Research project: Developing integrated responses to sexual violence: An interdisciplinary research project on the potential of restorative justice

Project information
  • Promotor:
    • Leuven Institute of Criminology (LINC) at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven)
  • Partners:
    • University College Dublin (Ireland), INTERVICT – University of Tilburg (the Netherlands), Max Planck Institute (Germany), AIM Project (UK), University of Southern Denmark (Denmark), University Hospital of Trondheim (Norway), European Forum for Restorative Justice (Belgium)
  • Period:
    • 1 March 2013 - 28 February 2015
  • Funding:
    • Daphne 2011 - European Commission – Directorate-General Justice - JUST/2011/DAP/AG/3350
Description research project

The Daphne project (Daphne III - JUST/2011/DAP/AG/3350) funded by the European Commission (DG Justice), which was coordinated and recently concluded by the Leuven Institute of Criminology, has produced a practice guide entitled ‘Doing restorative justice for sexual violence’. It is free for download here.

Whether intra-familial, within the church, anonymous or during conflicts, in all its forms sexual violence (SV) is frequent and widespread as can be seen on a daily basis in the media. Anecdotal accounts and scholarly reports seem to suggest that the great majority of SV victims do not receive redress. It is a widely recognised fact that the current and traditional approach to 'justice' (that procured in a formalistic way by police authorities, the court system, the prison, etc.) is limited in what it can offer in terms of 'justice' to either victims or offenders of sexual crime, in part because of its structure and aims.

The theory and practice of Restorative Justice (RJ) is rapidly developing and offers some well-argued new avenues for dealing with crime in general. It has the potential to be extended to offenses of sexual violence and some small scale projects are already underway in this domain internationally. This research project intends to examine this innovative justice paradigm in more depth in the particular context of sexual trauma and violence. In doing so it aims to establish the empirical realities of restorative justice approaches in cases of sexual crime and to see how they could be developed adequately in the future.

Main research question: To which degree can RJ contribute to a more integrated and balanced response to offenses of SV?

  • - Are RJ interventions and programmes compatible with the specific characteristics of different types of SV?
  • - Could they help address more appropriately, in an integrated and balanced way, the needs and responsibilities of those immediately involved, i.e. victims, perpetrators, their communities of care, and concerned institutions such as the criminal justice system?

The project will be based and coordinated at KU Leuven but 3 other European research institutions will actively participate in the research. In addition to the researchers taking part, three practitioners will also be in the steering group and will take an active role in the conception and realisation of the practical guide. A special effort will be made towards the dissemination of the project results through the organisation of two workshops (Dublin/Freiburg) and one seminar (Leuven).


Relevant publications

- Keenan, M. & Zinsstag, E. (2014) ‘Restorative justice and sexual offenses:  can ‘changing lenses’ be appropriate in this case too? ‘ in Monatsschrift für Kriminologie und Strafrechtsreform, 97(1), pp. 93-106.

- Gal, T. (2011) Child Victims and Restorative Justice: A Need-Rights Model, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

- Ptacek, J. (2010) (Ed.) Restorative Justice and Violence against Women, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

- McAlinden, A.-M. (2007) The Shaming of Sexual Offenders: Risk, Retribution and Reintegration, Oxford: Hart Publishing.