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She says that her organization discussed the idea of restorative justice for four years before implementing it in their work. As her group was starting in the early s, Gaarder says the American criminal-justice system was still coming around to the idea that violence between partners was actually a crime. The first Violence Against Women Act was signed into law in At the time, Gaarder says, some of her colleagues worried that restorative justice could make a situation worse for an abused woman.

But ultimately, they decided, trying something and potentially failing was better than doing nothing to fix a problem. And it said something about how powerless so many of us feel in order to stop [abuse]. Although research has shown that African American women suffer disproportionately high rates of domestic violence, Kim explains, current movements like Black Lives Matter illustrate a lack of trust between communities of color and the police who are supposed to protect them.

Restorative justice, she says, could provide another way.

The Criminal Justice Response to Intimate Partner Violence: Limitations and Possibilities

Their most recent separation lasted seven months, ending when they reconciled this past July. She and Jason are still married.

Sometimes, she says, she sobs through the entire thing. But in late August, her face was hard as she sat onstage with two other survivors, waiting to tell her story to an audience of two dozen men—young and old, some in tucked-in shirts, some in cargo shorts and camouflage hats. Before the panel discussion began, Johnston explained the ground rules: The three women would speak, and at the end the men could ask questions.

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The room was silent. Johnston looked around the room nervously. When she was finished talking, a man in the audience raised his hand. We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters theatlantic. The men nodded.


Can Restorative Justice Work in Domestic-Violence Cases? - The Atlantic

For your part? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 19 percent of women in America will be raped, 15 percent will be stalked, and 22 percent will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. The Violence Against Women Act was the first law dedicated to ending that brutality. But the single greatest beneficiary of the act is the criminal legal system. The money was used to train law enforcement and judges, develop policies for improved handling of domestic violence cases, encourage collaboration between community service providers and law enforcement, and staff law enforcement agencies with victim liaisons.

Although rates of domestic violence have fallen steadily since the legislation was enacted in , the decrease in rates may not be a result of the act. Initially, those declines mirrored decreases in the overall crime rate.

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And between and , rates of domestic violence actually fell less than the drop in the overall crime rate — at a time when VAWA was pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the criminal system. Criminologists question whether the criminal law serves as a general deterrent for any kind of crime. Criminalizing domestic violence exacerbates some of the factors that cause it in the first place.

Research shows that under- and unemployed men are more likely to commit domestic violence. Incarceration is traumatic; inmates are regularly victims of, or witnesses to, violence. Upon release, men who have been incarcerated for domestic violence bring that trauma back into their communities and their intimate relationships. Trauma is closely linked to committing domestic violence. Domestic violence is more common in low-income, unstable communities. These are the kinds of communities created when significant proportions of their residents have been incarcerated.

At its passage in , 62 percent of VAWA money was dedicated to the criminal system; 38 percent funded social services.

Incorporating feminist theory and insights into a restorative justice response to sex offenses.

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