Victim-Offender Dialouge

Victim-Offender Mediation (VOM) brings victims and offenders together with a trained facilitator to discuss the crime and develop an agreement for how to make things right. This process focuses on creating a safe, comfortable environment in which restorative dialogue can take place. In the beginning, victims are invited to tell the story about the crime from their perspective, to express how it has impacted their lives, and to ask the offenders any questions they may have. Offenders are then given the opportunity to talk about what they did, to explain why they did it, and to answer any questions that the victim has asked.

The session focuses on the victim and offender with a facilitator present to help make that possible, but normally in the background. The idea is to assist the victim and offender to exchange information, ideas and emotions and to build a mutual understanding of the events and of each other as human beings. Once the parties are satisfied that they have had their say, the facilitator helps the parties think through options for making things right.

Participation in Victim-Offender Mediation (VOM) is voluntary for both victims and offenders. While some offenders must choose between mediation and a court sentence that could include imprisonment, they have some incentive to volunteer. It is important that neither the victim nor offender be coerced into participating because not only is voluntarism one of the values of restorative justice, but because meetings between people who are forced to be present are not as successful.

Victim-Offender Mediation has three phases.

  • The first phase involves assessing whether a referred matter is a good candidate for Victim-Offender Mediation (VOM). Referrals may come from police, courts, prisons and community members. Suitability is determined by the kind of offence and also by an assessment of whether the parties would benefit. This means ensuring that each party understands that participation is voluntary, is psychologically ready for mediation, and has realistic expectations of what may come from the meeting. The goal is for the VOM process to be a constructive experience for both victim and offender, and that the neither will be harmed by the process.
  • The second phase is the meeting itself, or sometimes, a series of meetings.
  • The third is follow-up. This includes not only helping the victim and offender process what they experienced, but also monitoring completion of the agreement.

Victim-Offender Mediation (VOM) takes place at any time during the criminal justice process, but only after guilt is no longer an issue. Either the offender has admitted guilt or been found guilty. It can take place before or after sentencing. Depending on the relevant laws, it may or may not affect the offender's sentence.

Victim-Offender Mediation is the oldest of the modern restorative justice processes. Its history is typically traced back to a 1974 experiment in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. Two young men had gone on a vandalism spree, damaging over 20 people's properties in a single night. The probation officer convinced the judge to order the offenders to meet with their victims, apologize and promise to pay restitution. This experience, although certainly not reflecting what would be considered best practice, was positive for victims and offenders alike. Over the next 20 years, VOM (victim-offender mediation) became an established process.

We have staff experts work with victim-offender mediation daily. Victim Offender Mediation is crucial to the process of restorative justice.

You can help KCRJ move Kentucky forward by learning more about these processes and how they can benefit those around you. Express your interest by contacting us or signing up for our newsletter.

If you think conflict is hard, try restorative justice. It will make a difference.

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