Victims and Relational Justice
DOI link for Victims and Relational Justice
Victims and Relational Justice book
This chapter addresses victim needs for relational healing that justice under law usually does not address. Three categories of actions can help victims heal relationally: make safe, listen close, and be with. Much of the chapter concerns the last of these: being with.
Being with victims means accompaniment on their journey, including physical presence and listening; respecting their mourning process is also important. Extreme and persistent victim anger at the offender is then considered as a potential problem in relational healing. Such emotions stem from the unchosen victim–offender relationship forged by violence. How might this often poisonous relationship be changed? Acceptance of the life lost to violence, and acceptance of offender humanity may be important. Forgiveness is often urged on victims, but while helpful for some, it is subject to common and dangerous misconceptions. Contrary to common understanding, forgiveness cannot be demanded or expected; it does not mean forgetting the wrong that happened; and often describes a process rather than a one-time event. Examples are provided of transformation of the offender–victim relationship through in-court confessions and apologies by the defendant.
The chapter considers how relational justice values might inform the work of prosecutors and judges. It describes how prosecutors can be with victims in the cases they prosecute and how judges may assist relational healing—and relational justice—by asking defendants to take personal, rather than just legal, responsibility for their wrongs when pleading guilty. Finally a discussion of the concept of “closure” examines why officials often promise it on victims’ behalf and argues that they should not.