexual harms can co-exist in a shared community (Jülich,2006).