"That this task is formidable is softened only by the fact that it takes place in a community that refuses to give up on any of its members no matter how deeply they have been wounded, nor how despicable their acts. ...The difference in Hollow Water is that offenders face their responsibilities with the love, respect, and support which the Anishnabe people believe are due to all creatures. ...There is no such thing as a dispensable person anywhere in this country. We must quit treating them as such. That is what the people of Hollow Water are saying. They are saying that in a world of disposable cups, disposable razors, and disposable diapers, their people are not disposable."
~ Aboriginal Peoples Collection (1997) ~
The Ojibwa of Canada are an Aboriginal people of the Metis, one of three recognized Aboriginal peoples that include the Inuits and First Nations. They refer to themselves as Anishnawbe, meaning "the good people. And indeed they are. These amazing Anishnawbe have left us with a lesson so great, that we are at once reminded of just how powerful the human spirit, no matter how broken, can be - they have gifted us with a legacy so simple and so basic, that the rest of us can only shake our collective heads and marvel in its profundity. Theirs is a story that has worldwide implication, that has in fact been implemented in most major countries around the globe and in the vast majority of states within America. From the great Ojibwa people of Hollow Water, Canada, we have what is referred to as the Four Circles of Hollow Water, and the model of Restorative Justice. This is the story of how one small community took matters into their own hands, confronted their greatest fear and before the eyes of the entire world, laid themselves bare with all of their horrific secrets and gapping wounds, in order that they may heal. And in so doing, they gave themselves and the world, a gift it won't soon forget.
Restorative Justice (RJ) is an application within the criminal justice system that is meant to replace our worn-out, dysfunctional, and corrosive system of Distributive Justice (DJ). Whereas DJ focuses on punishment for the offender for violations against the state, RJ instead, focuses on repairing the harm done to people and the relationships that were harmed - instead of on offender punishment. Based upon the indigenous teachings and conflict resolution of the Ojibwa and their Community Holistic Circle Healing (CHCH) model, RJ focuses on loses suffered and holding persons accountable. RJ is based upon the principles of Reparation and Reconciliation. One of the largest proponents of RJ in the United States is Howard Zehr wherein he stated "crime is a violation of people and relationships. It creates obligations to make things right. Justice involves the victim, the offender, and the community in a search for solutions which promote reparation, reconciliation, and reassurance." (1990, p.181). The RJ way is concerned with community and advocates as a given that individuals cannot be separated from their community - when an individual commits an offense, it is committed by one human being onto another human being and to the community in which they are attached. The indigenous peoples are not a part of their community, they are their community. As such, when an offense occurs, it is a breach in the relationship of those two people and the community in which that relationship has been broken. The only way to repair the broken relationship is to address the relationship with those in it, supported in loving kindness by the community of which it is connected.
This is not a topic about Restorative Justice per se. Rather, it is posting about the concept of RJ, what it represents, and how it is applied not to the justice system, but to the types of offenses for which it was originally developed. Restorative Justice is a model that was birthed from the desperation of the tiny community of Ojibwa peoples living in Hollow Water, Canada and their statistical designation as a community that has more sexual abuse, incest, and crimes of sexual offending, then virtually any other place in the United States of America. Per ca-pita, their rate of sexual abuse and sexual offending was staggering. And then, out of the blue, it happened. Without much fanfare or particular warning, it happened. Something so simple yet so unusual had occurred, that it would permanently change an entire community forever.
The Ojibwa have an extraordinarily complicated and well-formed social system, with very specific and detailed rules and punishments for sexual impropriety. As such, no public disclosure could result in anything other than shaming the entire community, with no means to do anything about it other then to incarcerate the individual which would just send that individual back to the community where it would occur again and again. More perhaps than most cultures, the Ojibwa are a very proud people and shame is one of their most untenable pains. It is said of the Ojibwa, that if a girl gets into sexual trouble then it is her brother that carries the most shame, followed by the remaining members of the family and then the entire community.
And then in 1986 it all changed - the very first public disclosure of sexual abuse - and changed the community and the world forever. Shame was out of the closet and an entire people were left to deal with a pain so great that it rocked the very foundation of every single citizen in the entire community. They were left to deal with not one case of sexual offending, but generation after generation after generation - an intergenerational legacy of an entire community's hidden shame. What happened as a result, the healing that occurred, that still occurs, transformed this community from one of devastation and shame, to a healed, hopeful, and spiritually aware people that the rest of the world has taken notice.
