Information For Victims
As the person who has been harmed, your safety – physical, emotional and psychological – and your needs will be treated as central to our work with you. We can assist you in identifying your needs and we will lay out all the options you have regarding how, if at all, you want to participate in a restorative justice process. The file will be referred to our restorative justice program only with your permission. From there, you get to decide if you want to have no, little, or a large role in the process. For example, we can facilitate indirect communication between you and the offender through such things as letter writing or video sharing; we can support you in having someone of your choice meet with the offender on your behalf; or you can meet directly with the offender, with the support of our team. Should you decide to meet face-to-face with the offender, we will assist you in preparing thoroughly for the encounter. We will support you in creating a process where your voice will be central, not only in the dialogue with the offender, but also in the design of the process – for example, around such considerations as when the dialogue takes place, who is in the room, what gets talked about, and what the offender needs to do to “make things right” or help you heal. Further, we will help you access other professional services, should you feel the need. This can include counselling, victim services organizations, and more.
If you want to be involved in a dialogue without the offender, we can offer you a victim healing circle. In this instance, we would work with you to develop a process to address some of the needs and challenges that have arisen from the offence. It might include exploring with people in your life how they can best support you through this experience or interacting with service providers who are assisting you. It might include a surrogate offender (someone who has committed a similar offence) who can answer general questions you have and possibly provide some understanding and insight into the behavior.
Below you will find common questions that victims have about our work. We’ve done our best to provide thorough information on our approach and what to expect. If you don’t find the information you’re looking for here, please reach out to us.
At Restorative Justice Victoria (RJV), we believe that a core value of restorative justice is victim-centredness. This means that our first concern is for victims and their healing from the harm they experienced as the result of a crime. If you want to know more about our victim-centred approach, you can visit this page of our website which provides more detail.
Restorative justice has many definitions and there is a lot of diversity in how it’s understood and practiced around the world. We use this definition by Howard Zehr: “Restorative justice is an approach to achieving justice that involves, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offence or harm to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations in order to heal and put things as right as possible.”
Here at RJV, we generally work towards five main goals:
- Assisting and supporting victims in identifying and seeking redress for the harms and needs they have experienced resulting from crime.
- Providing meaningful and helpful support to victims in their healing and recovery from crime.
- Creating opportunities for offenders to accept and demonstrate accountability for the harms they have caused to victims and the community.
- Providing safe and effective opportunities for the sharing of information and communication (direct or indirect) between victims, offenders, and others impacted by crime.
- Assisting and supporting all participants in understanding the causes of a crime, such as trauma, mental health, addictions, structural factors, and social factors, and supporting offenders in addressing these when possible.
There are many myths and misconceptions about restorative justice. To learn more about them and get further clarity on what restorative justice is and is not, visit our Myths and Misconceptions about Restorative Justice page.
For us to consider accepting a file, the victim must first give their permission to have the matter referred to us, and the offender must accept responsibility for the offence. Restorative justice can be used as diversion from or in conjunction with the criminal justice system. It can also be used outside of the criminal justice system, such as after an offender has completed their sentence. In some cases, restorative justice is used instead of the justice system.
We accept cases from a variety of sources. Most come through the criminal justice system from police, Crown, judges, and probation officers. We also get cases from schools and members of the community who self-refer.
If you were the victim of a crime and are interested in exploring restorative justice, you can contact us directly and we can speak with you about the process and the possibility of having the matter referred.
Anyone who has been the victim of a crime can access our services, even if they are under the age of 18. You do not require your parents’ or guardians’ permission in order to participate. However, it is common for us to help victims identify supports in their life who can be there for them through the restorative justice process. This can mean attending meetings with them or just being there to debrief and talk about things as the process moves along. If a youth and their parents/guardians have a good relationship, they are a common source of support.
If you want to participate in restorative justice and your parents/guardians do not support your decision, we can work with you and them to see if we can address their concerns. Often parents/guardians need more information about our work, the safeguards we have in place for you, and how we will share information with them in order to be supportive. If we cannot get your parents/guardians onside with restorative justice, we can still provide the service to you. If you have been the victim of a crime, you should be able to decide what will be helpful and healing for you. Your parents will have the right to some information about our work with you including things such as who you will work with, when you meet with them and where, and anything that makes us think your safety might be at risk.
