I have had a few emails asking about the program in Portland that I started 12 years ago. DVSD is a safe place where domestic violence survivors and offenders of domestic violence come together for a dialogue. Survivors can ask questions of an offender that they have always wanted to ask their own but could not do so because of safety and an offender can perform an act of restitution.
I started the program after reading about how surrogate offenders were used dialogues after a rape cases – a rape survivor was able to go to a prison and talk to a convicted (accountable) rapist. She was able to ask him “was it what I was wearing… anything I could have done” and he said “wrong place wrong time — it was not your fault”. Lifts the self-blame off the shoulders of those who have been victimized. Dawned on me that after volunteering for years in shelters that survivors of domestic violence have the exact same questions — “was it something I didl… could I have stopped it”.
So… DVSD was born. Originally, it was Domestic Violence Surrogate Dialogue, but no one could spell surrogate… so an amazing team of designers and word smiths created DVSD – Domestic Violence Safe Dialogue. Much better…
Each of the dialogue sessions has a survivor, an offender, a support person for each and a male/female facilitation team. The facilitators have been trained by DVSD land their one purpose is to hold the space — keep the dialogue safe, open and flowing.
Domestic Violence is an “up and coming” area for Restorative Justice. Many critics have stated that RJ is not an appropriate area for DV because those who have been in DV relationships are not strong enough to participate or that they will have feeling for the offenders because they see similarities in their own offenders but the added benefit being that they are working to change… that this would be an attractive trait.
These assertions are ridiculous. First, anyone who has been physically and emotionally beaten and has lived to see another day — is strong enough to talk to someone about it. Second, and these are the words from one of our survivors “I fell in love with my husband and then realized that I was in an abusive relationship… why would I want to start a relationship with someone who has ‘abuser’ in neon above their head”.
As long as a dialogue is done is a safe environment with participants who are accountable for their actions, the results will be positive. The information learned — by both – might be painful, but only through information can they move forward on their path of healing.
I love this work.