A story of healing through restorative justice

by Virginia Domingo
A few days ago, being near the tenth anniversary of the 11th of September, I read the story of the friendship of two mothers confronted by what happened that fateful day. “One of them, Phyllis Rodriguez, 68, part-time teacher of illiterate adults. On September, the 11th she returned home after a walk, when her porter warned her that the Twin Towers were burning. She ran to her flat, turned on the TV and saw that it wasn’t a fire it was the largest terrorist attack in the U.S and just where her son, Greg, was working. She tried to phone him but he wasn’t available. Over the hours, the truth was undeniable, Greg was dead. The pain of the next few days, gave way to anger.
The other mother, Aicha El-Wafi, Muslim of Morocco. On September, the 13th she had to accept that her soon was the most hated man; he was identified as one of the masterminds of the attacks. She knew she shouldn’t feel responsible for the decisions that her soon had taken but she felt guilty because she was his mother. During these days, Phyllis saw a picture of Aicha in a newspaper. She said she would like to meet her but she couldn’t stop thinking she was the mother of the possible murderer of her son, so she couldn’t phone her.  But a year later the president of an association for the reconciliation of victims suggested them to meet each other. Both accepted and what happened there changed their lives. Aicha looked at Phyllis and said “I don’t know if my son is guilty or innocent but I want to apologize for what has happened to you and your family”. Phyllis hugged her. The forgiveness that she gave Aicha acted as instant balm for a year of mourning, pain and anger. Both women became to know each other better, Aicha was brave. She had married very young and was a victim of domestic violence and had to raise her children alone. After the meeting Phyllis said Aicha that she wanted to give her all her support she needed during the trial of her son. Today the two women’s friendship remains intact”.

The atheist of New York and the Morocco’s Islamist are a living lesson of forgiveness and tolerance. Phyllis knew that all she could do is not to succumb to the tragedy and prevent loss define her life. The loss, of course, will always be there, but at least now she doesn’t suffer.

I find curious while shocking to see how these king of stories are proliferating. There are news that easily go unnoticed because, among other things, these news don’t cause social alarm, and don’t constitute “bait” for media, ¡these don’t sell as well as terrible crimes or acts of free violence!

However, these news are welcomed and they are related to Restorative Justice although not directly but in their spirit and intention
Restorative Justice is something, I always talk about, and it is an inexhaustible source of material for everyone who believes in JUSTICE with capital letters.
Usually when we think in Restorative Justice, it is associated with the criminal justice system, and more specifically, at least in Spain, with victim-offender mediation and if it goes successfully it carries certain legal benefits for offenders.

However, we must think in this justice in a more extensive view that try to learn about the causes of conflict and the harmful consequences of it to promote recovery of all involved not only directly but also indirectly.
This story is not a typical issue of Restorative Justice but it is its essence “a healing process of the wounds caused by a crime or harmful action”. It can be said that this case is strictly Restorative Justice applied to the criminal system but without any penological benefits for offenders. Since these processes are geared to address the needs of victims, persons injured and affected, these should not always lead to a reduction in the punishment for offender, and much less in serious crimes like this one. It is a pure process of reconciliation and healing, nothing more.
In fact, in this story, are there a victim and an offender? Or two victims? The terrorist’s mother is not a victim? Wasn’t she affected by what happened this terrible day?
Here there is not a repentant offender who wants to repair the damage, hopelly this could happen in every case, but unfortunately there is no magic wand, some will assume his guilt and will try to change but others do not, therefore, this Justice is not only a process of repairing the damage caused. It is a process of emotional and psychological recovery and restoration of all human beings affected by the harmful action of others.

Following this story, both mothers can be considered as victims. In many parts of the world, they associate Restorative Justice with reconciliation, however reconciliation is not the purpose or the goal of Restorative Justice but it can lead through a restorative process.
These women, with this Justice, could let off steam, talked about their pain and the feelings they had after the crime (one mother of the boy murdered felt pain, helplessness and anger, and the other felt pain, powerlessness and shame) they were able to speak face to face, they could overcome the trauma of the crime, of course, without forgetting it but accepting it just as another part of the story of their lives. As Phyllis said “the loss will always be there, but she knew that she had to avoid that everything went around the traumatic event”.

And I would add that it is essential for victims to forgive themselves because many of them feel guilty of what has happened in this story, both women to some extent, felt a little guilty, one for failing to better protect her son and the other for failing to instil in his son other values that could have kept him away from crime.
Crime link victim to offender all of their life, the difference is to be able to overcome the tragedy and mitigate the hatred and anger transforming them into reconciliation at least, with oneself and the community.
Only in this way we can say that crime has not ruined the lives of victims and bad has not succeeded completely. The mother of the murdered man started feeling anger and hate and then she felt understood and she was able to understand the suffering of the other mother. All this seems very unrealistic but it is what many victims really need and it is what Restorative Justice can offer them.

Another issue would be if it is possible or advisable the reconciliation with offenders? But I will talk about this in another article; meanwhile I leave this question in the air.
This post was made originally on our sister site Criminology y Justice - Feel free to visit and see world news from Spain and the surrounding areas!
Si quieres leer más artículos de Virginia Domingo entra en http://cj-worldnews.com/spain/

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