During the Pandemic, reports of domestic violence inside the home have been increasing. While shelter-in-place restrictions are necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, unfortunately, the heightened stress and isolation can put families at risk for experiencing and causing violence inside the home. Adopting restorative practices, like healthy communication, can be a helpful tool for intervention or to diffuse a situation before tension escalates.
In mid-2020, Project NIA released The Building Accountable Communities (BAC) Toolkit which included Jennifer Viet’s “Talking Circles at Home and Parenting Restoratively” guide. Mariame Kaba, Founder and Director of Project NIA, came across Viet’s guide in April 2020 and asked Viet if she could use a revised version in the BAC Toolkit. Jennifer Viet, a Chicago-based Restorative Practices Coach, came to Restorative Justice (RJ) and circle keeping as a mother and incorporates her own lived experience as a parent and RJ facilitator into this guide.
This guide is intended to provide practical tools and resources for families to address conflict restoratively, rather than punitively, that are able to be incorporated into everyday life. Components of the toolkit include resources such as holding a family circle (including how to have a family circle about the current uprising), sharing feelings, speaking with someone who has caused/experienced harm, a restorative conversation checklist and additional tools for empathetic listening.
Resources like this guide prevent sexual violence and abuse by eliminating some of the conditions that allow abuse to occur at home in the first place. Additionally, according to the CDC, “Parental use of reasoning to resolve family conflict” is considered one of the main protective factors that may lessen the likelihood of using or experiencing sexualized violence in childhood. Familial empathy building normalizes caring about others and restorative, rather than aggressive, communication is an important skill to build in childhood that also can prevent violence from occurring later in life.
This guide could not be a timelier resource considering that so many families are currently still sheltered in place while kids are returning to school at a distance. The economic impacts have also devastated families and continue to produce negative mental health outcomes. Encouraging communities to use talking circles and restorative parenting at home may be able to mitigate and manage some of the tension.