Promoting Restorative Initiatives for Sexual Misconduct on college campuses

PRISM members gather at a NACRJ meeting in FloridaCampus PRISM members gather at the 2015 NACRJ conference in Florida 

Campus PRISM Project

Restorative justice (RJ) encompasses a range of processes, programs, practices, and policies as well as a philosophical perspective that offers a new approach to addressing the problem of sexual and gender-based misconduct on college campuses. A restorative approach is responsive to individual incidents of misconduct as well as to the broader cultural contexts that support such behavior by offering non-adversarial options for prevention education, resolution, and pathways to safe and accountable reintegration. RJ offers interventions that focus on understanding the harm caused, how to repair harm, how to prevent its reoccurrence, and how to ensure safe communities. RJ offers a way to support survivors to heal from the trauma of victimization, while creating a space for offenders to be accountable for their actions and take steps to reduce their risk of reoffending. Restorative interventions are also used for community building to establish appropriate standards of sexual conduct on campus, reduce fear, and counteract the hostile climate often characterized as “rape culture.”

The Campus PRISM Project (Promoting Restorative Initiatives for Sexual Misconduct) includes an international team of researchers and practitioners who are deeply invested in reducing sexual and gender-based violence by exploring how a restorative approach may provide more healing and better accountability. The Project is coordinated by the Skidmore College Project on Restorative Justice.

Campus PRISM promotes restorative justice processes that…

  • Encourage true accountability through a collaborative rather than adversarial process;
  • Reduce risk of reoffending and provide greater reassurance of safety to survivors/harmed parties and the community;
  • Meet survivors’/harmed parties’ needs for safety, support, and justice; and
  • Create meaningful forums for the examination of hostile campus climates and the development of community-building interventions.

Goals of the Campus PRISM Project:

  • Create space for scholars and practitioners to explore the use of RJ for campus sexual and gender-based misconduct (which includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other forms of gender-based misconduct) as an alternative or complement to current practices.
  • Consider the potential and challenges of RJ in light of the national concern about campus sexual assault.
  • Apply lessons learned from the use of RJ in criminal justice sex offenses, e.g. Circles of Support and Accountability, restorative conferencing, and other trauma-informed practices.
  • Gather and disseminate knowledge about RJ practice and research.
  • Explore the potential for multi-campus RJ pilots.

Campus PRISM: A Report on Promoting Restorative Initiatives for Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses

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report cover

Campus PRISM Webinar

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November 2, 2016--Campus PRISM was invited by the National Association of College and University Attorneys to participate in a "listening session" about RJ for Title IX cases with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. 

October 26, 2016--Students from Reed College discuss Campus PRISM in this thoughtful podcast: "Yeah Maybe No Podcast: Restorative Justice at Reed."

July 28, 2016--Campus PRISM team meets with White House Task Force on Protecting Students from Sexual Assault, Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, and Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women in Washington, D.C.

June 16, 2016-- Boston Review mentions Campus PRISM Project in “Brock Turner and the Problem of Punishment.”

June 8, 2016-- MTV News considers RJ in response to the Stanford University rape sentence: “When Jail Time Isn’t Justice.”  

May 16, 2016-- MTV News discusses the Campus PRISM Project: “Should Sexual Offenders Get ‘Scarlet Letters’?”

April 18, 2016-- Campus PRISM member Robin Wilson blogs about our project in Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment“PRISM: Promoting Restorative Initiatives for Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses.” 

April 14, 2016--Campus PRISM report featured in The Nation:"Can Restorative Justice Change the Way Schools Handle Sexual Assault?"

April 6, 2016--Campus PRISM Project releases new report.

February 17, 2016--Campus PRISM Project Webinar available for free: Restorative Responses to Campus Sexual Assault. Kaaren Williamsen and David Karp with host, Howard Zehr.

September 9, 2015-- The New York Times Editorial Board endorses our work: "An Alternative Approach to Campus Justice."  

May 1, 2015-- Campus PRISM member Mary Koss featured in The National Journal: "A New Form of Justice for Rape Survivors." 

March 18, 2015-- Student Affairs Today features Campus PRISM's CoSA model: “Develop Response Plan for Students Returning to Campus After Sexual Misconduct.” 

Victim Perspectives on RJ

Here is a recent undergraduate senior thesis from Middlebury College. 
Orcutt, Maddie. 2016. Reconsidering the Red Dot: Mapping the Possibilities for Restorative Justice in Middlebury's Policy Against SMDVS.

