Domestic Violence. Restorative practitioner responds. Openly.

I was taken back this morning, my favorite blogger posted a shocking photo of a bruise and  disclosed domestic violence.  I was shocked on so many levels. The photo she picked to go with her blog post, the fact a successful career woman would be doubting herself and staying in a violent relationship. The link to her post, I will be referring to “the post” but not providing any other links to it.

I did what we as humans do, I thought about myself.  I’m not gonna lie, the “blame the victim, for not leaving” judgement entered my mind.  It entered because I spent one night in a shelter about 16 years ago.  That was all it took, one instance of being shoved around.  My situation was complicated, I wanted out of the marriage.  I got the heck out and never looked back.  Well I did look back, as I drove away from our home one last time, Bon Jovi was on the radio “you give love a bad name”.  I don’t know why I was able to break away.  I was fortunate with support from my family.

Today, 16 years later I am a Restorative Justice practitioner, and I see a space for Restorative Justice in domestic violence.  It was with my Restorative Justice lenses and my life experience I viewed the blog post today.

The “post” has nearly 300 comments on it.  Reading it was almost like hearing the community voice and response.  You certainly get the victims side by reading the post.  One person commented a suggestion that Penelope quit rewinding her victim tape.  Someone else called the police and reported it.  Several people weighed in on the photo.

The old adage, hurt people, hurt people.  The wounds of our past can haunt us.  Trauma needs to be addressed.  When done carefully, and with much preparation Restorative Justice can help people heal.  I am not advocating for RJ with an actively abusive person.  There are models for child protection and surrogate dialogue.  I believe that when we are given a voice in a safe environment we can change.  Change is healing – change for victims and change for offenders.  Giving things voice, expressing yourself to others, moving past, telling the story.  Identifying what you need to repair the harm.  Do what you need to do to not perpetuate further wrong-doing or harm, to yourself or others.  These are the things when done very carefully and with experienced professionals – that Restorative Justice can bring to domestic violence.

I am so thankful for the local efforts to prevent domestic violence.  I am thankful for the experience and time I spent as a volunteer advocate in a shelter.  I am thankful that a shelter was available for me to spend one night in, 16 years ago.  This morning, reading the blog post of someone I admire, who is staying in an abusive relationship, hurt my heart.  My hope here, in sharing this blog post, is that some awareness around the urgency of the issue of domestic violence will be noted.  My second hope is for people to recognize that trauma needs to be addressed, no one can stop you from healing.  Restorative Justice is one of many avenues to help people heal from the hurts of life.

National Hotline:


River Falls:


Running a Restorative Justice Nonprofit – fuel of worry or full of faith?

A New Year – a time where we update our referral forms, prepare new schedules, touch up evaluation forms, start a new budget.  For the last two years St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice has been down sizing in space and staff while sessions have been added.  What we earn in fees barely covers the expense of operation.  Funding from grants has declined.  We are living the way many are “do more with less”.

From a fortune cookie:

Energy is equal to desire and purpose.

I have a lot of energy and passion for Restorative Justice, my desire for a successful mission and purposeful outcomes is at 110% most days.  My energy doesn’t cover payroll, rent or operating costs.  Just as SCVRJP has limited financial resources.  I have limited energy.  How I engage the energy of others is crucial right now.  From board members, session volunteers, friends and supportors of SCVRJP, this new year, will require us to lean on faith and abandon worry.

Worry doesn’t get much done.  Faith, will help us remember to be thankful for what we have.  Faith will help us make wise choices about our energy and resources.  Faith will draw others in, and worry may very well scare them off.

Restorative Justice asks a lot of people.  Acknowledging the wrong, or sharing how you were impacted takes courage.  The journey to healing, to repairing to growing is not always easy.  Restorative Justice takes faith in humanity.  Restorative Justice takes faith in the good of others.  You still do the work, you still prepare, you challenge your wounds with values.  You nuture life (yours and others) with acknowledging that we all make mistakes we can all be better.  No one can stop you from wanting more from your life.  No one can stop you from making changes that make things better for you and for those around you.

Oh ugh, I am going to have to practice what I blog!  I learned that a good blog includes an ah-ha moment.  Well this is mine, and hopefully yours.  Running a Restorative Justice non-profit takes faith.  The same type of faith needed for Restorative Justice!

