Penn’s State Sandusky, sexual abuse and restorative justice
Penn State’s Sandusky, sexual abuse and restorative justice
June 26, 2012
In the U.S., and because of the Internet, few have not been following the case of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky accused of sexually molesting 10 children. Sandusky has now been found guilty of 45 counts out of 48 by a jury of his peers. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/jerry-sandusky-found-guilty-of-nearly-all-charges/2012/06/22/gJQABZQHvV_story.html?hpid=z1
I have written previously on this story, last year with a blog piece appearing in PFI’s blog at rjonline.org, but this is an update given the conclusion of this trial. The sentencing remains, however, which is to happen in August or September of 2012. We can learn much from these crimes as we consider how to apply restorative justice to each and every case.
Through RJI’s discussion group at linkedin we have had recent exchanges on the subject of sexual assault and restorative justice. One member stated that she thought it unwise and risky to use restorative justice in cases of sexual assault, including domestic violence. I disagree. In fact, severely violent cases are exactly when restorative justice can have the greatest positive effect on crime victims and their offenders. Evidence-based research from around the world is showing exactly this fact. (Strang and Sherman: The Evidence; Smith Institute, 2007) What I want to stress here, however, is that victims of violence deserve more. They deserve and have the right to restorative justice.
Regardless of the payment these victims are likely to receive in compensation (restitution), I propose that victims want something else. They would want to see offenders admit their crimes. They would want the offender to admit he abused them. He would show remorse for his actions, something we have not seen in the court proceedings in the Sandusky case. That is not surprising since the defendant has never admitted guilt. He still today says he is innocent. Victims, even these victims, have questions of the abuser. Restorative justice if applied would allow a direct victim offender meeting if desired by the victim. Might this ever happen? I don’t know. I would contend that at least one victim out of 10 would choose to meet the offender. Do they have that option? We think that restorative justice should be a victim’s right.
When we study the Sandusky case it is hard not to think of other victims of abuse. Clergy abuse cases call for the same response. In very few cases victims of clergy abuse have had their day in court. That might be changing, however. We encourage the use of restorative justice in each case. RJI is committed to speaking out for victims who choose restorative justice and to educate victims about the potential value of restorative justice in their own lives.