Rotary Global Grant Blog May 2018

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May began with the opportunity to offer a Restorative Practices workshop to the Human Resources staff at Victoria University. It was great to have a chance to share the restorative approach with this group and to talk through their questions and reactions. Having the HR team on board is an important step in our effort to build a restorative university.

On May 14th, I was the guest speaker for the Rotary Club of Wellington lunch meeting. It was wonderful to get to share a little bit about my research and how it contributes to the Rotary mission of peace and conflict resolution with my host club. Many club members also didn’t realize that New Zealand is a global leader in restorative justice in so many ways, so it was great to get to share that information!

This month, I also went to the premier of the New Zealand-made film The Breaker Upperers with a live Q&A with the three main actors. The movie was hilarious and I highly recommend it if you have the opportunity to see it. In my opinion, kiwis make some of the best comedy!

The rest of my time this month has been filled with facilitating restorative justice processes for student misconduct cases at the university, continuing to put my research findings into writing, and reading to deepen my understanding of restorative practices. One interesting insight from my research this month is a connection between Carl Rogers’ necessary conditions for effective therapy and the facilitation process. You can read more about that insight here.

The most recent issue of the Rotary Peacebuilder newsletter is on the topic of creativity and peace. You can read my contribution along with the rest of the newsletter here.

Haley and I were interviewed for the EdX course Restorative Justice and Practice: Emergence of a Social Movement about the implementation of restorative practices at Victoria University, specifically in the Residential Halls. Check out the videos below for two clips from that interview.

The Restorative Justice Paradigm Shift

 What is “justice”?

Take a few moments to think about that question. It is a word we use a lot. “Demand justice.” “Seek justice.” “Justice has been done.”

But what do we really mean when we use the word “justice”?

Often times, justice is understood as retributive harming: an eye for an eye. In the justice system, schools, workplaces, and internationally, we look to punish those who have violated rules or laws. Punishment involves responding to harm by causing reciprocal harm. This is often justified through the reasoning that it will deter future negative behavior. However, what researchers have found is that punishment, regardless of the context, often results in feelings of stigmatizing shame on the part of those punished. This experience of shame leads those who have been punished to reject their rejecter (those in authority) and the rules of their rejecter’s system. Through this dynamic of shame, punishment actually often leads to an increase in future harmful behavior and an adversarial relationship between those who have caused harm and the people and system responsible for “doing justice.”

Restorative justice offers a shift in how we understand justice and the pursuit of justice. Rather than retribution, justice is understood as healing and the pursuit of respectful social relationships. Central to the restorative approach to justice making is the questions, “How can we respond to harm without causing further harm?” Restorative justice seeks to put things right for all involved.

One of the best ways to understand this restorative shift in the concept and implementation of justice is too look at the questions asked. Whereas the punitive concept of justice focuses on violations of laws and appropriate punishment, restorative justice focuses on how the people involved have been affected and what can be done to make things right.

The Restorative Shift

Punitive Justice Questions Restorative Justice Questions
1. What rule/law was broken? 1. What happened?
2. Who did it? 2. Who was affected?
3. How should he/she be punished? 3. What can be done to repair the harm and make things right?

Bring to mind a situation in your life where you have experienced an injustice. First, try applying the punitive justice questions. What are the outcomes? How are the relationships impacted? Next, try applying the restorative justice questions to the same situation. How did this shift in the questions you asked and the concept of justice you pursued change the situation? As you go through your day, try the same exercise with stories in the news and problems you encounter with your family, friends and colleagues. You will be amazed by the difference this shift can make!

Can Restorative Justice Counter Harmful Narratives of Masculinity?

Type of process: Restorative Justice Conference

Conference Participants:

  • Impacted Party (Victim) – Peter
  • Responsibly Party (Offender) – Nathan
  • Friend – Jake
  • 2 Facilitators

Possible Criminal Charges: Sexual Assault

Referring agent: University counseling staff

Factual Synopsis: Nathan sexually assaulted Peter at a party.

Narrative:

Peter and Nathan had been friends for a long time. They grew up together and chose to live together for university. At a party one night, Nathan was very drunk and grabbed Peter’s butt a couple times. Peter told him to cut it out. Nathan then grabbed Peter’s penis under his pants. Peter walked away and was very upset and left the party.

Over the coming weeks, Peter was depressed. He said he had good days and bad days, but on the bad days he couldn’t do anything. He was also extremely angry with Nathan. At home, he mostly hid in his room so that he wouldn’t have to see him. He started seeing a counselor at the university to talk about what happened.

