Repairing the Irreparable
At the time of writing this testimonial, it has been exactly 4 months since I went through this process. I am waiting for the 3rd step: the assessment. It will be done by Visio conference to assess my health at the moment in contrast to how much more work has to be done. This will be a first in the history of restorative justice in Quebec in 18 years. You are probably asking yourself the following question: How have I been since?
Very good. Better than I could have hoped for. A very surprising thing happened; there was an integration of several pieces of my personality. I feel ONE. I feel centred, in one piece. I don’t know if I can say I feel fully complete, maybe I still have some pieces to patch, but the difference is major! I continue my path and my therapy in neuropsychology and to consult my social worker who has been following me for 8 years. I continue to take care of myself, to create and to get involved in projects that bring about social change. My family and friends are impressed by my serenity, my patience and my compassion. I did not believe that the fruits from this process would be so great. I experience a deep sense of gratitude.
To read the full testimony (French only) click here
During my childhood, I was sexually abused by a member of my family from around the age of 4 to 12 years old. The exact recalling of the ages might not be accurate because my brain has isolated the events and buried them far away until they resurfaced 3 years ago.
At that time, I consulted a professional and it led me to take several steps towards therapy. Throughout the process, there have been several people in my path who have been so helpful to me. I had the privilege of hearing their own testimonies, including a very special one from an ex-convict. It is different from mine, but what impacted me in his story was when he spoke of the interior prison… he said, and I quote him: ”the interior prison is not different from the penitentiary, the only difference is the bars.” He also talked about restorative justice, and I immediately knew that it could be the process to finally bring me closure, and that I would finally get out of my own prison.
My friend, yes, this charming ex-convict, means a lot to me now, and I care for him a lot. He was the one who had the key to let me out of my prison.
One time we were talking, and he explained to me what restorative justice was, and he strongly suggested that I call the CSJR, so that’s what I did. Two days later, I had my meeting with Estelle at the CSJR. Wow, what a wonderful woman, a heart on two legs who listens well. We determined together that I was ready for a meeting.
November 10th arrived, and I had my face-to-face inmate/victim encounter at Montée Saint-François penitentiary. This meeting allowed me to come to full closure in my journey. This meeting was magical, it took place in love, understanding, listening, honesty, respect, gentleness … For the first time, an aggressor who committed the same type of crime as my aggressor told me that I am not responsible, that I have nothing to be ashamed of, and that it is he who is responsible…. Wow, what a liberation!
I sincerely wish for anyone who has been the victim of a crime to have the courage to take this step. I would have never thought to go to a penitentiary to talk to someone who did the same things, who stole my childhood, my adolescence, my adult life, my life….
Today, I can assure you that my opinion has really changed about my abuser and I understand so much better now how he got there. This person was able to explain to me what was going on in his head and his emotions.
Thank you Mr. X for your generosity, and for having had the courage and the strength to walk as I did, you have been the closure and the start of a new chapter that life offers me today.
Very sincerely! Thank you Mr. X
Once again thank you…
An ex-victim… Now a survivor !!
Since my childhood, I have experienced a lot of suffering because I was the victim of incest and rape and then assaults. I was afraid of others and felt guilty. For years, I went to therapy because I wanted to understand and I wanted to get to know myself.
In the spring of 2010, I participated in a victim-offender encounter, and my life changed. Restorative justice allowed me to confront people who had done similar acts to what I had suffered. They listen to you and you listen to them. I understood what led them to act this way, and what they went through at the time. This process allowed me to stop judging others, feeling guilty and being afraid.
I have new hope. Since then, the journey continues to make its way internally. I try to keep this peace that has been with me since this experience.
Carole’s Testimony, victim of incest
In individual therapy, it seemed to me that I had covered the issue of sexual abuse suffered in my childhood. Despite all these steps, I kept the feelings of shame and guilt within me.
In 2009, I agreed, after reading an article in a magazine, to participate in RDV meetings. For a few weeks, I had the opportunity to share with others the emotions, feelings and struggles deep within me. I no longer felt alone. Others who have experienced similar situations testified with similar stories. These exchanges allowed me to stop being afraid of what I was feeling. I felt normal! The confusion was fading.