  • Faith in others – I trust good people will support the program, with time, talents or cash!
  • Faith in the future – I trust SCVRJP will be around another 11 years and many more!
  • Faith in yourself – I trust I can manage my resources wisely (including reducing my worry)

I plan to do some research on successful Restorative Justice programs – independent nonprofits, programs within institutions and to examine, what common themes are involved in successful programs.  In partnership with my coursework – (PhD in nonprofit administration) I hope to provide a model or structure that brings success to nonprofits providing Restorative Justice.

What do you think?  What agency comes to mind, when I ask you about a successful Restorative Justice Program?

Living the mission, why a Restorative Justice nonprofit exists. When people do the right thing, it takes care of the future.

Email subject line: I really need some help

Email:  I attended a class at the Restorative justice center about 4 years ago for underage drinking. I am 23 years old now and have been trying to enlist in the military but my non-wise adolescent decisions are holding me back. I have jumped through many hoops to clear up my name and prove myself for the military. I need proof for my recruiter that I have completed an alcohol class otherwise I will not be able to enlist in the Army National Guard. I do not have any paperwork showing that I successfully completed a class with your program. I realize that it is my fault for not holding on to my documentation and I apologise for the inconvenience sincerely, but I am hoping that someone will be able to get back to me as soon as they can and help me get the proper documentation to accomplish a life goal. I am looking forward to hearing back from someone. This is very important to me. I just need to know how to find the proper paperwork. I am almost always available by phone but email is ok too.

I believe in the good of people, and I saw the responsibility in this email.  Mistakes should not permanently close doors for people.  This young man references a life goal and how important getting into the military is for him.  I know the benefits of the National Guard, I am aware of our military culture and climate right now.  This young man wants to serve his Country and our program has paperwork to help him.  I got to my garage and started to go through the dented file cabinet and the storage boxes.  My only lead was that he thought he attended on November 6, but was unsure of what year.  I found the documentation.

He was so happy, to hear the news.  He knew I was going to a box in my garage, he thought it would take a few weeks, not a few days.  He noted that the day he attended was his 19th birthday.  I told him he made a wise decision to spend his birthday at the Underage Consumption Panel.  He said it was a good class, he thanked me, told me this allows him to enlist. I asked his permission to write a blog post, and asked for more of his story.

He said at the time, he just thought it was a “stupid class” and now because he went he can enlist.  He’s a college student now, he comes from a family of military men, he found out that “screwing off was not working”.  He explained that when you are young, you don’t think your tickets are going to follow you.  He thought by the time you want a career or to go into the military it will just be forgotten.  He had positive things to say about our program, he mentioned seeing on our website that we take volunteers.  That opened the door, and I told him he was especially qualified to come to a Circle and share his perspectives.  I enclosed a volunteer application when I mailed him a copy of his verification.

He told me I made his day.  I told him he made mine.  He came to the class.  He confirms that people find the path, all the work of our volunteers, our staff, the agencies that refer youth to us, the victims who share stories and those that help in order to make amends.  They help SCVRJP live the mission.  You might make a lot of mistakes, but if you do the right thing, it can help you in the future.

In Life and in Restorative Justice, shame is a gift; feeling and friendship lead to healing.

A good night’s rest really helps me out.  I’ve got one of those monkey minds.  A “monkey mind” is a Buddist term, rather than staying in the present moment, my thoughts leap from one to another as a monkey leaps from tree to tree.  When I first wake up, I get a moment before the monkey jumping begins!  This morning, things merged and I realized the gift of shame.  Three things merged for me, concepts of shame, a book of stories and a lesson in friend-ing.

From Brene Brown, I learned shame, is the fear of disconnection.  I also learned that the less you talk about it the more you have it.  I love Brene Brown,  here is her TED TALK, “The power of vulernability”, I highly recommend viewing it.  I wrote a blog post and shared her work, earlier this year.

In that context and understanding of shame, I am reading “Wounded Warriors A Time For Healing” by Doyle Arbogast.   From the back cover:

14 personal stories of Native Americans whose pathway to healing has been found
within the beauty and spirituality of their own cultural heritage.  Their lives today reflect responsibility, honor,
and dignity.

I experience life deeply and I have to read these stories
slowly.  The trauma related is real, severe and very directly related to the reader. I get overwhelmed with emotion when the story gets to the ‘watershed
moment’, the decision to pursue healing, sobriety and the embracing of cultural values and spiritual practice.  I believe those individual decisions, those moments of change are miracles.

Similar to the miracles that can happen in Restorative Justice, a moment of deciding that healing is the path.  I blog about this further in the post: The will to live is the will to heal.  We marvel at the miracle a caterpillar makes to a butterfly and we as humans can make those transformations at any time! (Took that from a recent Facebook update).

