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What is Restorative Justice?

What is Restorative Justice?​

  • Restorative Justice is a voluntary, facilitated, supported process of contact between someone who has been harmed and the person who caused that harm.

  • Both parties must consent voluntarily, can withdraw at any time and at no point should either party be offered any kind of incentive to participate

  • The needs of the person harmed are at the centre of the process.  They can set the pace, choose their facilitator and stop the process at any time.  Preparation and the contact itself are both flexible to this person’s needs and aims.

  • The person who has done the harm has to acknowledge the harm, and take responsibility for the harm for RJ to proceed.

  • RJ is not quick, it involves many steps including suitability risk assessment, emotional preparatory work and after-care support.  It can be halted by any participant or by the practitioner at any time.

  • Contact can take many forms – such as face-to-face meetings or facilitated letter writing.  It may also include facilitated family circles, in which the person who directly did the harm may not be involved, but where the consequences of the harm have had a wider impact on family dynamics and communication that the person harms wants to address.

What is not RJ?
  • It is not an alternative to the criminal justice system

  • It is not compulsory, ever

  • It is not about apologies or forgiveness (although these things may happen)

  • It is not mediation where parties enter as equals.  Entire process is based on acknowledging that one person was harmed, and the other person caused that harm.

How RJ can help in cases of sexual harm?


  • It can help the person harmed to:

    • Get answers – by asking questions such as ‘why me?’, ‘how could you?’

    • Claim their voice – get an opportunity to let the person who did the harm know the impact of their action, and what they think of them

    • Be seen – showing the person harmed that their actions have not had a long lasting effect, or how their personal resilience has grown

    • Retake control – the person harmed can choose to be the first person to speak; emphasising that the person who did the harm is accountable to them directly in this process; and that their needs take precedence.

    • Move forward – reach agreement on how to move forward, particularly if it is impossible to cut the person who has harmed from life. E.g. family connections.


  • It can help the person who has done the harm to:

    • Take genuine acceptance and accountability for the harm

    • Provide motivation to participate in therapeutic treatment

    • Support desistence

Sexual Harm and RJ


  • Cases involving sexual harm raise unique concerns:

    • Power dynamic

    • Stigma and shame

    • Relational context

    • Long shadow of trauma

    • Offenders may be highly manipulative, coercive control can be difficult to identify


  • Where there is no service, people may seek conversations informally, without the appropriate risk assessment, support, safety planning and facilitation – placing themselves at risk.



  • The importance and benefits of enabling victims/survivors of harm to access RJ services was highlighted in the recent APPG report (12477 Restorative Justice Inquiry Report v3.indd ) which looked into how RJ services were working in England and Wales.



Thriving Survivors National Service


  • The Thriving Survivors Service is being set up to offer a safe, trauma-informed service to people harmed who want to explore restorative justice.  Practitioners within this service will be trained not just in RJ but in the relevant case-specific additional skills required to support cases involving sexual harm.


  • A working group of survivors will be involved in the design of the service – including inputting into training and risk frameworks.


  • A risk framework will be created for facilitating sensitive cases that will have the needs of the person harmed at the centre, be fully trauma-informed, and in line with existing Restorative Justice Guidance and codes of practice.


  • A range of services will be developed that will support all survivors who approach the hub for support.  These may include:

    • Conferencing - safe space for survivors to participate in restorative conversations with others who were involved or have been affected by the harm (e.g. friends and family members). The person who harmed could be involved in this, but it can also take part without.

    • Healing Circle - Restorative meetings with bodies such as Police and COPFS dealing with the secondary victimisation that often takes place after experiencing trauma.

    • Restorative Story Telling and Processes - For those who do not have a conviction and an RJ process is too risky, offering storytelling and processing will allow a survivor to fully understand the impact and harm caused and therefore be able to take on a process of self-development and self-restoration

Please download our full RJ Guide - 

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