Where the flow of energy arose was when an abuser admitted to us that he was solely responsible for his actions. It was in a torrent of tears that my anxiety released. Finally, the truth was told. I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long. Even if the person was not my own abuser, it was for me the balm on the wound that remained open for too long.
I also had the opportunity to talk about my anger, my fears and my grudges. Talk about how the satisfaction of a few seconds can mark the life of another forever. All this happened in a safe and wonderfully well supervised place. At times, the support of the facilitators allowed me to realize how much this same support was lacking during the events of my childhood.
Since these meetings, I have continued to experience benefits in my life. I treat myself with a lot more respect. It’s like I’ve forgiven myself for being the victim of an adult. I greet myself with so much more love. I am taking back the power over my life. I feel cleared of a heavy burden. I stopped wondering what the hell I had done to attract this situation.
I also find that it is important to tell the abuser what we have been through so that they do not repeat their actions. At the same time, it is also important that they forgive themselves because if they see themselves as less than nothing, they will act accordingly.
Carole B’s testimony, mother of a young victim of murder
My therapist, who knew my desire to do everything for my recovery and to come out of victimization, presented me with a brochure about meetings between inmates and victims (RDV) offered by the Centre for Services in Restorative Justice. These meetings gave me an opportunity to express myself freely. They fostered awareness on both the impact the murder of my child had on me, and the release of destructive emotions. They have helped to build mutual understanding of the experiences of detainees and victims, and to let go of prejudices.
From the first meeting, I was convinced that this approach would be beneficial to me. I was not wrong. Each participant was very respectful of the feelings expressed, and great compassion was felt in the group during these six weeks of meetings.
I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, or how I would react to four men found guilty of murder. To my astonishment, these men were deeply moved to meet victims of crime and to listen to my story which showed them the consequences of the actions they committed. I experienced an exchange of perceptions of the events that brought us together. My belief is that we are all interactive as humans, a word or a look can take us further in our personal development. Expressing my experiences gave me back my dignity, I could finally speak directly to people who had caused other people to do something inadmissible. There, I discovered my openness to all humans, no matter who they are, and my desire to give anyone a chance.
I believe that any perpetrator must be stopped in the way they act, which can then raise awareness in them. Then, if they have a sincere desire to rehabilitate themselves, they should be entitled to a second chance. […]
Restorative justice is part of my therapeutic journey and I participated in the RDV to invest in my well-being to lead me to greater things. The four inmates we met have been working on themselves since their incarceration, and they are serious about their desire for rehabilitation. In my opinion, inmates, like victims, were affected by the same extreme gesture. We have the same path to take to get out of it. Once we are at our lowest, we must emerge from it by forgiving ourselves and making amends to ourselves.
Other Brief Testimonies
“We used to say to ourselves all the time: ‘they are going to come back, they are going to come back.”
– P., victim of robbery
“My safety and my children’s safety were stolen from me.”
– A., victim of hold-up and rape
“As unbelievable as it may sound, I was looking for my fault in the unfortunate event.”
– J., victim of incest
“It was an old cup, it was the cup my mother drank from, plastic because it spilled everything. To me, it was precious. It was like a wedding ring. They took my mother away from me.”
– P., victim of robbery
“I am convinced that meeting someone who has hurt us – or who has done something similar – is definitely an important step (when possible) in a healing process.”
– R., indirect victim of their mother’s murder
“The will power to go all the way allows one to witness something extraordinary: an unsuspected openness, an empathy for human suffering even if it is felt by an aggressor. From then on, the aggressor is no longer a beast, a monster, a demon, he becomes human.”
– J., victim of incest
“I was able to be fully human, with my emotions both negative and positive. In expressing to inmates my anger at having been repeatedly robbed, I have found that forgiveness cannot come without being met by honesty first.”
– P., victim of break-in
“This is the first time in 36 years that I have spoken about what happened to me. I never thought it was possible. It was always choking me up.”
– G., victim of incest
“We both had bars, they weren’t quite the same, but we both had bars. The victim-offender encounters made it possible to acknowledge this to ourselves … As much as the victim depersonalizes the inmate, the inmate also depersonalizes the victim.”
– Lise, victim of holdup