Restorative justice is voluntary for everyone. In some instances, a victim is interested but the offender is not. Crimes also occur for which no one is ever caught or charged. If you are interested in a restorative justice response to your victimization but the offender is not willing or available, we can offer you a victim healing circle. In this process, we work with you to develop a dialogue that meets as many of your needs as possible under the circumstances. For example, it may involve meeting with people in your life to explore how they can best support you through this experience. You could also invite service providers who can assist in your healing. It may also include a surrogate offender (someone who has committed a similar offence) who can answer general questions you have and possibly provide some understanding and insight into the behavior. It’s a flexible process based entirely on your needs.
In addition to a victim healing circle or other form of dialogue services that might assist you, we can help you access other supports and resources. We can also assist you in completing a B.C. Crime Victim Assistance Program (CVAP) application to access financial support to assist in your healing/recovery and address some of the costs you have incurred as a result of the crime.
No, restorative justice is not mandatory; a crucial aspect of our program is that participation must be voluntary for everyone. We would only accept a referral to our program with your permission. If you are considering restorative justice, we can provide you with any information you require to make a decision, without any pressure to consent to the referral or participate. If you choose to proceed with restorative justice, you decide how you want to participate, if at all, in the process. We can discuss other options with you, and you are always welcome to seek your own legal information/advice at any point. Greater Victoria Police Victim Services can also provide you with information about the criminal justice system and community resources.
If you do not consent to your file being referred to restorative justice, we will send it back to the referring agency.
If you personally choose not to participate in our program but want the case to go forward through a restorative justice process, we can hold the offender accountable and advocate for your needs (if you wish) in an alternate way. In this instance, we have a surrogate victim (someone who has been the victim of a similar offence) and/or community member (someone who can speak to the community impacts and other issues related to the crime) meet with the offender with the goal of helping them understand the harms and consequences of their actions. If you want to have a role in the process but are unsure what type, go to our Victim Participation Spectrum page, which describes the various ways a victim might participate. Please note that this list is not exhaustive, and we can combine some of these options. If you have other ideas or requests regarding your involvement, we would like to discuss those with you in order to develop a plan that fits you and your circumstances.
The timeline of each case differs depending on several factors, such as the number and availability of people participating, the severity of the offence and its impacts on people, the emotional state of each participant, and our caseload. We try to make the process as non-burdensome as possible for you and encourage you to participate at the level that best meets your needs. As a general guideline, a typical case runs four to eight months from intake to file closure.
For our initial intake and assessment, we speak individually with you and the offender via telephone and invite you to meet with us separately at our office. If coming to our office is challenging for you, we can continue to speak over the phone. The offender is required to meet with us in-person for an intake. If you, the offender, and we are all in agreement to proceed, we assign a team of caseworkers and move into the preparation stage where we work with you to determine what your needs are and how they can best be met in restorative justice.
During this time, we also work with the offender to assist them in developing such things as meaningful accountability, empathy, and insight, and we explore with them how they might repair the harms resulting from their offence. We also discuss with them the factors at play in their lives that might have contributed to the offence, as well as social/structural factors that might have been related, such as class, race/ethnicity, gender, etc. During this period, we often connect offenders and victims with community resources.
The appropriate type of process is also determined in the preparation stage. For victims, there are many options regarding how they participate, if at all, in the process (please go to our Victim Participation Spectrum form to explore those options ). Some victims want to meet face-to-face with the offender, while others prefer letter or video sharing, or sending a representative on their behalf. Every victim has unique needs and we are happy to get creative about how they’re involved in the process. Regardless of how you choose to participate, at some point in the process an agreement will be developed regarding what the offender will do to best repair the harms resulting from the offence and address factors that may have contributed to the offence. You can participate in developing those terms if you like. Once the agreement is finalized, we monitor the offender’s progress and, if you want updates, we inform you of their progress in the manner you choose, such as meeting in person or communicating via telephone, email, texts, etc.
- File referral: the referral source gets consent from you and the offender to refer the offence to restorative justice. Depending on the referral source, we receive contact information for you and the offender, and some general information about the offence.
- Initial contact/victim intake: the case manager calls the victim and offender involved in the offence to ask if they understand and consent to the referral being made. The case manager also calls the parents/guardians of any victims or offenders who are under 18. If you and the offender consent, the case manager will talk to you on the phone about our program and invite you to attend our office to meet in person. If this is a challenge for you, the case manager can continue the intake stage with you over the phone. If you choose to attend our office, you can bring a support person with you. Please let us know ahead of time if you plan to bring someone.
