Victim Offender Mediation - What is it?
May 29th, 2019
It’s an unusual scene to imagine: the victim of a crime and the person who committed it engaging in a rational, personal discussion about how to achieve justice.
Though unfamiliar it may be, this is exactly what occurs during victim-offender mediation (VOM), and it is not a new program. In fact, VOM has been taking place in the United States for more than 40 years, and has demonstrated a high degree of satisfaction for both parties.
The process takes place between the victim, offender, and a mediator. Unlike some other mediation proceedings, the mediator in a VOM setting does not impose any kind of judgment. Rather, they help facilitate a productive conversation between the two participants and ensure that the victim does not incur any additional trauma.
Usually (though not always) a result of a confession or conviction, VOM is meant to bring closure or comfort to the victim and allow the two parties to discuss an appropriate plan for restitution. Allowing victims the opportunity to directly advocate for themselves in this regard restores some semblance of control after enduring the trauma of a crime.
For offenders, VOM humanizes their victims and offers a platform wherein they can air their remorse. This helps dispel the criminal trope in that it demonstrates how many offenders do, in fact, regret their transgressions and hope to rectify their wrongdoing.
Before the mediation process can begin, the mediator contacts both the victim and offender (who are there willingly and are not required to participate in VOM) to determine that their mental states are such that constructive mediation is possible.
For victims, this means a simple willingness to sit face-to-face with their offenders and discuss a course of action; for offenders, it means an understanding that what they did was wrong, and a preparedness to openly acknowledge it.
During the mediation itself, both parties give their version of events as they relate to the crime. Victims discuss the personal repercussions they have endured, and offenders have an opportunity to express their remorse and offer some insight into the circumstances that led them to commit the crime.
Once a holistic view of the offense is established through the two perspectives, the conversation can more easily turn to rectification. With the extent of harm fully understood by both parties, a more clear path to resolution often presents itself, in the form of restitution or whatever else the victim and offender may feel is appropriate.
From here, the mediator assists in putting whatever plan is agreed upon into writing. This sets up a schedule for repayment in a form that is comfortable for both parties. Some follow up may be necessary after a mediation session, but these steps are the meat of the process.
As unconventional as it may seem at first blush, VOM helps ensure that victims do not endure lasting trauma or excessive fear following a crime, and has shown reduced rates of repeat offenses.
Restorative justice practices like victim-offender mediation help to blur the societal lines of the divide forged by crime. They ensure that neither victim nor offender is defined by the offense, give them the opportunity to restore their dignity, and rise above the darker moments of their lives.
A dedicated organization committed to restorative justice can make a world of difference in the lives of victims and offenders alike, in turn creating a more inclusive and productive community. Victim offender mediation gives credence to the idea that when people seek to understand and respect each other, the world becomes a more peaceful place. Interested in learning more about Victim Offender Meditation? Contact Restorative Partners today.