Beyond Apology? Domestic Violence and Critical Questions for Restorative Justice

Julie Stubbs, University of Sydney

This paper will explore key issues that remain under-developed in the retorative justice literature from the perspective of victim's interests and victim safety. In particular the paper will draw on empirical research concerning domestic violence, including the emerging literature on men's responses to their violence, to demonstrate the need to temper the enthusiasm for restorative justice by asking some hard questions about its practices. Central to this analysis are questions of safety, expectations about the victim's role in restorative justice, the appeal to apology and forgiveness, trust, accountability and resources.

The focus on victim's interests should not been understodd as promoting a punitive response nor as necessarily endorsing all aspets of victim's rights campaigns. Nor should an expressed commitment to victim's interests be misunderstood as being unsympathetic to critical scholarship aimed towards minimising the harmful impact of criminal justice intervention on offenders, including men who perpetrate domestic violence. (I take it as the responsibility of any criminologist with a critical sensibility to challenge the unthinking reliance on criminal justice and law more generally, and to recognize its potential to have damaging effects. Likewise we need to resist the equally uncritical rejection of law and criminal justice as having nothing to offer.) However, it is in the interest of the future development of policy and practice in this domain to scrutinise the claims made by restorative scholars and to guard against harms that might be wrought by an uncritical embrace of restorative justice.

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Updated 05/20/2006