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It is the core of Restorative Justice that an offender must accept responsibility for the harm that they have caused.

By Michelle Carroll For the past few years, the college sexual assault movement has been unable to answer a simple question: what do we do with people who commit sexual violence? In 2015, Dana Bolger of Feministing asked her readers to consider whether incarcerating a segment of the male population is a viable solution. She highlights a 2015 study from JAMA Pediatrics that she argues successfully challenges the movement’s assumption that a majority of campus sexual violence is perpetrated by repeat offenders, and that in reality, only 25% of campus sexual violence is committed by repeat offenders. Instead, a significant portion of campus rapes are committed by men who rape only once in their college career (this study finds that 10.8% of a university’s male population are ‘one time’ offenders). Bolger concludes her article by arguing that it is not feasible to lock up nearly 11% of the male population in the hopes that by isolating the “real criminals” from our population, we can eradicate campus sexual violence. I agree with Bolger’s conclusion. But, not with her reasoning. Beyond the logistical difficulties, incarcerating 11% of our university male population will further solidify the United States as the most prolific country in rates of mass incarceration. And we know that our criminal justice system actively perpetrates institutional racism and terrorizes communities of color. Black people in this country are five times more likely to be imprisoned than their white counterparts, and Hispanics are imprisoned at double the rates of white people. If we want to radically transform our campus communities and eradicate the cultural norms that underpin sexual violence, imprisoning more black and brown people will only sustain this system of violence. The answer to college sexual assault is not to replicate the racism of our penal system in colleges and universities, but rather to initiate a prevention and response strategy that prioritizes healing for the victim, perpetrator, and the whole community. What do we do with people who commit sexual violence on college and university campuses? The answer is to employ Restorative Justice techniques.
What Restorative Justice Isn’t
When I was a junior at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, there was a public incident of sexual harassment. A male sports team rated women as they walked through the center of campus during the middle of the afternoon. Within hours the entire student population had heard. I didn’t see the team rate women, but I certainly discussed the team’s behavior in conversations with my fellow Women’s Center members as well as on Facebook. However, the college didn’t release a statement or explanation to the student body. As anyone who attended college knows, sexual violence investigations and sanctions are sacrosanct—you may hear about the incident, but you’ll never hear about the aftermath. In this case, our college Title IX coordinator reached out to me to design a Women’s Center conversation around catcalling so that the team could attend and hear the perspective of their female peers. To no one’s surprise, the conversation was a disaster. The team came ready for a fight, bringing female reinforcements to testify in Franklin and Marshall’s Women’s Center that “No, catcalling doesn’t bother me” and “I know I look good when I’m catcalled.” The conversation lasted for an hour and at the end, neither the team nor the Women’s Center members felt heard or supported. Everyone left the room angry and I spent the afternoon sobbing in my dorm room.
Related: THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS SIDING WITH RAPISTS

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