Peter told the counselor that he didn’t want to go to the police about the assault, but he did need something to happen. He couldn’t just forget it. The counselor told Peter about restorative justice and reached out to our office to see if we would be willing to facilitate a process.

We met with Peter for a pre-conference and he talked about how hard it had been for him. In addition to the broken trust with Nathan and all the emotional aftermath of the assault, Peter had also been dealing with issues with his friends. He said that Nathan had done the same thing to another guy in their friend group that night (Logan) and he hadn’t seemed to be affected by it. Peter said that his friend group seemed to think he was overreacting to what happened, that he should just let it go. He thought that they would likely not have the same response if the assault had happened to a female friend.

At the end of the pre-conference, Peter had decided that he did think the restorative justice process would be helpful to his healing journey and said that he would ask Nathan and their friend Jake (who is a ring leader within their group) to participate. My co-facilitator and I offered to help with these conversations, but Peter said he wanted to talk with them. This is a fairly unusual referral process, but because Peter was a self-referral, we were comfortable with him making the call on how to move forward.

Our pre-conference with Nathan was long and meaningful. He told us about his painful history with his dad and how it had come to a breaking point on the same day as the incident. He told us about how he drank to escape that pain and had realized that he had a problem with alcohol. He had been sober since that night and planned to continue not drinking. He said he didn’t remember the night, but that a couple weeks after it happened, when he still couldn’t figure out why Peter was so angry with him, a friend had told him the story of what he had done. When he said out loud to us that he had grabbed Peter’s penis he paused and said that it was the first time he had said out loud what he had done. It was a powerful moment of taking responsibility.

Our pre-conference with Jake was, in all honesty, a bit frustrating as a facilitator. Peter’s concern that his friends were not taking the incident seriously, likely in large part because he is a man, proved true in our conversation with Jake. We did our best to ask respectful and curious open-ended questions to encourage Jake to examine the sexist nature of his response. In retrospect, the co-facilitator and I both wished that we had scheduled one more pre-conference with Jake to dig deeper into those issues before moving forward with the process. However, we also knew that having the opportunity to hear Peter’s full story would impact him.

We met one more time with Peter for a second pre-conference before bringing everyone together in order to talk through exactly what he wanted to say to Nathan. Peter came to that meeting having written down everything he really wanted Nathan to hear. We went through it together to decide the questions I would ask him to help prompt him to share everything he needed to share. What was interesting was that the questions we arrived on from the process of him thinking through what he needed to say to Nathan matched exactly the questions we would normally ask the victim in a restorative justice process.

  • What happened?
  • How were you affected at the time?
  • How have you been impacted since?
  • How has this affected your relationship with friends and family?
  • What are the main issues for you?

The first part of the restorative justice process went beautifully. Nathan took responsibility for his actions and talked through some of the context of the issues with his dad, while explaining that he did not mean for that to be an excuse, just a part of the whole story. He talked about how terrible he felt when he heard what he did and how much Peter’s friendship meant to him. He talked about his decision to no longer drink and how helpful it had been. Nathan cried as Peter told his story and spoke about how it had affected him, both in the moment and the weeks since. Peter spoke about how angry he was with Nathan and about how at the root of that anger was the violation of trust by a long-time friend. They both had a chance to ask each other questions and Nathan made a genuine apology to Peter.

Peter also spoke about how feeling like his friends were judging his response was difficult and how he thought that they would have taken it more seriously if he were a woman. When it was Jake’s turn to speak, he talked about how he had thought through whether his reaction might be different if Peter were a female friend and said that he thought maybe it would be, and that he needed to look at that. In the next breath though, Jake talked about how, because the same thing hadn’t impacted Logan, it seemed like Peter had been overreacting. At this point, I had to interject as facilitator to remind Jake about the ground rule of respectful speech. I explained that part of respectful speech was not judging how other people respond to harmful events. He could speak about how he had been impacted, but could not pass judgment on how another person had been affected. Tone is particularly important in these moments of reinstating ground rules. This reminder was delivered in a gentle and non-judgmental tone. It was well received by Jake and he was able to reframe what he wanted to say to focus on impacts.

In the repairs phase, Peter and Nathan decided to spend some time together, but also to recognize that there will be good days and bad days and sometimes they may need some space. As a group, they also decided to have more sober events for the friend group to enjoy. By the end of the restorative justice process, each of the young men had expressed their gratitude to the others for the process and that it had been helpful. Nathan said that he originally had agreed to participate for Peter’s benefit, but that he had gotten a lot out of the experience himself. After we closed the circle, they all hugged and lingered around for a while talking before leaving the space together.

