Restorative Justice and Violence Against Women in the United States: An Effort to Decrease the Victim-Offender Overlap and Increase Healing

Restorative Justice and Violence Against Women in the United States: An Effort to Decrease the Victim-Offender Overlap and Increase Healing

Lorenn Walker (University of Hawai'i, USA & Honolulu Community College, USA) and Cheri Tarutani (University of Hawai'i – Manoa, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2472-4.ch005
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Opposition to using restorative justice to address violence against women mainly concerns the fear that women will be re-victimized if they engage with men who endangered them. While law enforcement and criminal justice approaches are necessary to address violence against women, women's choices about when and how to use law enforcement and prosecution to address violence against them, should be respected. Exclusive criminalization of violence against women has not protected many and has further harmed marginalized and Black people. To address intimate partner violence, victims' needs for healing must be met including when the victim-offender overlap applies and an offender is also a victim. Ignoring healing perpetuates violence. Applying restorative justice and its foundational questions, during direct meetings between victims and offenders, or when they meet separately, can address the victim-offender overlap, reduce reliance on punishment, and increase healing.
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In March 2016, Reiko, of Hawaiian, Japanese and Caucasian ancestry, is 46 years old. Her biological mother was 16 and her biological father was 21 years old when she born and gave her up for adoption through Hawai’i’s state child protective services. This is Reiko’s story of victimization, to offending, to desistance and community service, in her own words, which she has reviewed and granted permission to publish:

When I was seven, my adoptive mom’s boyfriend started standing outside my room at night and looking at me. Eventually he came in and sat on my bed. He touched me. I would pack on extra clothes, like wear five shirts and shorts, but he would find my private parts. He made me do things to him. I told my mother innocently, Oh, Uncle was in my room last night. She didn’t believe me. She said I was a liar. I think she was afraid of being alone and wanted him more than me. I think she was abused herself and was angry I wasn’t her real daughter. She beat me with anything she could grab. Once she beat me for being sick. I was coughing in bed with a fever. She came in and hit me in the head with her fists. A lot of times she locked me in a closet. My imagination saved me from that. I would go in my mind and imagine a life where I was loved. She yelled all the time I was stupid and not worth nothin.’ I believed her and felt unworthy for years.

When I was eleven, I started sniffing paint and doin’ drugs. I ran away. I met horrible people on the street. Guns were held at my head. The first time when I was raped; the second time when I was raped after I ripped off a drug dealer; and the third time when my boyfriend played Russian roulette with me. I was put into foster care and lived in every group home on O’ahu. I ran away from all of ‘em. I went mute when I was twelve and was put into the Hawai’i state mental hospital. I was locked up alone in a room. I did whatever I could to make ‘em think I was crazy. I said I heard voices. Got so depressed I started believin’ I really was crazy. Somehow I snapped out of it. After I got out of the mental hospital, I assaulted someone. I was 13 and put into Ko‘olau [Hawai‘i’s youth prison]. I was there until I turned 18 because I escaped twice and got more time.

I had my first baby when I was 18 and three more after that. The last one was born when I was in prison. I was shackled to the bed when I gave birth. He was taken from me and put into foster care. I haven’t seen him since he was adopted around five months old in 2000. I held him in the judge’s chambers and said goodbye. He is 16 years old today. I abused my other three kids I had. Not as bad as my mom, but I was not good. I did a lot of crystal methamphetamine. I would fall asleep after being up for days. We lived in a house by the beach. I’d wake up and the kids would be playing by the ocean. They were little, like 12 months to 4 years old. I’d snap, and go off screaming and hitting ‘em. When I was 29, I got sentenced to prison—mostly for theft charges, but I also got into a lot of fights and assaulted dozens of women I had relationships with. I was a very angry person. It was my escaping from O triple C [Oahu Community Correctional Center] that got me a sentence of 40 years. I got out of prison when I was 44 years old, two years ago.

I always had a hard time learning in school. I was in special ed since elementary. I got motivated in prison to get my GED [General Educational Development] because my friends all were. The prison also paid us about 34 cents a hour to go to school for it. I passed the test after my third try. Prison was a place of healing for me. I got treatment. It helped me see my worth. I wasn’t just a broken unworthy child. Today I value integrity, and being responsible for myself. I work for a non-profit, helping women in prison come out and succeed. I want them to see if I could do it, they can too.

My biggest goal in life right now is to have a relationship with my kids. In 2012 when I was in prison, I had a restorative reentry circle. The circle helped me plan for how I could work on repairing things with my kids. Their paternal grandmother who raised them since I went to prison didn’t come to the circle, but she gave information that was read. She asked me not to contact the kids until they were 18. I respected that. After they turned 18, I found ‘em through Facebook. We stay in touch now with that. I’m careful respecting their boundaries. I don’t push myself on them. They still have anger and resentment to me. I understand their disappointment. I made a lot of promises I broke. I do what I say I am gonna do now. My hope is that someday they see I can be trusted and know how much I love them.

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