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Applying Restorative Justice to Domestic Violence: Web Resources

With the growing interest in restorative justice by governments and communities, several questions about appropriateness arise. One area often questioned is the use of restorative processes in cases of domestic violence. Many advocates for victims of domestic violence argue that criminalization of domestic violence was important in changing societal views towards violence in relationships. They fear that the use of restorative practices will return domestic violence to the private sphere and continued victimization. Proponents of restorative justice, on the other hand, hold out the possibilities of restorative processes in changing behavior of offenders and empowering victims. The listing below offers on-line resources that address the many issues in the debate around the use of restorative justice in cases of domestic violence.
Avalon Sexual Assault Centre. (1999). Formal Response of the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre to the N.S. Department of Justice. RE: The Restorative Justice Program.. Submitted to the N.S. Department of Justice, Restorative Justice Programme, September 1999. 28 October 2002. Hot Peach Pages. 

Block, Heather And Lichti, Chris. (n.d.). Restorative justice with respect to domestic violence and sexual abuse. TMs (online). Boston, MA: Unitarian Universalist Association.

In view of the challenge of seeking the best response to domestic violence and sexual abuse, the authors explore how understandings of restorative justice and family violence theory intersect. Integration of restorative justice with domestic violence and sexual abuse theory is difficult, in part because of the complex and unique dynamics of abuse. Yet, using a detailed chart for purposes of comparison and contrast, the authors highlight key ways in which restorative justice better applies to domestic violence and sexual abuse than retributive justice.

Braithwaite, John And Daly, Kathleen.. (1995). "Masculinities, Violence, and Communitarian Control.". Australian Violence: Contemporary Perspectives II. Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology.

Braithwaite and Daly recognize that traditional justice system responses towards violent men have failed, and outline another approach that is compatible with the principles of republican criminology. They suggest that the justice system can be reformed to give voice to women and to continue the struggle against men’s domination of women. A key element to this approach is the community conference strategy adapted from Maori culture in New Zealand. The community conference embodies principles of reintegrative shaming, and can become a key building block of a political strategy against exploitative masculinities.

Coward-Yaskiw, Stephanie. (2002). Restorative justice. Herizons 15 (Spring): 22ff. 

Daly, Kathleen. (2002). Sexual assault and restorative justice. In Restorative justice and family violence, ed. Heather Strang and John Braithwaite, 62-88. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kathleen Daly looks at the question of whether restorative justice is appropriate in cases of sexual violence. She cautions at the outset of her essay that the problem of responding justly to such cases- refraining from punitive responses that further brutalize perpetrators without appearing to accept their violent behavior - is ultimately unsolvable. Yet, because sexual assaults occur, Daly pursues the problem in terms of its two components: how to treat harms as serious without harsh forms of punishment or hyper-criminalization? and how to do justice in an unequal society? She contends there may be a way forward in addressing the problem of responding justly if three things are done, which she explores in this essay: (1) rehabilitate “retribution” and make it part of restorative justice processes; (2) redefine the harm of rape, other forms of gendered harms, and violence more generally; and (3) recognize the variety of meanings and contexts of sexual violence, domestic violence, and family violence. To illustrate her points, she discusses a number of cases of sexual assault in South Australia disposed of by conferencing.

Dissel, Amanda And Ngubeni, Kindisa. (2003). Giving Women their Voice: Domestic Violence and Restorative Justice in South Africa. Paper submitted fort he Xith International Symposium on Victimology. 13-18 July 2003, Sellenbosch, South Africa. Downloaded 21 August 2003.

This paper seeks to look at some of the issues involved in responding to domestic violence with restorative justice by locating restorative justice within a context of high prevalence of domestic violence in South Africa. It aims to look at the inter-relationship between victim offender conferencing and the objectives of the Domestic Violence Act (South African legislation). It also looks at the effectiveness of VOC in cases of domestic violence, and at the extent to which VOC assists in preventing further violence. Finally, the paper aims to highlight some challenges for future interventions. (excerpt)

Edwards, Alan And Haslet, Jennifer. (2003). Domestic Violence and Restorative Justice: Advancing the Dialogue. Paper presented at the Sixth International Conference On Restorative Justice. Centre for Restorative Justice. 1-4 June. Vancouver BC. Downloaded 21 August 2003.

Edwards and Haslett address the growing debate about the use of restorative processes in cases of domestic violence. They hope to add to the debate by discussing lessons learned and challenges encountered by the Mediation and Restorative Justice Centre of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. They discuss the philosophical issues, practice implications, challenges, and dangers involved in working with victims and offenders in domestic violence cases.

