An Introduction and Overview for Corrections-Based Victim Service Program Administrators
Though the lives of many victims/survivors of violence and violation have been devastated, these survivors have enormous capacity for healing and moving forward with strength and purpose. And though the trauma and PTSD some survivors contend with are life sentences of their own, victim offender dialogue (VOD) can offer a new sense of healing and justice for some. Facilitator trainings are available in a range of experiential opportunities in a rigorously victim-centered framework. VOD between victims/survivors and incarcerated offenders in such serious and violent crimes as murder, sexual assault, armed robbery and other deep violation and loss has been going on for a decade and a half in the U.S. These dialogues are not simply conversations, of course, but complex interactions following a delicate preparation process with a trained facilitator. The victims/survivors who choose VOD often find in this process a way to express some of their pain, and to get answers to questions only the offenders in their cases can provide. At the same time, properly prepared offenders begin to grasp a more personal understanding of the terrible impacts of what they have done, and of personal accountability.
While there are a number of approaches to facilitated VOD, the JUST Alternatives approach is the Victim-Centered VOD model, which presumes that requests for dialogue are initiated by the victims/survivors, and – in any case – absolutely insists that the preparation and dialogue process remain unassailably “anchored” in addressing the needs of those victims/survivors. On the other hand, because the preparation work of VOD requires the cooperation – and trust – of the incarcerated offender, the facilitator must also be able to apply the highest degree of understanding and sensitivity to offender issues, since without that trust a successful dialogue outcome will be much less certain.
The VOD preparation process can take many months of conversation and self-reflection, especially with offenders who are far removed from their feelings – or who still fail to grasp the impacts of their crimes or understand personal accountability. And VOD can carry a risk for emotionally re-victimizing victims/survivors if the whole process is not facilitated with wisdom and great care. Facilitating the preparation with the requisite sensitivity to the issues of victims and offenders requires that facilitators possess, in addition to experience and understanding, a unique combination of attributes including self-awareness, the ability to listen deeply, and a capacity for empathy and tenacious support. (See Characteristics of VOD Facilitators.) While these attributes are usually more intuitive than learned, skills and abilities can be enhanced through trainings, and a number of experienced facilitator trainers around the country offer different levels of trainings.
JUST Alternatives Victim-Centered VOD Facilitator Trainings are available to corrections-based Victim Service and allied agencies in a range of experiential approaches for awareness-building and skills development in a rigorously victim-centered framework. Our facilitator trainings can be configured to match your agency’s needs – from one-day introductions for corrections services staff and victim service administrators to five-day experiential trainings in the fundamentals, and three-day advanced trainings for experienced facilitators. We also offer focused trainings on VOD and alternative options in sexual assault and exploitation and domestic assault cases. On the facilities side, we can also provide one- and two-day introductory workshops on the basics of the victim experience and offender accountability for groups of incarcerated offenders. If you’d like further information, or wish to discuss these and other ideas, please contact us.