Paris May Be the Most Beautiful City I’ve Seen…

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The Focus of my Research: Rape and Restorative Justice

I have not written nearly enough on this topic thus far both because it can be deeply personal, not to mention deeply disturbing, and because it easily elicits misunderstanding. I will hesitate no longer. I have now made the topic utterly impossible for me to avoid — it is the subject of my Master’s thesis and will likely be the subject of any further study.

Even if I chose the relationship between fairies and unicorns as my thesis topic, recent events in the United States, India, and elsewhere have made sexual violence, in particular, an unavoidable subject.

You may ask, even if you are already familiar with both sexual violence and restorative justice, what does this topic have to do with Peace and Conflict Studies? It’s an important question because too often this emerging field of study is associated with war and international politics much to the detriment of areas like peace psychology and sociology. I do not feel like I have much to add to the discourse on war and peace that has gone on since humankind developed armies and weapons, but I do believe I have much to offer on a subject that almost no one likes to discuss — sexual violence — and solutions to it that are discussed even less. Yet, the time to discuss these solutions must be now as we find ourselves presented with more and more evidence that the current system is not working. The legalistic status quo rarely produces prosecutions in cases of sexual assault let alone true and enduring satisfaction for the victims and their families. It certainly does not consider the needs of perpetrators, their families, or the community that produced them. Perhaps most importantly, it has neither stopped sexual violence nor curtailed it in any reassuring way in the United States or anywhere else for that matter. Despite what cynics may say, the first assumption of my research is that it can be stopped or at least greatly curtailed. The second assumption is that I am not the only one who thinks we need an alternative to the legalistic status quo, and the third is that there are desirable and practical alternatives.

Starting from these assumptions, I will narrow my focus to populations that are already opposed to the said status quo — namely social movements and leftist organizations — and only analyze alternatives that are in keeping with restorative justice principles. I will do this both for practical and ideological reasons. I cannot pretend to be the most ambitious of scholar-activists and claim that I can get anyone other than a die-hard anti-authoritarian peacenik to apply my ideas (after all, my goal is social change not personal prestige), and similarly I cannot focus on alternatives to the status quo that would be considered violent or unlawful, such as vigilantism.

As many of my friends and colleagues know, there is nothing I hate more than sexual violence and nothing I love more than restorative justice — combining the two, therefore, makes perfect sense in my world. Restorative justice is something I would hope to find the courage to practice no matter how difficult the crime in question, and sexual violence is something I would undoubtedly fight to my last breath by almost any means. It was exciting to learn through preliminary database searches that I am not the only one trekking down this quite under-developed path.

My hope is that some day our first choice will be restorative justice for any and all harm done to us by another person. A recent article in the New York Times Magazine gave me more inspiration than ever. If mainstream sources are acknowledging that it can be effectively used even in murder cases, then certainly restorative justice deserves its day in court (so to speak) in the context of sexual violence. In fact, it has been attempted already on a very small scale, and in the context of child sexual abuse, an entire guiding philosophy and praxis has been developed. All of this, of course, will be documented in my thesis along with bold, new ideas and, with luck, empirical research in support of them. It will be a long and difficult task, but rest-assured that it is only the beginning.

Peace, Greece

I was very privileged to spend a week in Greece. It turned out to not be enough. I didn’t get to visit Athens, and it was the wrong time of year to appreciate the numerous beaches and islands dotting the coastline. I must return.

Here is a poem I wrote while resting by the Mediterranean Sea on the day after Christmas in Thessaloniki:

I stare out into the sea
Toward the kingdom of her majesty
And I am in love
I am in love

I can’t compromise
I wear no disguise
I am in love
I am in love

A ship floats in the fog
I lie beside a sleeping dog
I am in love
I am in love

The clarinet tune makes me cry
I can’t tell the sea from the sky
I am in love
I am in love

This beauty is best for viewing
I must learn to live without doing
I am in love
I am in love

The clouds block out the sun
Though the day has only begun
And of troubles, I know not one
I am in love
I am in love

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