I worry that at the end of the process, Jake still didn’t fully get it. Masculinity narratives that tell Jake that Peter should just laugh it off, toughen up, and move on run deep, and caused further harm to Peter following the assault. Still, I saw that hearing the full, honest impact of the event straight from Peter helped to move this bias a bit. Beyond that, I think the simple act of sitting down together as three men to talk openly, honestly, and respectfully about what happened and the emotional impacts counters damaging narratives of masculinity in its own way. It was powerful to see these three young men being so open and vulnerable with each other. I hope that the very act of participating in the process itself will do its part to reinforce a masculinity that prizes open communication and emotional awareness.

Is Restorative Justice effective for Sexual Assault?

Type of process: Restorative Justice Conference

Conference Participants:

  • Impacted Party (Victim) – Cindy
  • Cindy’s Support Person- Amber
  • Responsibly Party (Offender) – Luke
  • Luke’s Support Person – Zane
  • Head of Hall – Ray
  • 2 Facilitators

Possible Criminal Charges: Sexual Assault

Referring agent: University Residential Life staff

Factual Synopsis: Luke sexually assaulted Cindy.

 Narrative:

The use of restorative justice for cases of sexual assault has been an area of ongoing debate within the field. Some practitioners feel that the power difference present in cases of sexual violence mean that it is unfit for a restorative justice response. In New Zealand, Project Restore has made great strides in adapting the restorative justice process to make it safe for those who have experienced sexual harm. In the US, the Campus PRISM Project is also doing great work promoting restorative initiatives to address sexual misconduct on university campuses. The use of restorative justice for cases of sexual violence has shown positive results, aiding in the healing journey of victims, increasing offender understanding and accountability for wrongdoing, and preventing reoccurrence.

Sexual violence is devastatingly prevalent, and many victims choose not to report incidents of sexual harm because the investigation and court process can cause so much additional harm. Additionally, because it is often people known to the victim who commit sexual violence, some victims may be reluctant to report the crime. They often do not want to the offender to suffer the punitive consequences that may negatively impact the rest of his/her life. Particularly in the wake of the #MeToo movement, there is growing support for the option of restorative justice to be made available to victims of sexual violence. For some victims, what they really want after an experience of sexual assault is for the offender to know how they were affected and for it to never happen again to them or other women.

It was the second week of the university school year when Cindy came back to the residential hall from drinking with her friends. She did not want to go to sleep yet and her friend Luke invited her to come hang out in his room. They sat down on his bed. Luke was sober and Cindy was highly intoxicated. Eventually, Luke started touching Cindy underneath her underwear. Cindy said it took her a moment to realize what was happening, but once she did she got up and left the room. The next morning, Luke texted Cindy to say he was sorry if anything happened last night that she didn’t want to happen.

Cindy tried to put the incident out of her head over the coming weeks, but it weighed on her. She struggled with depression and self-harming and found it hard to focus. She had seen a counselor, but still was struggling to heal. She avoided Luke in the hall, but lived in fear of running into him. It was in conversation with a friend weeks later that she realized that what had happened to her was sexual assault. Her friend, Amber, encouraged her to tell the RA what happened. The RA then reported the incident to the Head of Hall, Ray.

When the Head of Hall met with Cindy, they talked through what happened and her options moving forward. They could contact the police and file charges against Luke for sexual assault. Cindy did not want to do that, she expressed that what she really wanted was for Luke to know how awful it had been for her and to make sure he never did it again. Ray explained the restorative justice option and Cindy said she would like to meet with the facilitators to learn more. Ray also met with Luke, who said he would be willing to participate in the restorative justice process. In the mean time, Ray moved Luke onto another far away floor so that Cindy wouldn’t have to worry about seeing him.

Cindy’s friend Amber came with her to meet with my co-facilitator and I. They told us the story of what happened and Cindy shook and cried, saying again that she just needed Luke to know how much what he had done had affected her. Amber was very angry with Luke and said she had often felt like hurting him when she saw him. More than anything, she wanted her friend to feel better. After hearing the story and the devastating effect the assault had on her life, we explained in detail what a restorative justice process would look like and answered Cindy’s questions. In the end, Cindy decided that she wanted to go forward with the process.

