Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Norman St. Clair


Roger Barnes


Paul Lewis


In the United States, someone is murdered, raped, robbed, or assaulted every 26 seconds (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2015). Violent victimization is a uniquely disorienting dilemma because it is the result of harm from another human being. Extensive research has shown that crime victims’ complex emotional and psychological needs are not adequately fulfilled by the dominant retributive system of justice. The other paradigm of justice that has received extensive consideration from theorists and scholars, with research that now covers multiple continents and 3 decades, is restorative justice.

Restorative justice theory and practice have become effective complementary, and at times, alternative approaches to assist victims, offenders, and communities in the healing process after the experience of crime. Several studies have indicated that when restorative justice is coupled with retributive justice, victims’ needs for information, participation, emotional restoration, apology, and meaning are more adequately fulfilled. While previous research has addressed victims’ satisfaction with restorative justice initiatives, it is unclear how restorative justice programs serve to transform victims’ emotions and schemas of meaning after crime.

This instrumental case study addressed a gap in the literature by exploring the process of learning used by victim volunteers participating in an established restorative justice program designed to foster healing for those impacted by crime. Using constructivist grounded theory methodology, this case study illuminated the complexity of the experience of 15 victim volunteers, and one staff member, in the Bridges To Life restorative justice program. An interpretive theory entitled therapeutic restorative justice that was comprised of three categories (i.e., fragmentation, evaluation, and integration) and numerous associated properties emerged in the analysis of this research. The strategies victims used to assist in their ongoing healing were also identified within the interpretive theory. Increasing knowledge about the learning process used by victims in the Bridges To Life restorative justice program can be used to improve professional practices, theories, and policies that are relevant to victimized populations.