Sexual Trauma and Abuse: Restorative and Transformative Possibilities? by Dr Marie Keenan

11 December 2014

 ‘Sexual Trauma and Abuse: Restorative and Transformative Possibilities?’

Achieving justice for victims of sexual crime

A collaborative study by Dr Marie Keenan (Principal Investigator) of the School of Applied Social Science, University College Dublin, Facing Forward  - A Restorative Justice Organisation, with Bernadette Fahy, Counselling Psychologist 

Despite a succession of revelations about sexual crime perpetrated in families, institutions and in communities, sexual crime is still largely un-reported with less than 1 in 10 cases ever reaching the criminal justice system.

For the vast majority of victims of sexual crime a gulf exists between what the criminal justice system promises and what it can actually deliver.

The current criminal justice system in Ireland has meant that victims of sexual crime, even when they report their abuse, withdraw the majority of complaints. This is mainly due to low levels of prosecution as a result of high evidential requirements. However, the growing global ‘restorative justice’ movement suggests there is another way to achieve justice.

Today’s new study based on 149 interviews and a review of global literature indicates that restorative justice could provide an additional justice mechanism for victims of sexual crime one which can support the needs of victims, offenders and their families in the aftermath of sexual crime in Ireland.

Dr Marie Keenan, Principal Investigator, UCD, “Anyone who wants to know how best to respond in justice to victims of sexual crime must listen to their own words. Anyone who wants to know what offenders think about their victims and how they feel in the aftermath of sexual crime must listen to their words. Both speak about what is required to repair the harm done to the victim. Both are presented in this report.”

Bernadette Fahy, Counselling Psychologist, Advocate for former residents of Industrial Schools and Magdalen Laundries as the Research Consultant.

“That which we resist persists;This study is an attempt by all the participants to have their voices heard.”

Barbara Walshe, chairperson of Facing Forward “This ground breaking report highlights the need for ‘an additional justice system’ for sexual crime; one that is not  adversarial;  where the victim is central to the process and where the offender is held accountable for the harm caused.  Restorative Justice has the potential to meet those needs.”

The report,Sexual Trauma and Abuse, Restorative and Transformative Possibilities? Interviews 149 people who speak about trying to achieve justice, for victims: the impact of long delays, being peripheral to the harm that they have experienced, the impact on their families, for offenders, the delays and the denials.

Link to the report

Photos from report launch




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