Luke came to the pre-conference with a new friend, Zane, as his support. Many of his friends from the first few weeks of the year had been unwilling to talk with him since word of what he had done to Cindy had spread. Luke was suffering from what many perpetrators of sexual assault are experiencing in the #MeToo era; he had been exiled for his behavior.

There is, I think, a natural urge to exile someone who has caused this sort of harm. It is part of how we have traditionally expressed that we find a behavior abhorrent and will not tolerate it in our community. In a tight community like a residential hall, it is also likely a way of showing the victim that she is loved and cared for, even if the exile isn’t what she wanted. It is an incredibly positive thing that in the #MeToo era, more and more stories of sexual assault are being told. Increasingly though, it is clear that if we were to continue exiling the men who have committed sexual violence, we would soon have very few left. We need to find a way to pursue justice, while also prioritizing healing and reintegrating for all parties, and above all else, educating men about consent and shifting cultural narratives and gender roles so that they encourage respectful sexual relationships. We also need to fix porn. Particularly in the university context, it is increasingly apparent to me how many of men’s dangerous views and behaviors in regards to sex may originate in the portrayal of sex in porn, which is rarely consensual, and often one of their only sources of information. Rarely do boys and young men have the opportunity for honest, open conversation about how to be respectful sexual partners.

The impulse to exile also causes significant harm to the offender. Luke said that since the word had spread about what he did to Cindy, he had been severely depressed and had considered suicide. He said again and again that what he had done is not who he is or who he wants to be. He spoke about how he wished he could take back that night, how he couldn’t believe what he had done. We arranged for Luke to meet a couple times with a counselor before moving forward with the restorative justice meeting so that he could work through some of the pain he had experienced and be ready to hear how Cindy had been affected. After a few meetings, we spoke with Luke again and he said he was ready to move forward.

When we brought Cindy, Luke, Amber, Zane and Ray together for the restorative justice conference, there was a feeling of extreme tension and nervousness in the air. Luke was very remorseful as he told the story of what had happened, but it was clear that he didn’t understand the full impact his actions had on Cindy. Cindy cried as she spoke about her experience that night and her struggles since then, letting it all out. Amber spoke about her anger with Luke and how she felt scared when she heard about him texting another girl who was also a friend of hers. In one powerful moment, Luke explained that he was only texting that girl because he had been worried about her getting home safe because she was walking around late at night alone. Cindy interrupted him crying as she said, “So you were worried about the exact same thing happening to her that you did to me? … We don’t need you to walk us home, women are fine by ourselves and we have each other.” The message was clear and powerful: women don’t need protection; all they need is for men to cease the violence against them and to treat them with respect.

The conversation about impacts continued for a long time. The participants had a chance to ask each other questions, to explain the extent of the devastation that had resulted from that night. There were many moments of silence as the powerful realizations that unfolded settled in. Luke apologized many times for what he had done and was visibly impacted by what he learned in the process.

When we moved to talk about ideas for repair, Cindy said she really had just wanted the apology and to move forward. She said she wanted Luke to feel like he could go to the dining hall and live his life, she didn’t want him exiled, though she also didn’t want to specifically interact with him in the future. They agreed to give each other space. Amber said she still felt a lot of anger, though it had lessened a bit, but was happy to do whatever Cindy needed. Ray suggested that Luke continue seeing the counselor to examine some of his thought patterns that had led to the assault. Ray also suggested that Luke read a book about consent and said that he would read it with him, so that they could meet each week to talk about the book and what they had learned. The whole circle agreed with these ideas and felt that it was a good way to ensure nothing like this happened again. Luke had also come with an apology letter for Cindy, which he gave her, saying that she could choose if she wanted to read it or not.

In the final circle, each participant expressed how grateful he or she was for the opportunity to talk through what happened and that they felt better moving forward. Comparing the feeling in the room to the beginning of the conference, there was still certainly a strain between the two parties, but there was a sense of a weight having been lifted. A significant step towards healing and repair had been taken.

Restorative justice will certainly not be the best option for every case of sexual assault, but it should be an option. Like Cindy, some victims will want and need the opportunity to talk directly to the person who harmed them, in a safe and controlled space, to make sure that person understands the full extent of the harm caused, and never does it again. It is a process that honors and respects the experiences of all participants, rather than tearing them apart and doubting them like often happens to victims in sexual assault trials. It is a process that can transform and reintegrate offenders, rather than exiling them. It is a process that pursues justice and healing in equal measure, and for all involved. It is a process with so much to give at this point in human history.

The Power of Asking “What Happened?”

