THE BLOG

Building on the One Fund: Victim Centered Restorative Justice for Survivors of Violent Crime

30/05/2013 15:19 BST | Updated 30/05/2013 15:19 BST

In an outpouring of support, millions of dollars have been raised to help support victims of the Boston marathon attacks and their families.

To date, more than 32 million dollars have been raised from individuals, foundations, and corporations by The One Fund.

The support has been instinctive, generous, and ongoing - with a deep sense of civic and human solidarity inspiring it.

The One Fund is exemplary, and the support it offers surviving victims and their families and the assistance it provides families who lost their loved ones is a testament to the power of collective citizen action to rally around and help the vulnerable in times of need.

The One Fund is exceptional - but it need not be.

Its values of care and compassion are needed not only in times of terrorist attack but whenever innocent citizens suffer from egregious criminal assault.

Our criminal justice system places an enormous emphasis on bringing perpetrators of crime to justice and punishing them for their crimes.

But it does not pay enough attention to, show sensitivity towards, and provide tangible support to victims of egregious violent crimes that often have devastating and disabling consequences for their survivors and/or for family members of a victim of such attack.

Victim centered restorative justice - such as that provided by the One Fund - seeks to provide maximal support and rehabilitation to victims of crime.

It recognizes that survivors of violent assaults have needs that are not met by the punishment of perpetrators alone, however important and essential such punishment is both as a matter of morality and justice and as a potential deterrent against future crimes.

Unfortunately, the type of ad hoc fund that has been created to support the survivors of the marathon attacks and bereaved families cannot be and is not created for every individual who experiences a similarly catastrophic attack.

As a society, we have failed to legislate and provide resources for a comprehensive and dependable program of victim-centered restorative justice for survivors of severe violent crimes such as the Boston marathon attacks but including far more common cases of crime.

The Boston marathon attack was an attack on the people of Boston and on Americans generally in its intent.

But in its outcome, it most directly impacted particular individuals and families, and it is in support of these individuals and families that the One Fund was established, recognizing their needs would not be met by existing government and social service programs.

Across America there are tens of thousands of individuals who have survived harrowing attacks - different in their exact nature and context but sharing qualities of brutality, extreme suffering and loss, and in many cases trauma, both physical and psychological.

As a society we should ask ourselves what we can learn from our own response to the Boston marathon attacks and how we can grow these efforts and the values they actualize to reach more Americans who need support to rebuild their lives after criminal attacks.

It is never enough to punish the perpetrators of crime, we must always simultaneously reach out to assist their victims and stand with them in their times of greatest vulnerability and need so that they can draw strength from our solidarity, both practical and emotional.