- Mandatory intake meeting with offender: the case manager meets with the offender to explore whether restorative justice is appropriate. At this time, the offender must accept responsibility for the offence and indicate a willingness to participate in and complete all aspects of the process. If this does not occur, we will refer the file back to the referring agency. However, we can continue to support you through such things as a victim healing circle, accessing community resources, and completing a government funding application to address some of the costs you have experienced associated with the offence.
- Assigning a team: if you, the offender, and the case manager are all in agreement to proceed, the case manager sends a call-out email to our caseworkers, who self-select which cases they’d like to be part of. The nature and severity of the case will impact the number of people who make up the team. Typically, it will consist of two facilitators who work with the participants to design and facilitate the dialogue. We assign a mentor to work with the offender to assist them in being successful in the process. We also offer you a mentor, who is essentially a guide to provide general support and to assist you in identifying and getting your needs met in restorative justice. Your mentor can be someone from our agency who knows and understands our work and the options available to you, someone from Victim Services, or you may prefer to use your own supporter(s). We will discuss all these options with you during the intake process.
- The caseworkers contact you to introduce themselves and set a time to meet with you. You will meet with them in person at least once before the dialogue, and possibly multiple times. They may also ask to engage in preparatory work with you over the phone, email, text, etc. The goal of the prep work as it relates to you is ensuring that the process is safe, effective, will help you in move forward in a good way, and will address the needs you have resulting from the crime. During the prep meetings, the caseworkers will provide you with lots of options about the restorative justice dialogue, such as who will be there, what gets talked about and to what extent, where people will sit, who will arrive in the room first, who speaks first, what needs to be done to make things right, and more. They will also provide the option of having a community member present, whose role at the dialogue is to provide insight and information related to the offence such as the impact on the community, issues related to the offence that they have knowledge or expertise in (e.g. mental health, addictions), or personal experiences they have had with a similar offence. You are welcome to bring a support person to any of the preparatory meetings. Please tell the caseworkers in advance if you will be bringing someone.
- The caseworkers will talk on the phone and meet in person with the offender to prepare them for the dialogue and the overall process. They will work with the offender around such things as accountability, understanding and addressing the harms they caused, understanding and addressing the factors in their life that contributed to the offence, determining what they are able to offer you and the community by way of best repairing those harms, and more. Once everyone feels prepared and ready to move forward, the dialogue will be scheduled.
- Restorative justice dialogue (RJD): this group meeting explores how you and others have been harmed by the offender’s actions and the needs that have resulted from the offence. It provides you an opportunity to ask the offender questions you may have and tell them directly how you have been affected by the offence. Factors in the offender’s life that may have contributed to the offence and ways they can be supported or addressed will also be explored. If agreed upon in advance, a community member might be present to help hold the offender accountable. Everyone works together to create an agreement, by consensus, on how to move forward. While a volunteer types up the agreement, everyone at the dialogue will complete a paper survey regarding the process thus far. We use this data to improve our program, report to our funders and referral sources, and demonstrate the value of our services to the community. Dialogues typically last between 2.5 and 4 hours and take place at our office. Immediately after the dialogue, we send the agreement to the referring agency and anyone else who requires a copy.
- Completing the agreement: after the restorative justice dialogue, the offender checks in regularly with their mentor and completes the terms of the agreement by the deadlines decided in the dialogue. If you want to be updated on the offender’s progress, the case manager or your mentor will do so in whatever manner and timeframes you wish. For example, they can text you an update every two weeks or email you once each agreement term has been completed.
- Notifications and paperwork: once all the agreement terms are completed and verified by the offender, we notify you and send a final report to the referring agency. This concludes the file. However, we can continue to support you in other ways with such things as a victim healing circle or assistance with accessing community resources and supports.
- Final survey: two months after the agreement is complete, one of our volunteers (not anyone who was involved with your case) will contact you via telephone or email for a final evaluation on your experience with us. We greatly value feedback and want to provide the best service possible to our clients, which is why we do evaluations throughout.
The agreement contains concrete steps that the offender has agreed to do in order to best address the harms resulting from the offence, as well as factors and causes of the offence. Every agreement looks different and we encourage creative terms that address the unique needs of the participants. Some of the typical terms you might see are:
- A formal apology to victims and others harmed by the crime
- A gift or some other offering to victims and/or the community
- Restitution to pay for damages related to the offence (we do not facilitate payment for pain and suffering)
- Follow-up meetings with victims to further understand the offence and address harms
- Attending support services such as counselling, treatment, trauma recovery, meditation/wellness, etc.
