Surrogate Dialogue for Sexual Harm

“The Promise of Restorative Dialogue for Surrogates in Sexual Harming Cases”

This 43 minute video interview reviews a facilitated dialogue process that took place in 2016. Survivor Mary Gossett talks about her experience of going through a restorative process with harmed and harming surrogates of separate cases. Lead facilitator Ted Lewis talks with Mary about her initial choice to pursue this opportunity, her seven months of preparation, and her six-hour guided conversation with a male surrogate who likewise and independently expressed interest to participate in a healing process. Support people were also present. Mary also speaks briefly about her childhood incidents of sexual abuse and the following decades of disorienting trauma. While counseling did provide positive supports for her over the years, she describes how this restorative opportunity to meet with someone who represented, in part, her own perpetrators, allowed how to have a therapeutic breakthrough to advance her journey of healing. The ending of this account also demonstrates how forgiveness, with its own unique timing, can hold promise in helping people move forward in life.

Altogether, this interview lifts up the promise of using well-guided restorative dialogue processes for harming and harmed people of sexual assaults and crimes through the preparation and engagement of surrogates from separate though possibly similar cases. While there has been legitimate caution over the past four decades for using restorative justice for sexual harms, Mary’s case demonstrates that restorative opportunities, with sensitive and flexible supports, can be available to wider numbers of victimized and offending people of serious crimes.

This video is designed for learning contexts, and is structured with the following sections throughout:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Backdrop (1:25)
  3. The Preparation  (4:50)
  4. The Harm and Trauma  (12:45)
  5. The Joint Dialogue (17:12)
  6. The Breakthrough  (22:50)
  7. The Aftermath  (29:55)
  8. The Forgiveness  (32:45)
  9. Closing Words

(Total time: 42:37)

A special THANKS to Bethel University in St. Paul, MN for providing the space and technical capacity to produce this video.