CA: Colleges experiment with restorative justice in sexual assault cases

Source: 12/28/22

When a sexual assault survivor walks into Alexandra Fulcher’s office at Occidental College, it’s the first step in a process fraught with consequences for both the survivor and the accused. 

If Fulcher, the school’s Title IX director, launches an official investigation, the survivor could be asked to recount their trauma and cross-examined about it in a live hearing. Their alleged assaulter could be expelled.

But for the past year, survivors at Occidental have had another option. They can participate in a restorative justice conference with the person who harmed them, in which that person hears about the impact of their actions, takes responsibility and commits to a plan to help repair the harm — and prevent it from happening again.

The conferences draw on a long tradition of restorative justice, a philosophy that eschews punishment in favor of coming up with collective solutions to address violence and harm within a community.

A handful of California colleges have recently begun using restorative justice in cases of sexual assault and harassment, or are seriously considering it. And Fulcher said it’s a path that an increasing number of survivors at Occidental are choosing.

“This age group, at least at Oxy, is less interested in punitive options,” she said.

One argument for making restorative justice available is that it may encourage more survivors to come forward. An overwhelming majority of survivors of campus sexual violence never file a report, and of those that do, few choose to pursue disciplinary action, said David Karp, director of the Center for Restorative Justice at the University of San Diego.

Evidence of success

While there’s little data available about the effectiveness of restorative justice in preventing future sexual assaults, some studies of youth convicted of other crimes have shown that those who participate in restorative justice conferences are less likely to be rearrested. 

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I didn’t experience this version, but I did threapy after probation.

After everything that happened, not only was I able to process my own trauma, I was able to process how I got to that point.

It felt wholly different from court mandated, in that there wasn’t a sense of punishment, but there was an actual goal to process and get better.

I’m glad some people are trying restorative vs puninative. Give people the chance to change and they may surprise you. And for the others, there’s always jail. That’s not going anywhere.

I can just about hear Judge Matsch rolling in his grave over this.

Fresno Pacific University has a program like this
VORP (Victim Offender Reconciliation Program) with Fresno County Probation and Juvenile Court

The call to peacemaking is universal and timeless, since conflict is always with us. Its shadow is found in all cultures in all times, beckoning for response. When constructive, it leads to better understanding and deeper relationships. When destructive, it tends toward confusion and separation.

Two thoughts on this that are not addressed:

1) The accused is then automatically thought to be guilty of the accusation without any due process and admits to such by signing a doc saying they are without being advised they have a Fifth Admendment Right to stay silent?


2) What prevents the accuser from coming back later in life to sue civilly for monetary damages or even pursue criminal charges since the statute of limitations is being lifted today for matters years ago given plenty of people want the accuser to be a lifelong victim for their victim mentality purposes?

It is a great concept for humanity when it comes to what they are trying to accomplish and really should be explored further for use and actually used.