Restorative justice and sexual assault in Nova Scotia: Why is the door ajar?
Master of Arts
Restorative justice has gained wide appeal as an alternative form of justice that offers youth the opportunity to take responsibility for wrongdoing and make amends to victims. As the popularity of this approach increases, new and controversial applications have spawned a significant body of literature. Among the contested applications is the use of restorative justice for sexual assault and partner violence. Sexual violence against women is of particular concern as the conventional criminal justice system may be viewed as a patriarchal institution that only perpetuates the myths and stereotypes surrounding these crimes. Published literature on the use of restorative justice for sexual offences/partner violence is mostly theoretical and refrains from drawing any firm conclusions; however, the door is consistently left ajar for further discussion and research. In Nova Scotia, as in many other jurisdictions worldwide, a moratorium prevents the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice program from handling such cases. This thesis examines the potential harms and benefits of extending restorative justice to sexual assault/partner violence. Open-ended interviews were conducted with eight respondents, three from positions within the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice program, three from the criminal justice system, and two respondents who were women‟s or victim‟s advocates. This thesis comes to the conclusion that the door must remain open for further discussion about the role of restorative justice in cases of sexual assault and the generation of research must proceed, albeit with caution and input from feminist organizations and women‟s advocates.
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