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.

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