EP: 049



Our current system of justice focuses on the offender. What harm did they cause? What do they deserve as punishment?

What if we shifted our focus to the person who was harmed and asked different questions, like what needs to happen between the parties to make it right? How can everyone move forward?

Matt Johnston is the Program Director with Domestic Violence Safe Dialogue, a Portland nonprofit focused on ending the cycle of domestic violence through safe, supervised conversations with survivors and surrogate offenders and helping both parties foster transformative change. Matt spent seven years working with men convicted of domestic violence offenses, and he is a firm believer in the principles of restorative justice.

Matt joins Katherine to discuss the difference between restorative justice and the retributive system. He explains how the restorative process can be both more satisfying and more painful at the same time. Matt covers the desire for revenge and how it seems to dissipate when people feel heard.  Matt walks us through the programs offered at Domestic Violence Safe Dialogue and the top motivators for participation. Listen in for Matt’s insight on how restorative justice differs from forgiveness and how its principles could be applied to the divorce process.


How the focus of restorative justice differs from the retributive system

Why restorative justice is a deeper, more painful process

How money functions as an avoidance strategy

The value of direct participation in the restorative justice process

The healing nature of sharing perspectives

Why the desire for revenge goes away when people feel heard

The myth that revenge will heal or offer closure

How restorative justice differs from forgiveness

How the restorative approach might be applied to divorce

  • Acknowledge that dispute exists
  • Share from both perspectives
  • Collaborate to determine what happened

The situations in which restorative justice will not work

The programs offered at Domestic Violence Safe Dialogue

  • Safe dialogue program
  • Survivor impact panels

The top motivations for enrolling in the program

  • Reduce sense of intimidation
  • Answer questions of WHY

The significance of self-forgiveness


Domestic Violence Safe Dialogue


Donna Hicks


The Center for Understanding Conflict
Miller Law Group
Katherine on LinkedIn