Restorative Justice Conferencing the key for victims is in one question.

Key’s open doors.  They open more than that, I’ve always loved the phrase “a key to my heart”.  To me, that means the release of passion or the transformation of your heart.  When we open our hearts, we stop with ourselves and connect to another.

I recently pulled out my copy of Listening Project, and thought it would help me to review it.  I played a game with myself and memorized the 6 core needs of victims.  I wrote the first letter of each on the side of a finger tip.  First and foremost Safety, the rest are Information, Choice, Testimony, Validation and Restitution.  (I hope I nailed that, I didn’t go open the link!). 

One area of Restorative Justice Professionalism I focus on, is remembering ALL victims.  Some victims do not get a victim-witness worker through the prosecutor’s office.  The list of Victims Rights for Wisconsin is very court-room, criminal justice system process orientated.  That’s good, victims need support and help navigating that.  What I do is restorative justice, and in striving to do that well for all victims I have experienced a conferencing question that is KEY.

The prepared questions I use are pretty standard.  I use the IIRP cards.  The question that gets to the heart of it is “what has been the hardest thing for you”.  I love how personalized this is. 

“The hardest thing for YOU“.

I’ve heard beauty is in the eye of the behold and that harm is in the eye of the beholder.  After hundreds of pre-conference meetings and conference sessions I see this question really turn things for a conference.  The victim gets to express their deepest concerns.  They get to relate the crime in the manner that impacts them.

I tune in deeply here for what might make it right.  There was an accidental discharge of a gun, but it was pointed at the teen girl.  The bullet pierced her hand, lodged in her skull.  She had to stay calm for weeks, no reading, video games, nothing to keep her brain calm.  She had to go to physical therapy for the hand, she couldn’t do basketball camp.  She had to answer question after question about what happened, why her hand was casted.  Many aspects of her life were impacted (as covered in the question, just before this key question).  The hardest part for her was when the medical team cut off her jeans.

We know our weakest moments.  I believe we ‘bookmark’ them mentally for survival.  Victims know what is the hardest part, because it is likely the memory or the piece that continues to haunt them and linger around.  The more serious the harm, certainly the deeper and more layers of what is hardest.

Restorative Justice gives victims, protected space (safety) to speak (testimony) what they (choice) determine is the hardest.  The restorative justice conference can move towards making things right (validation & restitution) after knowing this information.

Use this key question in Restorative Conferencing and when working with people hurt or impacted.  Ask parents of juveniles or even the offender, the answers will reveal to you, the things people need support around.