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our mission

To make restorative justice accessible to and inclusive of all the people and communities affected by sexual harm, through capacity-building and culture change.

Dr. Alissa Ackerman

Dr. Alissa R. Ackerman is the co-founder and owner of Ampersands Restorative Justice. She is a “pracademic” and “survivor scholar” in that she incorporates her academic training, practitioner, and personal experiences with sexual violence in her work. She holds a PhD in Criminal Justice from the City University of New York. Alissa has dedicated her career to understanding everything she can about sexual offending, the impacts of sexual victimization, and restorative options for those impacted by sexual harm. After participating in vicarious restorative justice as a survivor that changed her life, she began building and facilitating processes for others who sought restorative options as part of their own healing.


She writes extensively on topics related to sexual violence in blogs and magazine articles and has published over 35 peer-reviewed journal articles.  She has authored or edited six books and recently served as co-editor on a special edition of the Journal of Sexual Abuse in 2018. She co-authored Healing from Sexual Violence: The Case for Vicarious Restorative Justice, with Dr. Jill Levenson in 2019 and her most recent co-edited volume, Survivor Criminology: A Radical Act of Hope, was released in 2022. Alissa is an internationally sought after speaker and trainer, having given over seventy-five national and international talks, including a TEDx Talk in 2018. 

Dr. Alissa Ackerman

Owner & Co-Founder

Dr. Guila Benchimol 

Dr. Guila Benchimol is an educator, consultant, researcher, and victim advocate whose work focuses on gender, abuse, and power. She holds a PhD in Sociological Criminology from the University of Guelph and is also a trained restorative and transformative justice facilitator. Guila is the Director of Faith-Based and Community Accountability at Ampersands Restorative Justice where she works with those harmed and those who caused harm to meet survivors' restorative justice, and healing needs.

Guila was also one of the key advisors who guided the launch of the SRE Network in 2018, where she continues to serve as the Senior Advisor on Research and Learning while consulting on other projects. She has been invited to address Jewish professionals and clergy across Canada and the US, as well as other faith communities, where she educates, trains, and develops and implements policies on abuse prevention and intervention. She sits on the board of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and is a research associate at the Center for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence, where she has worked on domestic violence and homicide files. Her first 10+ year career as a Jewish educator in and outside of her Orthodox Jewish community informed her understanding of the need to address victimization of all kinds. Previously, Guila was the Director of Judaic Studies at Tiferes Bais Yaakov and the Managing Director of NCSY Canada. She lives in Toronto and was raised in its Spanish Moroccan Jewish community which was built by the families who fled Tangier.

Dr. Guila Benchimol


Faith-Based and Community Accountability

founding philosophy

Historically, society and the criminal justice system have framed sexual violence as an Us vs. Them issue. We believe that a world restored from sexual harm requires an Us & Them approach.  This requires that all people have a seat at the table.


Ampersands Restorative Justice was founded by two women (Dr. Alissa Ackerman and Dr. Alexa Sardina)  who are survivors of rape and a man (Kevin Lynch) who committed a rape.  All three of us had been part of restorative justice processes addressing our personal experiences with rape prior to founding Ampersands.


Our identities as people who have experienced or committed rape is not all that defines us, however.  Collectively, this was a formidable team for launching an organization that designed to bring restorative justice for sexual harm to scale.

We're Here.

Contact us if you or someone you know needs support or if you'd like to share your story.

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