In an insightful presentation at RJ World Online, Dr. Alissa Ackerman and Kevin Lynch shed light on the limitations of traditional criminal justice in addressing sexual violence and harm while advocating for restorative justice as an alternative solution. The duo introduced Ampersands Restorative Justice, a groundbreaking organization aiming to disrupt the current ecosystem by scaling up restorative practices to heal and prevent sexual harm.
Dr. Alissa R. Ackerman, an Assistant Professor at California State University, Fullerton specializing in sex crimes policy and practice, brought her expertise as both a survivor scholar and professional researcher into focus during this enlightening session. With over 500 cases of facilitating restorative justice involving sexual harm under her belt, Dr. Ackerman has written extensively on topics related to sexual violence with numerous peer-reviewed articles published alongside six books she authored or edited.
Co-presenter Kevin Lynch added his unique perspective as a nationally recognized author, speaker, advisor, leader in social enterprise management,and arts enthusiast who had publicly admitted committing rape through his 2016 HuffPo column titled “Just Like Trump.” This admission led him down the path of working towards healing those impacted by acts of sexual harm—a journey that eventually culminated in joining forces with Dr.Ackerman’s founders team for Ampersands Restorative Justice.
Throughout their presentation, the speakers emphasized how communities, institutions, and governments often lack a comprehensive understanding regarding the complexities surrounding instances of sexual harm. They also acknowledged the absence of practical tools required to introduce and integrate restorative responses in such situations. This gap inspired the development of an evidence-based approach by Ampersands Restorative Justice—an approach that communities and organizations can adapt and use to build capacity for offering sustainable alternatives when faced with sexual harm.
The case presented by Dr. Ackerman supported a powerful argument for adopting restorative justice responses to address sexual harm. By shifting the focus from punitive measures towards healing and prevention, restorative justice offers a transformative path for survivors of sexual violence and those responsible for causing harm.
The Ampersands Model proposed by Dr. Ackerman and Lynch provide communities and organizations with practical guidelines for implementing restorative responses in cases of sexual harm. Based on their extensive experience, the presenters shared best practices that can be adapted to meet the unique needs of different contexts. Their model aims to empower individuals impacted by sexual violence while fostering empathy, understanding, and accountability among all parties involved.
As we navigate an evolving landscape where traditional criminal justice responses often fall short, it is crucial to explore alternative approaches like restorative justice to ensure holistic healing and prevent future instances of sexual harm. Dr. Alissa Ackerman’s expertise as a survivor scholar, coupled with Kevin Lynch’s personal journey, brings together powerful insights that will undoubtedly contribute to transforming how society addresses these critical issues.
By amplifying the importance of connection, empathy, and accountability, Ampersands Restorative Justice paves the way toward building more compassionate communities—one step at a time.