Today is International Women's Day and the theme 'Be Bold for Change' strikes a chord with us here at 'Why me?'
The bold change that we campaign for is: access to Restorative Justice to be genuinely offered to all victims of crime.
One woman who has a powerful and very personal insight into the value of Restorative Justice is Rosalyn Boyce.
Over a decade ago Rosalyn was repeatedly raped and tortured at knifepoint by a serial rapist who broke into her home one evening whilst her two year old daughter slept in the room next door. The rapist was apprehended, convicted and received three life sentences for his crimes.
Rosalyn felt strongly that she wanted to meet her attacker to ask 'Why?'
Restorative Justice is a process that involves both the victim and the offender and in which both must be willing and agree to participate. Rosalyn had to push hard for the right to meet her attacker.
Fourteen years on from the crime and in 2014 Rosalyn was sitting face to face in a Restorative Justice conference with the man who had attacked her. She describes the meeting:
"When he was led into the room I found myself transfixed."
"I didn't recognise the man sitting opposite me as the monster who had attacked me. He looked nervous, sad and weak. I had carried an image of him in my mind for (14) years and he wasn't the same man. There were seven people, my friend, facilitators, prison officers present, and he was asked to give his version of events leading up to the attack. He took a long time to speak. He couldn't look me in the eye. But as he described the moment he first saw me, he finally looked at me.
"He said he was a monster that night, he enjoyed violence and got a kick out of it. He apologised and said he'd had years of therapy in prison but didn't realise until that day the actual harm he had caused."
A willingness to forgive the offender it is not a precondition to participation in Restorative Justice. A lot of participants do not forgive and never intended to - it can be about getting answers, a step to aid recovery and enabling the offender to understand the impact of their actions.
It is clear Restorative Justice isn't appropriate in all cases, and not all victims will want to take up the offer - but when it takes place it can empower the victim and rehabilitate the offender. For Rosalyn it took the form of a face-to-face meeting with a trained facilitator present but it can also involve a written exchange via a trained facilitator.
Reflecting on the impact of the meeting Rosalyn said:
"Meeting the man who raped gave me a chance to voice the harm caused - not just to me but to everyone involved - and see for myself if I was at further risk. Since the meeting, life has been better, I generally feel lighter, less afraid and happier."
It was brave and bold of Rosalyn to push for her right to take part in Restorative Justice. It is important to share stories like Rosalyn's to empower more women to make their voice heard in the justice system. As Rosalyn said:
"I realised that the attack was about power and control," she said. "Now I have regained my sense of personal power and control."