Opening the Door Beyond the Legal System: Understanding the Use of Alternative Justice Approaches to Sexual Violence Prevention and Healing in Canada

Victimization surveys suggest that one in three women in Canada and one in six men will experience some kind of sexual violence in their lifetimes. Rather than turn to the police, most victims turn to family or friends or shoulder the burden in silence. For every 1000 sexual assaults in Canada, only 33 are reported, and only 3 result in convictions of the perpetrator. The reality is the current criminal justice responses to sexual violence are not serving victims. When presented with alternatives to the traditional justice system, victims routinely choose them and experience much better outcomes with alternative justice approaches. In 2021, with support from the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Shift conducted research to better understand alternative justice approaches to sexual violence healing and prevention in Canada. By alternative justice approaches, we mean those activities and interventions that are outside the criminal legal system, that are victim and survivor-centred, trauma-informed, and promote prevention, accountability, justice, healing, and repair. The research project involved reviewing academic and grey literature, conducting an environmental scan, and interviewing advocates and practitioners who engage in this work. Through these three data collection methodologies, principles, practices, training, and activities have been identified, along with a series of recommendations to continue to grow and support this area of practice.
Claussen, C., Goulet, S., & Wells, L. (2022). Opening the door beyond the legal system: Understanding the use of alternative justice approaches to sexual violence prevention and healing in Canada. Calgary, AB: The University of Calgary, Shift: The Project to End Domestic Violence.