After being part of a tense or hurtful situation, why would anyone want to sit across from the person that hurt them?
Mainly, people need to know why things happened the way they did?
Just the power to ask questions that allow students to understand or at least know what was in the other persons mind is powerful. Students want to be seen as human beings. They also want to express how the actions of a person have affected their lives and the lives of the people around them. The hurt can be material, physical, time wasted, loss of class time or privilege. No matter how we categorize the hurt, it is just that, something unpleasant that they are interrupting their life to work through and was no fault of their own. So, why wouldn’t they want to have that conversation if the setting was safe and they had support people surrounding them?
Restorative Justice Conferencing allows a person the perfect safe setting to express affect while being supported by people close to them. They are encouraged to exchange the difficulties and impact the action has had on their and others lives. This exchange is cathartic and empowers the victim to regain a feeling of wholeness again. Normally students feel autonomous and free to learn and engage their fellow students with openness. When they are involved in an incident they did not provoke or initiate that autonomy is robbed from them and they begin to view school in a different light. It might take the shape of fear, over cautiousness, withdraw, depression, drop in grades, etc.
Conferencing addresses this loss of autonomy head-on by asking the questions the victim needs to ask. Clarifying the confusion and having a part in deciding the outcome of the discipline or actions the offender will take to best heal the situation reinstates the empowerment and freedom to determine one’s own actions. This is a valuable result that surveyed victim’s say they need.
Safety and support open the door for victims to consider participation. Conferencing ensures both are accommodated. Knowing these provisions are in place, victims are fully willing to engage and use the process.
Many people challenge the statement of “healing” the harm. They infer that true healing is impossible. To whatever degree the victim can find peace through a process is considered healing. If we hang our hats on that people can never return to that place they were before the incident and do nothing, we will find that we are leaving them in even a deeper hole. The idea is to not “re-victimize” but to move beyond the state where the victim was found; healing is moving away from that hurt in a positive direction. Indeed a complete return to the former self might be impossible, but only as much as it is impossible for all programs and practices to render a person to their exact previous condition. Our conferencing program goes to all ends to positively accommodate the victim, offender and community as a place for healing. This global outreach is the genius of the process and is at your disposal. Consider conferencing for your students with the next breach of the code of conduct.