In a essay in The Nation, Deborah Copaken Kogan writes about her perspective on RJ: "Entering the Mind of My Rapist: An Exercise in Extreme Empathy." (2015)

Similarly, Tove Danovich shares her perspective in Aeon: "Was I raped?" (2015)

The Restorative Council in England does work with sexual violence cases. Here is one case study featured on their website.

This short video from England shares the experience of a rape survivor participating in a RJ dialogue with her offender.


This video features a victim of a sexual exposure crime talking about a RJ process where the parties interacted by creating videos rather than meeting face-to-face.

 Here is a recent TEDTalk by a survivor and her perpetrator. 


Select Research 

Brenner, Alletta. 2013. "Transforming Campus Culture to Prevent Rape: The Possibility and Promise of Restorative Justice as a Response to Campus Sexual Violence." Harvard Journal of Law & Gender.

Coker, Donna. 2016. “Crime Logic, Campus Sexual Assault, and Restorative Justice.” Texas Tech Law Review 49: 1-64.

Karp, David R. 2015. "Restorative Justice at Dalhousie: A Reasoned Alternative to the 'Rush to Judgment."Association for Student Conduct Administration Law and Policy Report. January 29.

Kirven, Stephane Jasmin. 2014. "Isolation to Empowerment: A Review of the Campus Rape Adjudication Process." Journal of International Criminal Justice Research 2:1-15.

Koss, Mary P., Jay K. Wilgus. and Kaaren M. Williamsen. 2014. "Campus Sexual Misconduct: Restorative Justice Approaches to Enhance Compliance with Title IX Guidance." Trauma, Violence & Abuse. 15: 242-257.

Koss, Mary P., and Elise C. Lopez. 2014. "VAWA After the Party: Implementing Proposed Guidelines on Campus Sexual Assault Resolution." CUNY Law Review December 19. 

Llewellyn, Jennifer J, Jacob MacIsaac, and Melissa Mackay. 2015. Report from the Restorative Justice Process at the Dalhousie University Faculty of Dentistry. Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada: Dalhousie University.

Llewellyn, Jennifer J., Amanda Demsey and Jillian Smith. 2015. An Unfamiliar Justice Story: Restorative Justice and Education. Reflections on Dalhousie’s Facebook Incident 2015.  Our Schools/Our Selves 25:43-56.

New Zealand Law Commission. 2015. The Justice Response to Victims of Sexual Violence: Criminal Trials and Alternative Processes. NZLC R136.

Oudshoorn, Judah, Michelle Jackett, and Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz. 2015. The Little Book of Restorative Justice for Sexual Abuse: Hope Through Trauma. New York: Good Books.

Campus PRISM Members

Interest in our project is growing rapidly. We welcome your participation. We have four working groups focusing on prevention, response, reintegration, and project strategy. Contact us with your particular interest or expertise. We are happy to add anyone to our Advisory Group, which receives our email communications and offers advice to the working groups as requested. 

Campus PRISM Co-Chairs

David Karp Skidmore College   Kaaren Williamsen Swarthmore College

Campus PRISM members

Prevention Group     Response Group  
Julie Shackford-Bradley (Coordinator) UC Berkeley   Kaaren Williamsen (Coordinator) Swarthmore College
Rachel Cunliffe Portland State University   Jennifer Scott UNC-Chapel Hill
Laura Haave Carleton College   Joan Pennell North Carolina State University
Meg Bossong Williams College   Nuri Nusrat Impact Justice
Nina Harris Swarthmore College   Rachel Storm University of Illinois
Sheila McMahon Brandeis University   Josh Bacon James Madison University
Millicent Carvalho  Bryn Mawr College   Karen Guttentag Middlebury College
Lyndsay Anderson Dalhousie University   Jay Wilgus University of Utah
      Jennifer Broomfield Florida State University
Reintegration Group     Elise Lopez University of Arizona 
Robin Wilson (Coordinator) McMaster University   Andrea Seabert Evergreen State University
Ida Dickie Spalding University   Mary Koss University of Arizona
Rick Shafer Michigan State University      
Charlene Berquist Missouri State University      
Melissa Mackay Dalhousie University      
Stephane Kirven Sacred Heart University   Strategy Group  
Sheryl Wilson NACRJ Board   David Karp (Coordinator) Skidmore College
Nadia Bazzy University of Michigan   Mary Koss University of Arizona
Stacy Vander Velde University of West Virginia    Kaaren Williamsen Swarthmore College
      Julie Shackford-Bradley UC Berkeley
      Donna Coker  University of Miami
      Jennifer Llewellyn Dalhousie University
      Sheryl Wilson NACRJ Board
      Robin Wilson McMaster University