The Cicada Project is developing a survivor-oriented, restorative justice response to sexual violence.
The Cicada Project is guided by the following principles:
- Individuals and communities are harmed by sexual violence, and have needs that should be addressed.
- Those responsible for causing harm have obligations, and need to be accountable.
- To advance research in survivor-led restorative practices, we adopt inclusive and collaborative processes, locally and internationally.
- We respect the needs and voices of individuals and communities harmed by sexual violence, and will be guided by evidence and emerging practices in the development of restorative practices.
- Our work should do no further harm.
- Our work must adopt positive, trauma-informed and domestic violence informed approaches at all times.
- We believe that survivors have a right to meaningful justice.
- We believe that survivors are experts in their lives and have the right to have their choices supported.
- We believe that harmed people can harm people.
- We believe that all people are entitled to support, and to have their needs met.
- We choose to use language that promotes accountability and hope.
- We support feminist theories, de-colonising initiatives, culturally specific practices and intersectional analyses to inform our work.
- We accept that we make mistakes in our work, in our relationships and in our lives.
- We wish to learn and reflect to improve our practices.
A restorative justice for sexual assault and domestic violence
EECLC is currently working in partnership with Dr Jane Bolitho, University of NSW to develop “The Cicada Project”, a survivor-oriented restorative justice framework encompassing a suite of projects focussing on sexual violence and assault. We work in collaboration with local and international partners and receive support, mentoring and guidance from experienced and accredited restorative practitioners in the development of our programs and services.
What is restorative justice?
Restorative justice is a mechanism for meeting justice needs. We know our current criminal justice system does not afford justice to victim-survivors nor does it hold perpetrators to account. Restorative justice brings together the person harmed, the person responsible and/or any other individuals or community members affected by a crime in a facilitated, structured dialogue about what happened, the impact, and the way forward. Our practices are victim-lead, victim-oriented and centred around the needs of the person harmed.
The aim of restorative justice is to allow the parties to address the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future. The restorative justice process empowers people harmed, by providing an avenue through which their voices can be heard, and an opportunity for the person responsible to be accountable for their actions.
There is a groundswell of understanding, support and advocacy being led by survivors. The Cicada Project is guided by the needs, views and perspectives of survivors and is informed by international best practice and emerging community responses to violence. The criminal legal system and social attitudes about gender and sexual violence minimise the perspective of survivors, and do not provide just outcomes. Survivors of sexual violence are entitled to meaningful justice. Restorative justice has the potential to meet survivor needs.
International jurisdictions such as New Zealand, Canada and USA have restorative practices addressing sexual violence dating back 40 years and our service seeks to build on experiences to design a restorative justice process that meets the needs of survivors.
Why are we focussing on sexual abuse, family and domestic violence?
The criminal legal system is not centred around the needs of survivors of sexual assault and family violence. Many people harmed by sexual and family violence report that the system fails to address the loss of power inherent in sexual assault and domestic violence. (See this recent ABC report)
Restorative justice responds to the needs of survivors by providing three potentially powerful mechanisms for resolving harm:
- the ability to speak to an experience;
- bearing witness to this narrative;
- and reflecting on the future.
The starting point for restorative justice is to also seek accountability from the person responsible and to refer them, when appropriate to support and services.
In doing so, restorative justice has long term structural goals of reducing harmful events such as sexual and family violence and enabling community safety. Restorative justice may also restore broken community networks, transform relationships, and progress parties along a journey of recovery and healing.
The Cicada Project seeks to provide people harmed by sexual and family violence with safe spaces to talk about what they need and an opportunity for meaningful justice.
The Cicada Project is a collaborative initiative developed by legal practitioners and researchers living and working on Gadigal, Darug, Gundungurra and Wiradyuri lands. We pay our respects to the traditional owners and Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities on whose land we work and live. We know that this is and always will be Aboriginal land.
The Cicada Project brings together research and practice and shared values of privileging the views and voices of people harmed by sexual violence.
We are supported by local and international partnerships and affiliations and could not do this work without the support of communities of knowledge, experience and research.
We believe that complex problems such as sexual and family violence are best addressed through collaboration and by bringing together many voices and experiences, including those with lived experience and those with learnt knowledge.
We are guided by the experience of pioneering restorative justice projects such as RESTORE, Arizona and Project Restore, New Zealand.
For more information:
Thea has been practising as a lawyer in the community sector for 15 years. She works mainly with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, in both community settings and in connection to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Assault. She is a member of the NSW Sentencing Council and the Corrective Services Ethics Committee. In 2019 she was awarded Churchill Fellowship and has recently returned from her research trip which investigated victim-oriented restorative justice programs for sexual assault.
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Jane is a Senior Lecturer in criminology at the University of New South Wales. Her work focuses on all forms of restorative practice, experiences of justice & injustice, and criminal justice reform. Recent publications can be found here. Originally trained and registered as a psychologist in NSW, previous employment included working for the Crime Prevention Division, NSW Attorney General's Department. She is a nationally accredited mediator and youth justice conference convenor.
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