The Family Violence Restorative Justice (FVRJ) Service facilitates restorative conversations for victim survivors of family violence. Our staff support victim survivors to talk about the harms they have experienced in order to heal and move forward from their experience of family violence.
While women are most often the victim, family violence can affect anybody. We are committed to helping people of all gender identities, ethnicities, sexual orientations, religions and abilities. This includes transgender and gender diverse people of all presentations, as well as cisgender men and women.
You can get support from the FVRJ Service as long as you are:
- not the person using violence
- over 18 years of age.
How it works
A restorative conversation is a safe, facilitated meeting. Restorative conversations help people who have experienced family violence to feel heard and have their experiences validated. The aim is that people in the conversation will come to a shared understanding about what has happened, how the victim survivor has been affected, and how to make the situation better. We can support a victim survivor to have a restorative conversation with whoever they choose. The restorative conversation can be about:
- what has happened
- how the victim survivor has been affected.
We might hold one restorative conversation, or a series of conversations. This will depend on the victim survivors needs and preferences.
Who is involved?
We work with the victim survivor to plan what they would like to talk about, and who are the right people to take part in this conversation.
This might be people who:
- have been affected by the family violence
- can help make things better.
This may or may not include the perpetrator.
Other people who take part might include:
- family members
- friends or other loved ones you trust
- people who give you professional support, such as social workers or psychologists
- representatives from an organisation, institution or community
- the person who has used family violence.
Sometimes victim survivors may decide during their preparation that a restorative conversation is not the right option for them, or that it is not the best option right now but might be helpful in the future.
Participating in a family violence restorative conversation
FVRJ staff meet with each participant to thoroughly prepare them to engage in a restorative conversation. They are provided with a clear explanation of what will take place leading up to, during, and after the completion of the restorative conversation.
For those who have experienced family violence
Everyone who works at the FVRJ Service is experienced and trained in family violence and restorative practice. Someone will work with you throughout your time with us to:
- understand your story
- help you get ready for the restorative conversation
- support you during the restorative conversation
- check in with you afterwards
- help you with any follow up.
Your participation in a restorative conversation is voluntary. You can choose to stop or pause your involvement at any time.
For friends and family of the victim survivor
If a close friend or family member of yours has experienced family violence, you may be invited to participate in a restorative conversation. Participants are chosen based on the needs of the victim survivor at that particular time, so not all close family members and friends will always be invited.
Your participation in a restorative conversation is voluntary. If you choose to be involved:
- FVRJ staff will explain the process, what you can expect from it, and your rights and responsibilities
- you will be supported before, during and after any restorative conversation about the family violence that has occurred
- you can choose to end your involvement at any time.
For those who have perpetrated violence against the victim survivor
As the person who has been violent, you may be asked to participate in a restorative conversation if the victim survivor has requested your involvement. You will only be asked to participate where it is safe and helpful for the victim survivor.
It’s important to remember that the restorative conversation is focused on acknowledging and addressing the harm that has been done to the victim survivor.
In order to participate, you must be prepared to:
- acknowledge responsibility for your behaviour
- listen to the victim survivor and other participants
- express your feelings appropriately
- discuss the harm that has been caused.
Your participation in a restorative conversation is voluntary. If you choose to be involved:
• FVRJ staff will explain the process, what you can expect from it, and your rights and responsibilities
• you will be offered support before, during and after any discussion about the family violence that has occurred
• you can choose to stop at any time.
Frequently asked questions
What is family violence?
Family violence is any behaviour that makes someone feel scared and fear for their safety or wellbeing. It can be physical or non-physical. Family violence can happen in many different personal or family relationships, such as:
- in a de-facto relationship, civil union or marriage
- between boyfriends, girlfriends or partners
- between family members - parents, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents
- between a person with disability, their relatives and/or their carer
- between an older person, their relatives and/or their carer
- between people in a 'family-like' relationship (e.g. family of choice), according to traditions or social practices.
There are lots of ways a family member, partner or ex-partner can be abusive, violent or controlling, not just physical.
How can a victim survivor benefit from a restorative conversation?
A restorative conversation is a narrative process that gives the victim survivor a chance to tell their story to the people they want to in a way that is meaningful to them. This can be therapeutic for victim survivors who have felt disempowered, unheard or overlooked during their family violence journey. Some restorative conversations may also result in actions and outcomes that help the victim survivor in the longer term.
Does a restorative conversation mean the victim survivor talks to the person who has harmed them?
Not necessarily. We work with the victim survivor to plan what they want to say and who they would like to say it to. For some people, this might involve talking with the person who has harmed them. For others, it might involve talking with other family members, close friends, or a representative from an organisation, institution or community.
If the victim survivor wants to speak with the person who has harmed them, there are two important things to think about:
- Will it be safe?
- Will they agree to take part?
Our staff will work with the victim survivor to figure this out.
How will the victim survivor be kept safe?
Safety is our main focus. Our staff work closely with each person who engages with our service to get them ready for the restorative conversation. This includes working out if there are any risks of further family violence and managing safety.
When it comes to getting the person who has used family violence ready for a restorative conversation, our staff will need to assess any risks. The person who has used family violence will need to show that they take responsibility for the harm they have caused. If we are worried about their ability to safely take part in a restorative conversation, we will talk to the victim survivor about our concerns and think about the best way forward with them.
Do people have to take part?
No, taking part is voluntary for everyone. If a victim survivor would like a particular person to be involved in their restorative conversation and that person says no, we will talk with the victim survivor about this and see if there are other ways their needs can be met. If the victim survivor wants to stop working with us at any time, that is ok too.
How long will the restorative conversation take?
A restorative conversation will usually take between 90 minutes and two hours.
What happens after a restorative conversation?
FVRJ staff will spend time with the victim survivor reflecting on what was said and how they are feeling. Staff will check in with them during the weeks after the restorative conversation to see how they are going and find out if they have any questions or things that are unresolved for them.
If the restorative conversation includes outcomes or action plans, we will check in with the person(s) responsible for these tasks to make sure they are being completed.
How long will the victim survivor receive support?
The time it takes for a victim survivor and others to be ready for a restorative conversation, have the restorative conversation, and follow up afterwards will vary depending on the needs and circumstances of each victim survivor. There is no time limit to how long we can work with them.
Can a victim survivor use other services while they’re engaged with the FVRJ Service?
The option to engage in a restorative conversation through the FVRJ Service is one of a suite of service options available to victim survivors of family violence. A victim survivor can work with us at the same time as engaging with any other support services and/or therapeutic interventions.
How much will it cost?
Our service is free.
What is the expertise and experience of the FVRJ Service practitioners?
Our staff have diverse backgrounds in restorative practice, social work and family violence, and have received extensive training in family violence risk assessment, trauma-informed care and practice, restorative practice and convening. Staff undertake training on a regular basis to ensure current best practice in family violence and restorative practice.
Tel: 03 9194 2994
If you are in danger, please call 000.
Sharing of information disclosed in restorative justice sessions
People who choose to participate should make sure they understand how the family violence information sharing scheme may affect them.
The laws governing the management of information about people involved in family violence have changed.
The Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme provides new ways for information about victim survivors, perpetrators, alleged perpetrators and other people involved in family violence to be collected, used and shared.
Part 5A of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 and its supporting regulations permit a number of organisations to share current and previously collected information about people involved in or impacted by family violence - to keep people safe, and perpetrators of violence in view.
For some organisations, these changes are already in place. The changes will apply to Family Violence Restorative Justice along with a number of other agencies and their funded organisations from 27 September 2018.
More information about the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme is available on the Family Safety Victoria website .