Abstract: Restorative and Transformative Justice Responses to Sexual Violence: A Scoping Review (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

539P Restorative and Transformative Justice Responses to Sexual Violence: A Scoping Review

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Jelena Todic, PhD, Assistant Professor, The University of Texas at San Antonio, College for Health, Community and Policy, Department of Social Work, San Antonio, TX
Sheila McMahon, PhD, Assistant Professor, Barry University, Miami Shores, FL
Candace Christensen, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX
Background/Purpose: #MeToo movement raised the profiles of restorative (RJ) and transformative justice (TJ) in the public discourse as non-punitive relational approaches to repairing harm that center the needs of sexual violence survivors. While RJ seeks to restore relationships to their state prior to harm, TJ acknowledges that harms occur in the context of unjust sociopolitical conditions that shape relationships, aiming to radically transform both (Kim, 2019). We conducted a scoping review to map the current state of empirical and grey literature about RJ and TJ responses to sexual misconduct and social workers’ roles in producing knowledge related to these approaches.

Methods: Peters et al. (2015, 2017) nine-stage framework and the PRISMA-ScR (Tricco et al., 2018) checklist guided the review. We developed an extensive search strategy to identify items published in English between 1999 and 2020 without geographic restrictions. We included grey literature because TJ, as an emergent anti-institutional community-based response (Kim, 2019), is likely understudied. We searched seven databases: PsycINFO, Social Services Abstracts, PubMed, ERIC, SW Abstracts, Criminal Justice Abstracts, and SocINDEX. We also searched OpenGrey, New York Academy of Medicine Grey Literature Report, Yahoo, Bing, and Google. Included items referenced RJ/TJ and sexual misconduct. We identified 789 peer-reviewed and 409 grey literature items. We charted the publication year, type of RJ/TJ, and implementation setting. For the peer-reviewed articles, we charted 1) if the first author was a SW scholar, 2) if the article appeared in the SW journal, and 3) the researcher’s geographic location. The final stage involved collating and analyzing the data.

Results: Items that met the review inclusion criteria included 159 peer-reviewed and 258 grey literature documents. For 20 years, the interest in RJ and TJ has increased in both research and gray literature, with a notable increase in the grey literature starting in 2017, coinciding with the first appearance of the #MeToo hashtag. Approximately 28% of the included peer-reviewed and over 60% of the grey literature items were published since 2017. While institutions (e.g. legal system) primarily implement RJ, community-based efforts drive TJ implementation. TJ comprised 38% of the gray literature items; however, only 3% of the peer-reviewed items focused on TJ. Empirical and conceptual literature indicate that these approaches may effectively meet the needs of survivors, those responsible for sexual harms, and the community, while reducing the size of the prison industrial complex. Surprisingly, only 4% of the peer-reviewed items appeared in SW journals. Among the 12 scholars who published at least three articles on TJ/RJ, only two were SW scholars.

Conclusions/Implications: Despite the increased public interest in RJ/TJ approaches, their potential effectiveness to meet the needs of all impacted by sexual violence, and the role they could play in decarceration, SW scholars are, generally, not investigating RJ or TJ responses to sexual violence. Given the alignment of RJ and TJ with SW values, SW scholars should reflect on the hesitancy to produce knowledge related to these approaches and engage with community practitioners to determine how to best support their efforts.