I recently had a pre-conference with man in his mid-forties who had been described to me as “prickly and difficult.” He had accosted two university staff members after not getting the outcome he wanted and was still very much so dwelling in the anger of the encounter, unable to take responsibility for his own negative behavior.

When we teach people about restorative justice, one of the biggest push-backs we get is about the issue of responsibility taking. A restorative justice process can only go forward if the person who caused harm is taking responsibility for their actions. Across the board, whether in the criminal justice system, the workplace, schools, or community groups, people being introduced to restorative justice often explain that a very high percentage of the people they work with do not take responsibility for the behavior, and therefore they worry that the potential of the restorative justice process is severely limited.

The answer to this concern, in my opinion, is to look carefully at the first interaction with people who are being approached on account of some negative behavior. Whether this is in the criminal justice system, a workplace or a school, often the first step is for the person who caused the harm to receive an (often written) declaration of exactly what they have done wrong. In criminal justice, this may be a police report or the criminal charges. In the workplace, it is often a letter from HR, letting them know there has been a complaint. In schools, it may be a summoning to the principal’s office, a letter home, or the documentation of disciplinary proceedings.

Rarely does the whole process begin by asking the person one simple question: “What happened?”

When we receive an outside account of our behavior, there is a natural urge to want to explain what happened, to push back against the partial-understanding of the incident. It isn’t the full truth, so it is easy to reject in the frustration of not being heard.

When we instead open the response to a negative incident by asking in a non-judgmental and authentically curious way, “What happened?” there is an opportunity to hear the whole story. In my experience, the person who caused the harm is far more likely to take responsibility for the negative behavior when it is understood in the context of the entire story.

After taking some time to build up relationship and trust with the client described above, I asked him to tell me what happened. What followed was a heart-wrenching account of a series of devastating occurrences in his own life that led up to the incident with the university staff. While not excusing the behavior, the history did help to contextualize it, and made the client feel seen as a full person outside of the one incident we were there to discuss. After sharing the contributing factors in his life, he was ultimately able to take responsibility and express remorse for the way he had harmed the staff members. We were then able to shift into talking about the impacts and brainstorming ideas for what he could do to make things right. However, none of that exploration would be possible without first giving him the chance to explain to caring and empathizing facilitators what happened.

 

Be Real, Love, Empathize: Insights for Facilitators from Carl Rogers

While restorative justice is not therapy, it often has therapeutic outcomes for participants. Particularly at the pre-conference stage, the facilitator’s role can feel akin to that of a therapist, helping to guide and support clients on their own journey towards healing, learning and growth.

This week, I have been reading some of Carl Rogers’ work in which he seeks to identify what elements or conditions are necessary in order for the client to experience positive therapeutic movement. Some of Rogers’ assertion deal with the necessary conditions of a therapist in order to facilitative positive change in a client. I find these necessary conditions highly applicable to the role of facilitators throughout the restorative justice process.

Specifically, Rogers identifies three conditions which when they occur in a therapist and are to some degree perceived by the client, will lead to progress and growth for the client. Each of these conditions is similarly an essential condition for restorative justice facilitators.

1. Congruence (“Be Real”)

“The therapist should be, within the confines of that relationship, a congruent, genuine, integrated person. It means that within the relationship he is freely and deeply himself, with his actual experience accurately represented by his awareness of himself. It is the opposite of presenting a façade, either knowingly or unknowingly. It is not necessary (nor is it possible) that the therapist be a paragon who exhibits this degree of integration, of wholeness, in every aspect of his life. It is sufficient that he is accurately himself in this hour of this relationship, that in this basic sense he is what he actually is, in this moment of time.” [1]

A facilitator, like a therapist, must “Be Real.” We all know from experience that there is nothing more off-putting than interacting with someone who you can sense is putting on a show, or is acting in a way that doesn’t align with their inner self. Maybe it is a false-sounding tone of voice or statements and gestures that feel more like a performance, those moments of un-realness can be unsettling and discourage the development of trust. Naturally, as a facilitator, there will be moment where something comes up and you have to keep calm on the outside while inside your wheels are turning to figure out what to do next, but I think there is still a way to manage that necessity while being real. A lot of this comes down to taking time before a pre-conference or conference to center yourself, to focus inward and notice your feeling and thoughts as they come up. Breathe deeply and connect with that inner most version of self where your wisdom and intuition reside. Then go into the process with that most genuine self in full expression rather than trying to act in a way you think you should or have seen others act. Come to the process with your real, true self shinning!

