Information For Supporters of Victims
Your involvement in support of the victim can be invaluable in assisting them in identifying and asserting their needs. While providing the victim with crucial emotional support, you can also assist in speaking about the impact of the crime on you, as well as describing how you have seen the crime impact the victim. In addition, you can show support to the victim by honouring their need to take control of their life again after their disempowering experience of the crime. Finally, you can assist in holding the offender accountable for their harming actions and support their efforts to improve the situation.
Below you will find common questions that victim supporters 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.
Supporters of Victims FAQ
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 have experienced as the result of a crime. If you want to know more about our victim-centred approach, you can visit the link and see more information.
Restorative justice has many definitions and there is a lot of diversity in how it is 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 (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, and structural/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, see our page Myths and Misconceptions.
For us to consider accepting a file, the victim must first give their permission to having 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.
No, restorative justice is not mandatory; a crucial aspect of our program is that participation must be voluntary for everyone. We only accept referrals to our program with the victim’s permission. If they agree to proceed with restorative justice, they decide how they want to participate, if at all, in the process. If they are considering restorative justice, we can provide them with any information they require to make the decision, without any pressure to consent to the referral or participate. We can discuss other options with them, and they are always welcome to seek their own legal information/advice at any point. Greater Victoria Police Victim Services can also provide them with information about the criminal justice system and community resources.
If the victim does not consent to their file being referred to restorative justice, we will send it back to the referring agency.
If the victim personally chooses not to participate in our program but wants the case to go forward through a restorative justice process, we can hold the offender accountable and advocate for the victim’s needs (if they 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 the victim wants to have a role in the process but is unsure what type, they can 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 the victim has other ideas or requests regarding their involvement, we would like to discuss those with them in order to develop a plan that fits them and their 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 victims and encourage them to participate at the level that best meets their 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 the victim and the offender via telephone and invite the victim to meet with us separately at our office. If coming to our office is challenging for the victim, we can continue to speak over the phone. The offender is required to meet with us in-person for an intake. If the victim, 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 the victim to determine what their needs are and how they can best be met in restorative justice. Victims are welcome to bring supporters to any meetings they have with us.
During the preparation stage with the offender, we assist them in developing such things as meaningful accountability, empathy, and insight, and 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 page 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 to meet with the offender 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 victims 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 the factors that may have contributed to the offence. The victim can participate in developing those terms if they like. Once the agreement is finalized, we monitor the offender’s progress and if the victim wants updates, we inform them of the offender’s progress in whatever manner they choose with options such as as meeting in person or communicating via telephone, email, or text.
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 the 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 the victim. 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 clients with organizations that can. Victims are welcome to bring supporters to any meetings they 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 the 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 available to discuss the implications of restorative justice with you or the victim at any time.
Restorative justice is an opportunity for victims to explore and state their needs, communicate with the offender in a way that works for the victim (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 the victim has experienced from the offence. We can also facilitate a healing circle, which is a group dialogue centred around the victim without the offender. We are here to support victims along the way and can connect them 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 they 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, go to this page, where we have quotes, videos, and research.
It is entirely up to the victim whether they bring someone along to any meetings with us. If you have questions about your role in the process, you’re welcome to call us or schedule a separate meeting. Please note that we are bound by confidentiality with all our clients, regardless of age, unless we have concerns about their safety or well-being, in which case we will notify the relevant individual and/or agency immediately.