Community-Based, Victim-Centred Restorative Justice for Sexual Violence – A Pilot

Ass Prof Bebe Loff1, Dr Liz Bishop2, Ass Prof Bronwyn Naylor3

1 Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights, Monash University, 1/549 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 3004

2 Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights, Monash University, 1/549 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 3004

3 Centre for Law, RMIT, GPO Box 2576 Melbourne 3001

It has been reliably established that the majority of survivor-victims (SVs) of sexual violence choose not to participate in the formal criminal justice system. Of the small number of SVs who choose to report an offence to police, there is also substantial attrition as cases move through the criminal process. If a case does go to trial, an SV is likely to face a punishing cross-examination and further traumatisation. Ultimately very few SVs have their complaints heard by a court and see their assailant sentenced. We agree with commentators who assert that no amount of reform will produce a formal criminal justice system capable of effectively responding to cases of sexual violence for which little or no evidence is available beyond the survivor-victim’s word.

Our project, the first of its kind globally, is an SV-centred restorative justice (RJ) intervention, adult SVs have been given the opportunity to describe the violence experienced by them and its impact to a group of people, including when possible, the person/s responsible for the violence, and have them acknowledge and take responsibility for the harm that has been done.

We have conducted quantitative and qualitative evaluations of the intervention, with respect to its impact on the participating parties, its ability to deliver a sense of justice, and the practicability of the overall process and its component parts.

This paper will disseminate the results of this research and its potential to inform legal policy and practice in this area.


Liz is a lecturer and researcher at the Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights where we undertake research that critically examines the contribution of human rights and law to the realisation of good health, particularly amongst vulnerable communities in Australia and in the developing world.

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