Hurt People, Hurt People
“It is very difficult for people to believe the simple fact that every persecutor was once a victim” Alice Miller Swiss Psychologist
Restorative Justice (RJ) puts victims in the centre of a process that seeks to bring healing from harm caused by actions against them. Unlike the criminal justice process that focuses on perpetrators of crime, RJ turns the spotlight onto the pain, hurt, confusion and even humiliation, of victims. However, in the tangled complex lives of the young men we work with behind bars, we recognize that it is not an easy, or worthwhile, task to categorize people. We discover that the perpetrator of a crime has often been a victim many times over.
Criminal Justice wants to find out, what happened and then punish the offender accordingly. The courts and lawyers battle through complex cases in an attempt to apportion blame and motivation. This can be an absorbing and even entertaining process. Witness the huge media interest in the Oscar Pistorius case and now the Dewani trial. The big question “Guilty or Innocent” hangs in the balance as clever prosecutors and defense attorneys attempt to uncover the truth.
Yet so often “the truth” is elusive and questions remain. People disagree with verdicts, and appeals to reopen trials are lodged. Maybe the truth is not a simple ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ verdict.
If the criminal justice arena is concerned with ‘what’ happened the study of psychology deals with ‘why’ things happen. In the words we use in our RESTORE programme:
“Why do, hurt people, hurt people”?
The dreadful cycle of victims becoming persecutors can be broken. Acknowledging past wrongs and the giving and receiving of forgiveness, as happens in a restorative justice process, can begin to break strangleholds of hate, suspicion and division.
When someone takes time to listen to a story, when the silence is broken over an event that has been silenced through shame for years, when we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes… dividing walls of hostility, suspicion and distrust begin to crumble. Maybe when we do that we will, “…believe the simple fact that every persecutor was once a victim. “