Marlee Liss

Marlee Liss

My name is Marlee Liss (she/her). In 2016, at the age of 21, I was raped by a stranger. Of course I knew that rape would impact me, but I didn’t know the degree to which it would. I started struggling with panic attacks, hair loss, and frequent dissociation. I had to pause my social work degree in order to focus on just being okay. At the same time, I reported to the police because that’s what I was told I should do.  

Quickly, I learned that the criminal legal process recreated the powerlessness and silencing that I had experienced during trauma. After three years of dehumanization in the courtroom, I was fed up with the system. I began looking for alternative pathways to justice and that is when I found Restorative Justice. I began fighting for my assailant to go to extensive therapy and for us to eventually meet in a Restorative circle. Note: the circle process is rooted in Indigenous communities and pre-colonial societies.  

I’m forever grateful that one prosecutor cared enough about my needs to advocate for them. She made the outcome happen and it became the first time in North America that a sexual assault case concluded with Restorative Justice through the courts. The process was healing beyond what I knew was possible. I let go of so much pain, anger and self-blame that I didn’t even know I was carrying. Afterwards, I knew that I had to be loud about it.  

I shared my story with major platforms in the media and instantly, I began hearing from thousands of survivors all over the world. So many of them said “I wish I knew about this.” Those voices and survivors’ right to know about our options became the fuel behind my advocacy. Now, I’m immensely grateful to be a speaker on survivor advocacy and trauma-informed approaches to justice. I’ve had the honour of sharing my story and work with judges, prosecutors, police, military, lawyers, SANE nurses, therapists and more. Every time I share my story, I feel the power of solidarity amongst survivors and the need for our healing to be synonymous with justice.