of Aotearoa New Zealand
Rodney Holm, Facilitator
This is a call to all facilitators urging them to begin to consider the possibility of declining to take on any more Domestic Violence cases that involve Intimate Partner Violence. The reason for this rather startling claim is that this may be the only way to protect the integrity of the RJ process. There are two reasons for this suggestion, and I will now examine them both.
Before a facilitator can do anything with the persons involved in an IPV case, they have to fill in an 18 page document containing a number of questions, including questions about ‘lethality.’ This is so that the innocent female victim of IPV will be ‘safe’ if a conference proceeds. It is possible to argue that the concept of ‘safety’ is now so overblown that it has become a straitjacket for facilitators and the RJ process. Both are tightly confined. So confined in fact that the process may no longer be RJ at all. Changing the metaphor, I want to argue that RJ facilitators have been headlocked and dragged into the vehicle of the official justice system. Once in there we become part of the punitive arm of the state. The ‘offender’ is an individual (male) person, and we are part of the process that is determined to punish him so that he will stop being violent.
This is morally dubious, ethically suspect, and intellectually fraudulent. It is fraudulent because punishment rarely ever changes behavior and the whole purpose of RJ is to change people’s behavior. Defining IPV as a ‘crime’ (since 1995) has not altered the incidence of the behavior, yet we continue to act as if it does. RJ is not interested in punishment, or singling out one person as ‘the offender’. RJ is all about relationship, yet this is the very thing that we are not allowed to address in IPV cases on the grounds that it is merely a covert way of blaming the victim. Something is wrong somewhere.
The second reason why all facilitators should rebel against IPV cases, is that these intimate relationships have been in place for a long time, and they are the product of long-standing deeply entrenched cultural and family patterns of behavior, which occur against the social structural constraints of education, health, housing, employment, ethnicity, gender and class. If we leave aside the five percent minority of genuinely pathologically violent men, the other ninety five percent are the result of the perfect storm of the confluence of all the negative indices indicated just above. I have met with many incarcerated men who have wept profoundly at what they have done to their partners, yet whose tears are also for their inability to escape the spider’s web of circumstance which is constraining their ability to carry out the most basic and defining characteristic of masculinity as they understand it, to have a job and provide for their family. These men cry, and cry out for help. Yet all we offer them is the harsh face of punishment through incarceration.
As facilitators we have allowed ourselves to be sucked into this god forsaken process of beating up on these beaten men. Have we forgotten the transformative potential of the restorative justice process? Facilitators everywhere, begin to think seriously about this. You have nothing to lose but your belief in a morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest system of punishment.