Community-based restorative justice processes linked to criminal justice processes, are deemed to promote social justice. This article describes the nested theoretical and empirical research approach (bricolage) used to uncover how cultural violence manifests to render structural violence invisible during community based restorative justice processes. Theoretically, a ‘deeper and longer’ analysis of structural violence and peacebuilding in South Africa’s unequal, transitional context was undertaken as a holistic case. Victim offender mediation was an embedded case with a 360° formation of six sub units which facilitated an empirical examination of what happens in the ‘black box’ of victim offender mediation. This allowed an examination of restorative justice as an instrumental case, to shed light on peacebuilding in a structurally violent context. The theoretical finding of a ‘culture of denial’ was based on manifestations and patterns of denial found in the data. This led to the finding of four interlinked gaps in restorative justice processing in an unequal context. The conceptual/empirical research approach helped to uncover how and why structural violence is rendered invisible during these community based processes. Recommendations were made for education, training and coaching to make practitioners ‘structurally responsive’.