The third thing that helped me realize that shame is a gift, was a gift in itself.  I’ve been told about a Native American tradition, belief or practice, not exactly sure what you would call it, it is connected to the book above.  Our basic responses, fight, flight, freeze, you read about those responses all the time.  There is a fourth, to friend.  To friend that thing, to reach out your hand, to shake hands, to get to know it, to find out as much as you can, to treat it kindly.  This concept made sense and resonates with me.  The individuals in the stories shared in Wounded Warriors, have gone on to help others as counselors, mentors, educators.   The sharing of their stories, was part of their healing process.  They experienced the feelings to get to healing.   I believe the friend-ing process was part of the feeling.

The gift of shame, is that it points us to what we need to friend.  The gift of shame is that it lets us know
where our disconnection is felt.  Shame lets us know where our healing can be found.

This is a personal and professional intersection.  As Restorative Justice practitioners we can help others and help ourselves with this knowledge.  To help ourselves and others, we need to become comfortable with shame, our own and others. Restorative Justice is about healing.  Healing is fascinating, simple and complex.  Healing is individual and universal.

This monkey just sat on a branch with shame, and neither of us left the same.


Trained teachers offer what Restorative Justice Circles “bridge”.

  I appreciate Sharon Bowman, she has a resource-filled website, great articles and books.  If you follow her on LinkedIn, great powerpoints shared.  Friend and mentor, pictured here, helped me learn how to work and train teachers.  In turn I teach all I can about Circles to her.  She recommended Sharon’s book, the 10 minute trainer.  The activity produced some great results, both in the flow of the training and the reinforcement of Restorative Justice Circles in schools.

I appreciated the side effects of using activities and exercises when training.  The audience is more engaged, the individual perspectives and understanding of the information is reflected by the activities.  The unpredictable-ness feeds my spontaneous style.  I can add a story, or go with explaining concept and it appears in response to the room conversation (vs my deviation from a planned agenda or powerpoint).

This post is a summary of what a group of teacher trainee’s developed in response to the exercise of completing the sentance: Circles are a bridge between ___(blank)___ & ___(blank)___.  Before this exercise, the training group had experienced a circle, heard an introduction on restorative justice and covered the basic facilitation skill-set.  Just a shameless plug – I am happy to provide a training for your district or agency, click here.

Circles are a bridge between . . .

Hurting & Healing

Having a Voice & Being Invisible

Hostility & Harmony

In Individual Heart & Community

A Problem & A Solution

Your Frown & Your Smile

Challenges & Solutions

Fears & Security

Chaos & Harmony

Conflict & Harmony

Conflict & Reconciliation

Whitewater Rapids & Reflection Pool

Peace & Chaos

School & Stewardship (& back, like a Circle)

I have to give this group an A+!

Consider this list an endorsement for the potential Restorative Services outcomes.  How would this list impact your school culture and climate?

Women, love, storytelling and healing.

Four generations of women in one small hospital room.  I took a mental picture, and appreciated the beauty and gift; the four of us in this moment.  We had even mentioned it to the nurse.   As soon as the nurse left, the humor, so prevalent in our family set it.  My daughter was warned by her grandmother, “don’t make it 5 anytime soon”!  We enjoyed the laughter and I felt the Circle of life.

Daughter and I came as quickly as we could, hearing the news Great-grandma was sick.  When I heard my Mom call, and she was crying, I knew it was time to come and be part of whatever was ahead of us, as a family.

Thankfully, as it stands now, Great-grandma is much better.  She is someone I’ve known my entire life.  She was born and raised in the same rural area, farm friends, as a crow flies, the next ranch over.  My Mother (who died when I was 20) was friends with Great-grandma before she was technically my Grandma by marriage.  My Dad, remarried and after 23 years of being step-Mom, I call her Mom.  I’ve found a way to balance a loyalty to my Mother who adopted and raised me, while also allowing the love and space that stepMom has shown me, to be Mom as well.  As a restorative justice practitioner, I work on aspects of my life that allow more love and healing for those around me.

Great-grandma loves me as grand-daughter and my daughter as a great-grand-daughter.  When my daughter showed up with purple hair (long story) Great-grandma simply said “well, that’s the style now”.  We appreciated her loving response.  When I saw the purple hair I said “where can we go to fix that”.

