Restorative justice has its critics but US criminologist Professor Alissa Ackerman says it can be a powerful way to promote healing for both victims and perpetrators.
“Despite evidence that restorative justice practices can provide accountability for individuals who have engaged in acts of sexual victimization and promote healing for those who have experienced sexual violence, many refute its validity,’’ she said.
Visiting Brisbane this month, Dr Ackerman presented a seminar – Vicarious Restorative Justice and Sexual Victimization – at Mt Gravatt campus on July 19, where she demonstrated how a vicarious restorative justice framework in the US is being used to success with individuals currently in treatment after committing sexual offences.”
The self-described ‘survivor’ scholar and professor of criminal justice from California State University has been teaching classes on sexual violence for more than 10 years.
“On the first day of class I explain to students that they have the unique opportunity to hear the personal perspective of a survivor and the professional perspective of a sex crimes expert.
“While many academics tend to shy away from the personal, I truly believe that personal is the professional and vice versa.”
“I also recognise that my perspectives on sexual violence differ substantially from most people.
“For example, the research is clear that current sex crimes policies do anything to prevent sexual violence. Yet, most people believe these policies are necessary. They make people feel safer, even if they don’t make us any safer. Learning this can be very confronting for students.”
Dr Ackerman has met with over 350 men and women who have committed acts of sexual abuse, harassment or violence as part of a vicarious restorative justice framework she has created.
During these sessions people who have committed acts of sexual violence meet with those who have experienced sexual violence.
“This provides a safe space for people who have impacted by sexual violence to speak out.”
Dr Ackerman has delivered presentations, keynotes and other talks in the US and across the globe. As well as writing extensively on topics related to sexual violence in blogs and magazine articles, she has written more than 35 peer-reviewed journal articles. She has also co-written or edited five academic books. Her most recent co-authored book, The New Campus Anti-Rape Movement, was published in June 2018.