Victim Offender Dialogue is a process in which the victim of a violent crime and the offender who committed the offense meet. The focus is on the harm done to the victim and the offender’s responsibility in the reparation of that harm.
The Dialogue Process
- Requests for Victim Offender Dialogue can be made through Restorative Solutions.
- It is preferable that dialogues be victim initiated.
- Dialogue preparation can take several weeks or more before an actual meeting can take place.
- Victims and offenders voluntarily agree to participate in the process.
- Each case is carefully reviewed by program staff.
- Each case is assigned to one or two trained facilitators who will meet with both the victim and the offender individually to prepare for the dialogue.
- It is recommended that both the victim and the offender have a support person with them throughout the process.
Why Would a Victim Want to Meet with an Offender?
Historically, victims of crime have been left out of the justice process and were not afforded the same rights as offenders in their cases. There are many reasons a victim might have an interest in meeting with the person who harmed them.
They often have questions only an offender can answer. Questions we have heard include: “What has actually happened?” “What were my loved one’s last words?” “Why did you pick me?”
Victims may want to tell the offender about how their lives have been affected by the offender’s criminal behavior and how they feel about the crime. Victims may want to know about the offender’s life inside the institution or what kind of person they are.
Why would an offender want to meet a victim?
- Offenders may want the opportunity to apologize to the victims and to express remorse for their actions.
- Answering questions is one way the offender can attempt to make amends to victims.
- When an offender looks into the eyes of the person/s they have harmed, they often feel true remorse and can begin to turn their own lives around.
If you are interested in The Victim Offender Dialogue Process:
Contact Catherine Childs, Restorative Solutions, Inc at 303-579-5686 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You will be asked to provide background information about your interest in dialogue. Please keep in mind that determination of the appropriateness of a dialogue is at the discretion of Restorative Solutions and the program where the offender is located.
Restorative Solutions works with associates throughout the country who can provide careful, thoughtful guidance through such a process. Each of our volunteers is trained specifically in working with dialogue in cases of serious violence. They work extensively with the victim and with the offender to ensure each understand the process and their expectations.
Victim Offender Dialogue in Cases of Serious Crime
Elaine was killed by a drunken driver and nothing can bring her back. However, her family found hope in facing the offender.
“The day after the mediation session, I could feel that a lot of tension I had been carrying around had vanished. I had a sense of relief and realized it was because I had to let go of feelings of vengeance and despair. The mediation allowed me to turn my thoughts back to constructive direction and to feel optimistic about the future.
But I harbor no bitterness or hate toward her. I respect her for having the conscience and the courage to face us, express her remorse and take responsibility for what she had done. I rejoice at each of her accomplishments on the job of remorse and repair, and sincerely wish her well in making a better life for herself and her family.”
Elizabeth S. Menkin, sister of Elaine
San Jose Mercury News
September 4, 1994