May 27th to June 2nd is Victims and Survivors of Crime Week. This week is designated by the Government of Canada to raise awareness about the issues faced by those who experience crime, and to bring attention to the services, assistance, and laws in place to help victims, survivors, and their families. This week is also a time to acknowledge the work of service providers and their dedication in assisting victims and survivors of crime and their families.
It may seem odd for an organization that works directly with individuals who have been labelled as ‘offenders’ to be speaking about victims and survivors of crime. However, we want to work from a restorative justice framework that invites us to look at justice issues from three different perspectives: those who have been victimized, those who have created the harm, and those in the community. At times, these perspectives are very clear and distinct. At other times there is more fluidity and it is harder to distinguish one perspective from another. There are offenders who are also victims of crimes. There are some who want to understand the harm they have caused, and there are many who have a long way to go toward healing and reconciliation. Restorative justice works from a ‘needs’ based approach and invites us to ask: Who has been hurt? What are their needs? Who is responsible for making things right?
During Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, we invite you to think about the needs of individuals who have been impacted by crime. As is fitting for BCFI, we would like to recommend three books written from the perspectives of restorative justice, victimization through crime, and strength through forgiveness:
- Changing Lenses by Howard Zehr
- Walking After Midnight: One Woman’s Journey Through Murder, Justice and Forgiveness by Katy Hutchison
- The Way of Letting Go: One Woman’s Walk Towards Forgiveness by Wilma Derksen.
Here is a link to an article in the National Catholic Reporter about a RJ initiative in Los Angeles: Restorative Justice has a name, face, and heart in East LA