Written by Kudakwashe Nyakudya
Many times when the term “justice” is used, it is in reference to the penalty given to a perpetrator for the damage they have caused through their violence and or abuse. However true justice does not end there.
The other side of the sword of justice, often disregarded, is one that focuses on restoring the goodness of life to adult and child victims. Domestic Violence & Abuse (DVA) ruins the human dignity of victims, the restorative nature of justice empowers victims to regain their human worth.
DVA has a multi-dimensional impact on the lives of victims ranging from the damage quickly and easily seen like wounds and bruises, to the damage seen probably after other consequences are evident like mental ill-health. When a victim suffers mental ill-health, it reveals that the brunt of the damage caused by DVA has gone beyond the threshold of what their emotions and psychology can cope with.
If the impact of DVA on pregnant women and their unborn children is examined, there are consequences like miscarriages, still births, low birth weights, sexually transmitted infections, antenatal and postnatal depression, postnatal DVA, and future behavioural & developmental problems in children under 51,2,3.
Therefore if justice only focuses on punishing a perpetrator, it falls short. The greater focus of justice should be on the multi-dimensional restoration of an adult or child’s life after surviving DVA. If death has occurred due to DVA, then the children of the deceased victim and or their family should be shown the hand of justice, even if it is a token.
The justice required after surviving DVA may never truly compensate for all that was lost, because in addition to the impact on health, social and spiritual wellbeing, and a victim’s professional or educational development, there is also lost time. But society, culture, and statutory services need to re-think exactly what justice is.
In my view, as a survivor of DVA, a greater emphasis must be put on the restoration of goodness to a victim’s life. This ranges from the quality of life a victim is empowered to have, to perceptions held about victims – including the level of responsibilities imposed on them after fleeing from their perpetrator.
Often victims are further dis-empowered by the statutory services and society, by being held accountable for a perpetrators shortfalls or being limited as to the quality of life they can have after surviving DVA.
Mentalities and approaches must shift – also in relation to the long term protection of adult and child victims from perpetrators at post-separation. In addition to trying to rebuild their lives, survivors are also trying to recuperate emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically, catch up with lost time, and find their feet once again.
The consequences are worse for child victims of their parents, guardians or faith communities. Notwithstanding all this, victims end up heavy laden with multitudes of expectations, with the arm of justice merely focusing on the punishment of perpetrators.
True justice empowers victims and survivors, and assists them to rehabilitate across all dimensions damaged by DVA to a level where they can achieve complete restoration. Emerging out of DVA is not only about coming out of an abusive relationship or environment, but who survivors become when they are free from DVA. Statutory services, culture and society can lend a hand to victims by ensuring that the restorative nature of the sword of justice is applied effectively.
- Women’s Aid. (2013). Domestic Violence Statistics. Women’s Aid: London. Retrieved 12 June 2013 from womensaid.org.uk/core/core_picker/download.asp?id=1602.
- The British Psychological Society. (2013). Mental Health & Domestic Violence. The British Psychological Society: London.
- Howard, L., Feder, G., & Agnew-Davies, R. (2013). Domestic Violence & Mental Health. Royal College Of Psychiatrists: London.
© Kudakwashe Nyakudya 2015. All Rights Reserved.