Sexual Violence project

Developing Integrated Responses to Sexual Violence: An Interdisciplinary Research Project on the Potential of Restorative Justice (2013-2015)

Promotor: Leuven Institute of Criminology (LINC) at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven)

Partners: University College Dublin (Ireland), INTERVICT – University of Tilburg (the Netherlands), Max Planck Institute (Germany), AIM Project (UK), University of Southern Denmark (Denmark), University Hospital of Trondheim (Norway), European Forum for Restorative Justice (Belgium).

Duration: 2 years. 

Funding: Daphne 2011 - European Commission – Directorate-General Justice - JUST/2011/DAP/AG/3350


Whether intra-familial, within the church, anonymous or during conflicts, in all its forms sexual violence (SV) is frequent and widespread as can be seen on a daily basis in the media. Anecdotal accounts and scholarly reports seem to suggest that the great majority of SV victims do not receive redress. It is a widely recognised fact that the current and traditional approach to 'justice' (that procured in a formalistic way by police authorities, the court system, the prison, etc.) is limited in what it can offer in terms of 'justice' to either victims or offenders of sexual crime, in part because of its structure and aims.

The theory and practice of Restorative Justice (RJ) is rapidly developing and offers some well-argued new avenues for dealing with crime in general. It has the potential to be extended to offenses of sexual violence and some small scale projects are already underway in this domain internationally. This research project intends to examine this innovative justice paradigm in more depth in the particular context of sexual trauma and violence. In doing so it aims to establish the empirical realities of restorative justice approaches in cases of sexual crime and to see how they could be developed adequately in the future.

Main research question: To which degree can RJ contribute to a more integrated and balanced response to offenses of SV?

  • - Are RJ interventions and programmes compatible with the specific characteristics of different types of SV?
  • - Could they help address more appropriately, in an integrated and balanced way, the needs and responsibilities of those immediately involved, i.e. victims, perpetrators, their communities of care, and concerned institutions such as the criminal justice system?