The number of sex victims who opt for restorative mediation with the suspect is increasing rapidly. Last year, the number of victims who wanted to talk to them doubled: from 120 to 231. And this year too, the Perspectief Recovery Mediation Foundation sees the demand increasing further.

Image Caption: Previous studies have shown that restorative justice can reduce feelings of anger and fear among sex victims.

Director Nathalie de la Cousine explains the increase because of the growing social attention for sex crimes. In addition, the police are increasingly pointing victims to the possibility of restorative mediation.

The vice squads of the police have been struggling with major backlogs for years. In hundreds of cases, much to the frustration of victims, it takes more than six months to start the investigation. In April last year, the police therefore started an improvement plan to reduce the large number of ‘shelf cases’. One of the components of that plan is to provide more customization, says Lidewijde van Lier, vice specialist at the National Police.

‘We teach teams to look at things differently and to better ask victims: what do you actually need?’, says Van Lier. “Not every victim wants the perpetrator to disappear behind the thick door.” It is often difficult to prove crimes. ‘We also often see that the crime happened during a date that got out of hand where alcohol or drugs were involved. Or think of clumsy teenagers who try to pick up a girl, but are not quite able to respect her boundaries. You can ask yourself whether criminal law is the right solution in every sex crime case.’

Lawyer Ruth Jager also thinks the increasing number of recovery interviews is a good development. She specializes in sex crimes. But warns. ‘You should not resort to mediation because of the large amount of shelf cases at the police. You should only do it in cases that are suitable for that: if the victim and the suspect are open to it.’

According to De la Cousine, the choice for restorative mediation does not mean that the suspect can no longer be prosecuted. ‘You can do both. We are not concerned with finding the truth in the conversations. And a victim can still decide to report the crime after mediation. But vice versa, a mediation process can also be started after a report has been filed, and even years later.’

Previous studies show that restorative mediation can reduce feelings of anger and fear among victims, she says. ‘And that it can reduce the risk of recidivism among offenders.’

Those who register for restorative mediation are first given an exploratory meeting. If it is decided to proceed, the other party is approached for an exploratory meeting. ‘Then follow preparatory talks about expectations. One may want an apology, but the other may not give it. You have to prepare for that.’ The conversation does not have to lead to reconciliation. De la Cousine: ‘But it can also lead to agreements about how you treat each other when you meet. Sometimes suspect and victim share the same group of friends, for example.’


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