Careful preparation with a properly trained facilitator is essential for survivors and offenders working toward a facilitated VOD with one another. Preparation provides a safe and confidential means for better understanding the profound effects of violence and violation, acknowledging the complex feelings that result from these effects, and finding words to fully express those feelings. Careful preparation is critical to a clear and meaningful dialogue between survivor and offender during the VOD itself.
The facilitator serves as a guide throughout the VOD preparation and dialogue process, meeting alternately alone with the survivor, and alone with the offender, over the course of several months, to help each talk about some of the many issues and questions of grief, pain, anger, shame, and accountability that burden them. These confidential preparation meetings usually last from two to three hours, and they’re typically scheduled about once a month, though that may vary from once every three weeks to once every two months. The facilitator is responsible for recognizing when the survivor and the offender are truly ready to proceed to the VOD itself.
The facilitator’s primary role in each one-on-one preparation session is to listen carefully, deeply, and without judgment to the survivor and to the offender, allowing them the time and space to safely identify and give voice to the often unspeakable experiences, images, and feelings they live with in the aftermath of the victimization.
The details of preparation conversations that take place between the facilitator and the survivor, and the facilitator and the offender, are absolutely confidential — unless the facilitator is given explicit permission to share certain specific aspects from either the survivor or the offender. The facilitator is responsible for reporting to the office of Victim Services on the progress of preparation — but only in very general terms, not specifics.
Often, the facilitator uses questionnaires for self-reflection to help the survivor and offender think and talk more deeply about their experiences. Answers to these questions remain private and confidential, and no documents or notes go into any Corrections or Victim Services file. Again, information may be shared only when it has been specifically and explicitly authorized or permitted by the survivor or the offender.
It is not uncommon for survivors and offenders to feel very alone during the several months of preparing for VOD, and victims/survivors and offenders may have many unanswered questions about the VOD preparation and dialogue process. All questions are welcome at any time, and they should never hesitate to ask.