Ending Sexual Violence Through Transformative Justice
Sexual violence is used to maintain what Dr. Riane Eisler (1990) conceptualizes as the dominator model of society. The early days of the feminist anti-violence movement focused on changing the dominator model, but, in part, this focus was co-opted by seeking criminal justice solutions, contributing to punitive responses and mass incarceration that have been ineffective in ending sexual violence. The racist history of the rape charge and its disproportionate effect on people of color, an effect that continues today. Legislators have passed draconian laws that uniquely apply to anyone convicted of a sex offense, the definition of which has been broadened to encompass harmless behavior. A separate legal regime for sex offenders that isolates them from society and marks them for life as monsters obfuscates the causes of sexual violence and contributes to the problem. The feminist anti-violence movement remains influential, though little recognized, in today’s efforts to respond to sexual violence through restorative justice and transformative justice. A number of groups have adopted the RJ/TJ model, in particular women of color. The article provides examples of successful and unsuccessful implementation of RJ/TJ and discusses impediments to wider adoption of this approach. RJ/TJ is a promising alternative to the current criminal justice response to sexual assault, one that will bring us closer to a partnership culture.
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