- Giving back to the community through volunteer service
- Donations or gifts to social serving agencies/causes related to the offence or of interest to the victim
- Creating and delivering public presentations on matters related to the offence
- And much more!
In addition to the case manager overseeing your file, there are generally three to four caseworkers assigned to each case: two facilitators, a mandatory mentor for the offender, and an optional mentor for you. All our caseworkers are trained community members, many with backgrounds in areas such as counselling, mediation, social work, addictions recovery, and more. Some are staff and some are volunteers.
Please note that RJV cannot provide counselling, treatment, legal advice, or any social work services, though we are happy to connect you with organizations that can. You are welcome to bring supporters to any meetings you have with us.
Restorative justice can happen at any stage in the criminal justice system. In some cases, the file is referred as diversion out of the criminal justice system before a charge has been laid. This can be done by the police or Crown. Alternatively, the matter can be referred after a charge has been laid by the Crown with the understanding that if the offender completes the process, the charges are stayed (dropped). Restorative justice can also be used before or after sentencing. Whether or not the offender has been charged will depend on what point in the criminal justice system the case was referred.
If a file is referred as diversion before a charge has been laid and the offender completes the process, they will not get a criminal record for the offence. The same is true when a file is referred after a charge has been laid with the understanding that if the offender completes the process, the charge will be stayed. However, in both these instances, there will be a police record of the offence that may show up if a vulnerable sector police information check (a more thorough criminal record check) is done on the offender.
At what stage in the criminal justice system restorative justice is used and how it impacts the offender’s record is complex. We are happy to discuss with you the implications of restorative justice in your case.
We are extremely flexible about if and how you participate. Because our program is victim-centred, we hope to support you in meeting your needs in a way that is meaningful and driven by you. There are lots of options for how you can participate, and you can change your mind or pause the process at any time. If you want to meet with the offender face-to-face, we will work with you and the offender to prepare you both for that encounter. Another possibility is for you to send someone on your behalf to meet with the offender. Other options include letter writing, video sharing, or other forms of indirect communication between you and the offender, through a case manager. We can also facilitate a combination of these options. Please see our Victim Participation Spectrum page to learn more.
Our program requires offenders to actively participate in the process by attending meetings with the case manager and caseworkers, meeting with people who were affected by the offence (if those people choose to do so) or surrogates and community members, openly discussing the offence and what led up to it, highlighting the impacts of the offence, exploring how they can repair the harms that have resulted from their offence, taking steps toward addressing both internal and external factors that might have contributed to the offence, and completing the agreement terms that are decided upon. It’s an active and demanding process for offenders and we provide them with significant support as well with the goal of you and them moving forward from the offence in the best way possible.
When a case is referred through the criminal justice system (police, Crown, judges, probation, etc.) and the offender does not complete the process, we send the file back to the referring agency and report to them what took place. The next steps depend on at what point in the justice system the file was sent to us. Generally, the referring person can choose to either end the file or go forward with a formal criminal charge. We can discuss all of these possibilities so you are clear about how it relates to your circumstances and hopes.
When we are referred a case, we do a considerable amount of assessment during the intake stage regarding whether it will be appropriate for restorative justice, as well as safe and effective. We also provide all participants with a lot of support throughout the process, so it’s very uncommon for a case to end incompletely.
Restorative justice is an opportunity for you to explore and state your needs, communicate with the offender in a way that works for you (e.g., directly, indirectly, or not at all), access information from the offender, and ask for restitution and other actions from the offender with the goal of best addressing the harms you have experienced from the offence. We are here to support you along the way and can connect you with resources in the community (e.g., Greater Victoria Police Victim Services, the Men’s Trauma Centre, free and low-cost counselling, financial support through the B.C. Crime Victim Assistance Program, and more), whether or not you participate in our program.
Research on restorative justice shows that victims who choose to participate often do so with the desire to gain or experience some or all of the following:
- Acknowledgement of wrongdoing
- Financial compensation
To know more about what other victims who have gone through restorative justice have said about their experience, visit out Victim Resources page. To hear what victims who’ve gone through restorative justice at RJV have said, go to our victim testimonial page.