Most survivors want the offender to understand not only what he did to the victim, but the persistent after-effects of what he did. When a loved one has been murdered, or when innocence has been shattered by sexual assault or other violation, nothing can be done to “pay back” the life, or the innocence lost, or the trauma and post-trauma endured. And it is only through a better understanding of how profoundly victims/survivors have been wounded that an offender can begin to comprehend what apology can – and cannot – be.
This is why VOD can never be merely a matter of an offender’s summoning the courage – as hard as that may be, and regardless of its sincerity – to express an apology. And it’s not about forgiveness for offenders – unless victims/survivors feel within themselves an unequivocal wish to freely offer that forgiveness. This is why VOD must be primarily about the survivor’s needs – not the needs of the offender.
Ironically, it is within this difficult context of reaching a truly personal understanding of accountability that some violent offenders begin to see that bringing new meaning to their future from the devastation they caused in the past is worth changing their attitudes, their behaviors, and their lives for – even while still incarcerated.
This is how a self-actualized commitment to rehabilitation – and to No More Victims – can be ignited within them, as another positive outcome of VOD. For some victims/survivors, continually struggling to make meaning from their own indescribable violation and loss, this realization by offenders can be an important milestone in their determined journey forward.