The Cicada Project: Pioneering Restorative Justice for Sexual Assault and IPV Survivors

The discourse on restorative justice has evolved over the years, with many scholars and practitioners looking at ways to better serve survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence (IPV). At the forefront of this movement are Jane Bolitho and Thea Deakin-Greenwood. In a comprehensive presentation, both elucidated their groundbreaking initiative – The Cicada Project.

Dr. Jane Bolitho, with her academic background from UNSW Sydney and a specialized focus on restorative practices, brings to the table an amalgamation of academia, hands-on governmental experience, and mediation acumen. On the other hand, Thea Deakin-Greenwood, with her background as a community lawyer primarily serving survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, offers a first-hand perspective on the challenges these survivors face. Their combined expertise set the stage for a compelling discourse on their collaborative endeavor.

The Cicada Project, as discussed during the presentation, is a beacon of hope in a legal landscape that often fails to address the nuanced needs of survivors adequately. Conceived by the Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre in collaboration with Dr. Jane Bolitho, this initiative aims to establish a survivor-oriented restorative justice process explicitly tailored for sexual assault and IPV incidents.

Bolitho and Deakin-Greenwood highlighted the crux of the project’s inception: the evident limitations of the traditional criminal legal system in catering comprehensively to the victims of IPV and sexual violence. The Cicada Project endeavors to fill this gap, offering survivors an alternative that prioritizes their healing and closure over conventional punitive measures.

A significant aspect of the presentation revolved around the ethos of co-design that underpins The Cicada Project. Instead of a top-down approach, Bolitho and Deakin-Greenwood emphasized their dedication to community involvement. Collaborating with local communities, stakeholders, and international partners, they ensure that the programs they develop resonate deeply with both young and adult survivors.

Moreover, their approach isn’t just about addressing the survivors’ needs. The Cicada Project is conscientious of the broader ecosystem, partnering with services catering to survivors and those who have committed harm. In doing so, they create a holistic framework that addresses all facets of the issue, from victim healing to offender accountability and rehabilitation.

The foundation of The Cicada Project finds its roots in established practices from RESTORE Arizona and Project Restore in New Zealand. Drawing inspiration from these initiatives, Bolitho and Deakin-Greenwood are sculpting a methodology that is not just restorative but also responsive to the cultural and social dynamics of their community.

In wrapping up their presentation, both speakers reflected upon the future of The Cicada Project. With their commitment to survivor-centric restorative justice, they envision a paradigm shift in how the legal system and society at large view and address sexual assault and IPV.

In summation, The Cicada Project, as presented by Jane Bolitho and Thea Deakin-Greenwood, stands as a testament to the power of community-driven initiatives. It challenges traditional norms, pushes boundaries, and most importantly, offers survivors a path to healing that respects their journey and prioritizes their well-being.