This also points to the importance of an ongoing practice of personal growth and discovery for all people, but especially for those in helping professions. As many wise teachers throughout the ages have explained, the cultivation of inner peace is an essential part of building peace in the world around us. For a beautiful account of the importance of this inner work in the peace builder’s journey, I recommend my friend Kathleen McGoey’s book. 

I appreciate that Rogers notes that it is impossible to be in this state of congruence at all times or in every aspect of our lives. It is a life-long journey to learn how to live more and more in authenticity. However, when you have the honor of facilitating a deeply transformative and healing process for clients, it is so important to take the time to bring yourself to that place. When facilitating conferences, I generally schedule myself at least 45 minutes prior to the beginning of the conference in which I have nothing else to do. This allows me time to arrive early, set up the space, and also take some time in meditation, focusing on my breath and checking in with my thoughts and energy, centering myself for the process ahead.

2. Unconditional Positive Regard (“Love”)

“When the therapist is experiencing a warm, positive and acceptant attitude toward what is in the client, this facilitates change. It involves the therapist’s genuine willingness for the client to be whatever feeling is going on in him at that moment, – fear, confusion, pain, pride, anger, hatred, love, courage, or awe. It means that the therapist cares for the client, in a non-possessive way. It means that he prizes the client in a total rather than a conditional way.  By this I mean that he does not simply accept the client when he is behaving in certain ways, and disapprove of him when he behaves in other ways. It means an outgoing positive feeling without reservation, without evaluations.” [2]

At a restorative justice conference a few years ago, I saw Dr. Cornel West speak and at the center of his speech was this wonderful explanation: “Justice is what love looks like in public.” In order to help people, we must love them. People are more likely to change for the better when they sense that they are loved and accepted no matter what. The behavior may be seen as bad, but the person is still innately good and accepted.

This point relates closely to the dynamic of shame in the restorative justice process. As we know, offenders are often vilified and face what legal scholar John Braithwaite termed “stigmatizing shame.”[3] When an offender is degraded through shame, it poses a threat to his or her identity. The offender is likely to respond by rejecting the rejector (mainstream society) and the rules valued by the rejector (the law). A solution to this isolation is to turn to criminal subcultures, which provide a culture of pride in delinquency, as well as personal connections and resources. In this way, stigmatization of offenders perpetuates criminal behavior and ultimately makes communities less safe.

The only way to stop this destructive cycle of shame, is to learn to love the person who caused harm unconditionally, separating the person from the behavior. Learning to love those who have caused harm I feel is one of the greatest human lessons, and it is certainly not easy. It is a lesson put into practice by many of the most powerful leaders throughout human history including Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and Jesus. It is a difficult practice to learn to meet clients and hear their stories while holding this unconditional positive regard, and to learn how to not try to use your approval or disapproval to shape their behavior, but it is so necessary for effective facilitation. It is also in alignment with a restorative worldview, which sees all people as innately good and unconditionally worthy of love.

3. Empathetic Understanding (“Empathize”)

“When the therapist is sensing the feelings and personal meanings which the client is experiencing in each moment, when he can perceive these from ‘inside,’ as they seem to the client, and when he can successfully communicate something of that understanding to his client, then this third condition is fulfilled.” [4]

The final condition that Rogers emphasizes is empathy. This also relates to the dynamics of shame within the restorative justice process. Another of my favorite thinkers, Dr. Brené Brown, has said, “Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy.” When we are able to genuinely feel and express empathy to victim, offender, and communities of care, it helps to transform that shame into healing and a motivation to work towards making things right.

In my experience, the more you facilitate and the more you have the opportunity to practice putting yourself in the shoes of each participant in a restorative justice process and really feeling what they feel, the easier this becomes. It is something that must be practiced, and a skill that I hope that schools will emphasize to a greater degree in the future, because I see it as one of the most essential skills to being human.

There are, of course, other important skills, understandings, and abilities that contribute to good restorative justice facilitation. However, the three conditions outlined by Rogers seem like a powerful starting point. If we can learn to be real, to love, and to empathize with the people we work with, we are at a powerful starting point for facilitating positive transformation.

 

[1] Carl Rogers, “The Necessary and Sufficient Conditions of Therapeutic Personality Change,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 60, no. 6 (1992): 828.

[2] On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy (London: Constable & Company Ltd. , 1961), 62.

[3] John Braithwaite, Crime, Shame and Reintegration (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

[4] Rogers, 62.