Hayden, Anne. (2000). Restorative Justice: Has it Potential for Dealing with Domestic Violence?. Paper presented at the Just Peace? Peace Making and Peace Building for the New Millennium conference, held in Auckland, New Zealand, 24-28 April. Auckland, New Zealand: Massey University, School of Social and Cultural Studies, Centre for Justice and Peace Development.

While many advocate for the application of restorative justice system-wide in criminal justice, some have questioned its effectiveness or appropriateness for certain types of crimes – for example, domestic violence. In the latter instance, domestic violence is described as having unique characteristics, such that restorative justice is not suitable for cases of this sort. In this paper, Anne Hayden raises the question of restorative justice and domestic violence by pursuing four objectives: (1) a challenge of the misconception that domestic violence is perpetrated only by men; (2) an examination of the dynamics of gender and power in domestic violence; (3) a comparison of possible outcomes of interventions in domestic violence, with an argument for the use of restorative justice in some instances; and (4) a discussion of certain principles for the practice of restorative justice in domestic violence cases.

Hooper, Stephen And Busch, Ruth. (1996). "Domestic violence and restorative justice initiatives: The risks of a new panacea. ". Wakaito Law Review 4 (1). 

Maloney, Lana And Reddoch, Graham.. (2003). Restorative Justice and Family Violence: A Community-Based Effort to Move From Theory to Practice. Paper presented at the Sixth International Conference On Restorative Justice. Centre for Restorative Justice. 1-4 June. Vancouver BC. Downloaded 21 August 2003.

This presentation is a joint endeavour by the University of Manitoba and the John Howard Society of Manitoba. Work is being undertaken in Winnepeg to assess the potential for expanding a restorative approach to dealing with family violence. It describes the results of focus groups with survivors, offenders, and family violence practitioners in Winnipeg. The practitioner focus groups included representatives from the University of Manitoba, Departments of Social Work and Sociology; Province of Manitoba-Community and Adult Corrections; Winnipeg City Police and other community organizations that deal with family violence. The focus groups were convened to consider the use of the Family Group Decision Making model developed by Dr. Gale Burford and Dr. Joan Pennell. (Author's Abstract)

Pelikan, Christa. (2002). "Victim-Offender-Mediation in Domestic Violence Cases-A Comparison of the Effects of Criminal Law Intervention: the Penal Process and Mediation. Doing Qualitative Research.". Forum Qualitative Social Research. 3(1).

The theme of domestic violence and the use of criminal law interventions have from its beginnings sparked off controversy and so has the research thereupon (PELIKAN & STANGL, 1994). Also the research project presented in this contribution resulted from a veritable criminal policy controversy. The core piece of this controversy was whether the instrument of Victim-Offender-Mediation (VOM) should and could be applied to cases of domestic violence, more precisely in cases of violence in an intimate relationship. In Austria, the establishment of a pilot project "Victim-Offender-Mediation in General Criminal Law", i.e. for adults, which took place in 1992, had brought about the referral of a considerable number of cases of minor assault and of dangerous threat that had occurred within the family or a man-woman relationship to the agencies of the so-called Außergerichtlicher Tatausgleich (Out-of-Court-Offence-Compensation), Austria’s version of VOM. Right from the start, this practice faced critique and the opposition of the activists of the women’s shelter movement.  The research project "On the efficacy of criminal law interventions in domestic violence cases" that started in 1998 was intended to further challenge this critique in a constructive way and to produce empirical data on the effects and the efficacy of VOM on the one hand, the criminal court procedure on the other.


Pelikan, Christa. (2000). "Victim-offender mediation in domestic violence cases-a research report.". Paper presented at the United Nations Crime Congress, Ancillary Meeting on Implementing Restorative Justice in the International Context. Vienna, Austria, 10-17 April.

Pranis, Kay. (2002). Restorative values and confronting family violence. In Restorative justice and family violence, ed. Heather Strang and John Braithwaite, 23-41. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Provincial Association of Transition Houses of Saskatchewan. (2000). Restorative justice: Is it justice for battered women?. Saskatoon (?), Saskatchewan, Canada: Provincial Association of Transition Houses of Saskatchewan

In April 2000, Provincial Association of Transition Houses of Saskatchewan (PATHS) conducted a conference or forum in Saskatoon to address the following kinds of questions. Should the Saskatchewan government allow or institute restorative justice strategies for family violence cases throughout the province? Only in certain communities? Only under certain circumstances? Only with certain safeguards? Participants included individuals with expertise and experience in the justice system, alternative or restorative justice, women’s advocacy, and victims’ issues. This report on the conference highlights key themes and responses to those questions and the issues raised. A variety of views were expressed, ranging from strongly supportive of restorative justice strategies for family violence cases to strongly opposed. The report includes many direct excerpts from the discussion.


September 2003

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