October 3, 2018


The Kavanaugh Hearings Have Demonstrated How Desperately America Needs Restorative Justice: We've retreated too far into our two sides now, but at one point, there was another way. (LARA BAZELON, OCT 02, 2018, Slate)

As I watched the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings I found myself thinking, what if? What if, instead of using our clearly broken and highly politicized process to assess these claims, the parties had been offered a restorative justice process? Both Ford and Kavanaugh spoke openly--and in Kavanaugh's case, ragefully--of the personal hell they had experienced and the tremendous pain inflicted upon their families. But the hearing was not, as advertised, about "getting to the truth." Indeed, the politicized process wasn't even a reasonable example of how America's justice system is supposed to work. Some members of the judiciary committee used Ford and Kavanaugh's anguish to score political points and make headlines for themselves. Rather than providing a resolution, it sowed outrage and confusion. In the process, the harm described by Ford and Kavanaugh spread to millions of people who watched the hearings and found themselves in tears as they listened to both sides and relived their own traumas.

Imagine how differently it might have played out if Ford and Kavanaugh had met in a private room with a trained facilitator instead of making separate appearances under the klieg lights of a nationally televised hearing that many saw as a kangaroo court. In a restorative justice process, Ford could have asked Kavanaugh questions; she could have described the particulars of her suffering, how she had come to this point in her life, and what she needed to move forward.

Kavanaugh could have asked his own questions, and at the same time, he could have faced up to what many perceive to be established facts--his pattern of drunk, boorish behavior as a teenager. Digging deeper, he might have finally been able to move past his flat, repetitive denials and, as Archila suggested, "hold the harm he has done." In this process, they--and we--could have moved away from a world of sides: innocent and guilty, winner and loser. Survivors of sexual assault might have finally received some real justice, and seen some real recognition and grappling. Those who perpetrate sexual misconduct might have realized there was a way to be held accountable without being sent into permanent exile.

It would have been even more helpful had she done this at the time.

Posted by at October 3, 2018 4:14 AM