Though she was given just a 2 percent chance of living, Millar survived, launching her on a journey of forgiveness and reconciliation. In the years since she was nearly killed, Millar has transformed a relationship with her two assailants to a level of love and acceptance that is rare in the human experience.
“I can forgive you, but forget it, I won’t,” Millar tells Sussek during their meeting within the prison walls. “I am legally blind, I am paralyzed on my right side, but I am healed from my heart.”
For the last thirteen years, Millar has been meeting with Sussek through a program offered by the UW Law School’s Frank J. Remington Center, which is directed by Meredith Ross and faculty director Walter Dickey. Called the Restorative Justice Project, it allows crime victims such as Millar to meet with the very people who’ve committed crimes against them. The outcome of each conference is different. For some, as with Millar and Sussek, an offer of forgiveness is extended and a relationship begins. Other victims need a way to vent their anger at someone who took something very personal from them — a loved one, a sense of safety. Many come seeking understanding or healing.
... No matter what happens during a meeting — whether or not the offender takes responsibility, whether or not a victim offers forgiveness — nearly all conferences end with both sides feeling positive about participating, says Pete DeWind, a clinical associate professor at the law school. For the past decade, DeWind has directed the project, which began in the mid-1980s with meetings between property offenders and their victims at Oakhill Correctional Institution near Madison. He follows in the footsteps of former directors Dave Cook and Bruce Kittle.
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