Restorative justice: Why I confronted the man who raped me
Feb 01, 2011
When Joanne Nodding met the man who raped her, the first thing she noticed, she says, was how scared he was. "He thought I was going to be angry," she says, "he was expecting me to shout and scream and tell him that I hated him. But if I had [been uncontrollably angry] they wouldn't have allowed me to meet him."
Instead she told the man, who cannot be named, how she had felt during the attack, and how it had affected her family. She explained that she had been terrified, while he was raping her, that he was going to kill her.
"That had a really big impact on him," she says. "He said 'sorry', and I did feel like it was a genuine 'sorry'."
The meeting between the two took place five years after the rape, part of a restorative justice programme that allows victims of crime to talk to the person responsible. For minor crimes the meeting can replace a custodial sentence, but for rape and murder it will never replace prison — and does not happen very often because of the strength of emotions involved.
Nodding is one of only a handful of rape victims to seek restorative justice, and the first in Britain to speak about it publicly. She had to fight to persuade the authorities to let the meeting take place as they were worried it would be damaging for both her and her attacker. Her persistence was partly driven by an unfortunate remark from the judge at the end of the case.
"He said [to the guilty man], 'you've ruined this woman's life'," Nodding says. "I can understand why the judge said it, but I didn't want [the man] to think he had ruined my life. Partly be-cause I didn't want him to think, 'ha ha, I've got this power over her'. But also I didn't want him to have that burden."
The offender was known to Nodding before the attack, which is why she was sure he would kill her. "That, and his look. Because of the look on his face, I just thought, 'there's no way he's going to let me walk out of here'."
But she did survive, with severe injuries, and reported the incident to the police. The man initially pleaded not guilty but changed that in the face of overwhelming DNA evidence. Because of this Nodding did not have to appear in court, but she decided that she would.
"I wanted to face him and I thought that would be only opportunity," she says. Unfortunately, the court case left her with no sense of resolution.