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Transformative Justice

Transformative justice aims to transform the conditions that enabled harm, and repair the harm through healing, accountability, and resilience.

Everyone has different ways of healing; there is no one “right way.” Sometimes we find comfort in those around us and sometimes we simply find comfort in our own homes. Regardless of how we choose to heal, one thing remains common; we seek justice for what has been done to us. While the obvious solution to seek justice may be to rely on state-controlled institutions, such as prisons or courts, that may be difficult for many. Often times, by relying on these institutions, the victim can be re-traumatized having to explain the details and painful events over and over again. This is not a remedy. It is important to note that while many of us choose not to inform the police, certain communities cannot call the police. This rejection of state-controlled institutions stem from distrust in police from marginalized communities, including black, indigenous and people of colour.

 This is where the idea of transformative justice comes in. This process aims to “transform the conditions that enabled the harm, and at the same time repair the harm by prompting healing, accountability, resilience and safety for all those who are involved.” Broadly speaking, transformative justice means “making things right.” It means addressing harms in a safe and comfortable manner. There are three key components of transformative justice that make it an effective method of healing.

The first is a trauma-informed and survivor focused healing. This means that it is important to support survivors in regaining their freedom, confidence and autonomy in an informed manner. Survivors must be given opportunities to decide what and who helps them with their healing, instead of imposing our views on them. This is a crucial aspect because it demonstrates that there is an attempt to listen to the survivor and understand their voice.

The second approach is collective action and community healing. Everyone comes from a different background. We are all diverse in nature and our different identities shape who we are. Community accountability means transforming the way we respond and react to sexual violence. It is about asking those difficult questions and addressing the root causes that have perpetuated these harmful environments. By working together as a community to understand violence better, there is a greater desire to provide a supportive and safe space for all. This form of justice invites us as a community to address supremacy, heterosexism, misogyny and other harmful concepts.

The third approach is recognizing and accounting for cultural differences. Not all of us will approach a problem in the same manner. Our insecurities, habits and uncertainties will impact the way we speak to our community and this is a factor that needs to be accounted for when working on communal change.

four women of different ethnicities close together.

Transformative Justice looks different for everybody. For instance, if a woman who has been abused is seeking remedy there are certain steps one needs to take the address the harm. The first would be to ask if they are comfortable speaking. By asking questions such as “Do you need some water” or “Do you need some space” are very helpful and indicate a survivor focused approach. The next step would be assessing what happened or how they believe they have been impacted. Questioning them about what the desired outcome would look like for them is also quite beneficial. The last step in this process is the most difficult. This step entails deciding what measures the community will take to address these systemic harms and how they will approach it. This could include having meetings as a community or engaging in mediation practices.

Transformative justice can be very powerful. It allows us to communicate and heal as a whole. However, it has been said that sometimes our communities may be just as harmful as state responses. Our communities are not always perfect, and they can in fact preserve feelings of shame, stigma and victim blaming. After survivors come forward, these may be the responses they are greeted with and once again, there is no accessibility to a safe space for them. It is crucial to encourage survivors to come forward so corrective measures can be implemented. Eradicating stigma and shame must be a priority for all communities and by actively working together as a group, these results can be achieved.

Transformative justice is not a perfect solution. There is always more work to be done and it is a process. We are consistently learning throughout the journey and working to become better versions of ourselves. Although transformative justice is only one way to make change and address harms, it is a step in the right direction.

Written by: Shreeya Devnani

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