Sexual addiction, as I have made mention at virtually every opportunity, is a shame-based progressive disease process, and is almost always secondary to early childhood sexual abuse or a deeply malignant narcissistic abusive family. This is neither new nor controversial. Sexual addiction is so shame-based in fact, unless treatment attempts to address and eradicate the core SHAME component of sexual addiction, it might as well not bother. Shame is so core to the soul of the sex addict, that the cycle of shame is the addicts greatest and most potent drug. Further, the deep narcissistic wounds of the sex addict will not readily, if at all, allow anything close enough to get at that core of shame. And so the dilemma in sexual addiction treatment. What is the treatment for shame? Deep empathy, loving attachment, moral obligation, and integrative responsibility. In sum, Recognition, Reparation, Reconciliation. They are indeed the Three R's of the Restorative Justice model.
The Ojibwa talk a great deal about p'madaziwin, refers to the life-long journey of living a good, healthy, productive and right life for self, family, and community. Especially for men, but for all people, p'madaziwin is the goal one must seek and strive to acquire, it is the most central value of their culture, and is more present at various times during one's life, with stronger presence when one is engaged in right living, elusive when one engages in wrong living or "bad medicine". When engaged in behaviors that are not in keeping with p'madaziwin, then onichine will occur. Onichine is defined as "illness through offense". For example, sexual addiction is seen as onichine, in that sexually addictive behaviors are in direct contrast to seeking p'madaziwin. Further, when an individual with sexual addiction acts out, then it is, in the Ojibwa way, the cannibalistic spirit of wintikos that takes over. Wintikos means "soul murder". So how does one heal from shame?
The Four Circles of Hollow Water, written by the Aboriginal Peoples Collection is a lengthy document containing the work of the Community Holistic Circle Healing model, documenting in great detail, the use of these "circles" for the healing of shame caused by sexual abuses. The circles are based upon group conferencing, family conferencing, victim circles, and offender circles that focus on reintegrative shaming. According to Braithwaite (1989), It argues that people are deterred by two informal forms of social control: fear of social disapproval, and conscience. Thus, consequences imposed by family, friends, and communities, are far more meaningful and effective than those imposed by the legal system or other type of authoritarian system. As a result, the fear of being shamed by the people most intimate with an offender is the most significant deterrent possible.
The circles use cognitive-behavioral principles based upon self-justification, misinterpretation of social cues, deficient moral reasoning, moral reconation therapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy. Sessions are not your typical 50-minute "sessions", but rather, are very, very long and arduous sessions based upon a specific mix of these and other proscribed treatments. All of it contains treatment targeted at the most efficacious use of shame-based counter treatments to reduce not just sexual offenses in the forensic sense, but sexual offenses in the sexually addictive acting out sense of shame-based behaviors such as cyberporn, prostitution, fetishes, and other non-integrative aspects of sexually acting out one's childhood pain and using shame to prevent the integration of healthy, p'madaziwin-producing goal-directed and integrative behaviors.
To err is human. The inability or refusal to Recognize our mistakes leads to the prevention of Reparation. One cannot take personal responsibility for something unless one recognizes the problem and their role in causing it. The refusal to take personal responsibility for our actions prevents our ability to Repair the harms caused. Not taking personal responsibility for Reparation, prevents Reconciliation from occurring. And finally, by refusing Reconciliation, amends cannot be put in place and the offender stays sick and the victim stays victimized. Shame must move to guilt. They are not the same thing. Shame is never adaptive, is always self-only focused, and shame-based people feel bad about themselves. Guilt is adaptive, is always other focused, and guilt-based people feel bad about their behaviors, not themselves. Shame prevents empathy while guilt is motivated by it. Shame-based people blame others while guilt-based people blame themselves. Shame is the fear that others know what you did while guilt is a private emotion that is not concerned with what others know, grappling instead, on the inner pain of knowing they did wrong or caused another pain. Those of us that deal with shame each and every day, be it our own or others, owe a great deal to the spirit of the Ojibwa peoples of Hollow Water.
As the people of Hollow Water maintain, "nothing happens in isolation". The Aboriginal Corrections Policy of 1997 commented "That the people of Hollow Water have been able to draw from their culture to begin to heal the unhealthiest in their community says much for their strength and endurance in conditions that would have tested the mightiest of us. The Ojibwa Circle sheds light on where that strength has come from. ...The pain of the people who are its subject matter is almost palpable. It is nourished by its denial. ...What is clear is that sexual abuse does not happen in isolation and it always leaves more than one victim. ...What CHCH does - facing sexuall abuse head on - is the hardest part of all. ...Theirs is truly a triumph of the human spirit."