Orlaith McGibbon (McGibbon Consultancy)

Topic: Can amends be made? Lessons learnt from the application of restorative practices in interfamilial sexual abuse.

Language: English 


For too long the use of restorative practices to offer redress in cases of sexual abuse was considered dangerous with the potential of causing further harm to the victim. Sexual violence is different from most other offending behaviours because it occurs in an intimate context, the dynamics and specific trauma, and because it often happens between people who are acquainted.

In most cases there will be some form of past, perhaps present and even future relationship between the victim and the person who harm. The difficulty of reimagining a safer and positive future relationship is often one of the primary concerns of victims and others indirectly affected by the sexual harm. Very often the perceived ‘safe’ approach to ‘manage’ this tension is to separate the parties and remove the potential for ongoing contact. However, frequently this is not sustainable, or even desirable.

Restorative justice offers victims the chance to reclaim their voice, it presents the opportunity to challenge the perception that their lives have been ruined. An encounter with the person who harmed can support recovery and enable victims to move on with their lives.

Restorative justice interventions can also support the rehabilitation of those who sexually harm. It requires accountability a sincere expression of remorse and a motivation to participate in therapeutic treatment.
This workshop will present a case study of a refugee family impacted by parental and sibling sexual abuse. It will explore the challenges of restoration set within a geo-patriarchal context and consider its utility as a social work response to a request for family reunification. The workshop will introduce the restorative process to the audience and engage them in exploring the inhibitory and facilitative dynamics of the meeting. It will demonstrate how this process enables families to make informed decisions.