I believe the Mother-Daughter relationship can be the most meaningful and the most complex.  I want to recommend a book Mother, Heal My Self, by JoEllen Koerner.  The book is subtitled An Intergenerational Healing Journey Between To WorldsThe book is recommended for nursing administrators, and further details link here, for the author, here.  I loved this book, I read it two days.  In the introduction the author quotes Barry Lopez:

. . . “sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.  That’s why we put these stories in each other’s memory.”

The story of Mother Heal Myself, is that type of story-gift.  I loved it, and felt the messages so deeply when I read it.  I thought about the book “the story” a lot,  the last few days.  I was spending time in the community where the book took place.  I was extremely aware that our family may have to cope with the loss of someone.  I was remembering that our loss would be her entry into Spirit world, and death brings a close examination of your beliefs.  I have a blog post, encouraging Restorative Justice practitioners to closely examine these beliefs before practicing cases that involve a death.

I carry the story of this book with me, I carry the stories of our relationships – Mother-Daughter: Eleanor and Alice, Mother-Daughter: Alice and Kris, Mother-Daughter: Kris and Kylie.  Like women everyone, none of these 4 are perfect, and we have loved our best and at times fallen short.  We’ve had to say I’m sorry, we’ve gotten opportunities to say I love you.  We said I love you a lot the last few days.

When family is there for each other it creates grace.  I love the word grace, and it means a way of being more than the situation calls for.  I believe it is “restorative-grace” when victims offer forgiveness, or give, in traumatic situations.  When you do more than needed or expected that is showing up and living the value of grace.  Giving with an unconditional and good heart is healing.  Women have an incredible capacity to heal.  Stories help us.  I hope the story of this blog post reminds you of your relationships, the love you share with family and the actions you take to create stories and healing.

Restorative (Measures, Practices,Justice ) Circles meet and beat bully behavior with it’s own definition.

This blog title includes the words “measures”, “practices” and “justice” in parenthesis – because Restorative Circles, are a similar but different approach to the Restorative Justice Circles I am blogging about.  Restorative Justice started in criminal justice and moved to be an effective school intervention, thus the words “measures” & “practices”.

I agree and work from the definition of bully behavior (click here, Olweus) that frames bully behavior is (1)unwanted, negative (2) repeated and involves an (3)imbalance of power.  I believe Circles can change bully behavior by the very definition of what bully behavior is.  Let me set some backdrop (I encourage you to click on the links).

Restorative Justice seeks to change the culture by changing the climate, very much like PBIS Recommendations are effective bully prevention efforts are school-wide and comprehensive, the exact same recommendation for implementing a Restorative School!

You can use the different types of Circles at the different tiers of the PBIS triangle.  This looks like: Tier I-All students, Tier II-Some students, Tier III – Few students.

With that background, when it comes to addressing bully behavior with Circles – I think you should apply the definition of bullying to make it even more effective!

1)negative and unwanted – – After experiencing Tier I & II Circles, students will be willing to participate in Tier III Circles.  You will need to carefully prepare all participants at Tier III.  The restorative magic, happens when students explain the depth and experience of negative and unwanted behavior from others.  When explained from a perspective of real life experience, you can not deny or minimize.  Empathy develops and empathy can motivate a change of behavior.  Facing what exactly the behavior is and addressing the harms helps clarify, for all involved, what the behavior is.  You get to clearly state the “unwanted” aspect.

2)repeated – Just like a single incident is not bully behavior, a single Circle is not likely to fix it.  Circles done consistently will change the climate.  Circles at the different Tiers, will help change behavior, Circles can be applied, again to the same situation.   We have forgotten “repetition is the Mother of knowledge”.  I understand that more serious behaviors should have more serious responses, but please don’t stop doing Circles after one attempt.  Please don’t go directly to a Tier III Circle and expect it to be 100% effective.  If students will repeatedly exposed to each other, the Circle should be repeated.

3)imbalance of power.  Circles are about equality, they are the opposite of bully behavior.  To diffuse the bully behavior, apply the opposite.  Place equality in your school, in your classroom.  I believe Circles are far and away the best way to balance power.  I also teach teachers, to move the relationships to learning from only the teachers responsibility to the responsibility of each learner.  The power to learn is within each student, where it becomes a life-long skill, vs the skill of the teacher.

The power of Circle is amazing.  People transform in Circle.  Recently a participant had such insight she actually said she was embarresed for statments she made earlier in the Circle.  That kind of ah-ha, comes from within, and Circles address things within.

Resource Book from IIRP, Restorative Circles in Schools.