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Exploring Treatment and Trauma Recovery Implications of Facilitating Victim Offender Encounters in Crimes of Severe Violence: Lessons from the Canadian Experience.

Gustafson, Dave
June 4, 2015

Source: (2005) In Elizabeth Elliott and Robert M. Gordon, eds., New Directions in Restorative Justice: Issues, Practice, Evaluation. Cullompton, UK: Willan Publishing. Pp. 193-227.

This chapter first describes research undertaken in 1989 with victims/survivors and inmates that led to the development of the program. A case study that involves an adult male survivor of child sexual abuse illustrates the process and the healing outcomes for this survivor, for the members of his family, and for the offender. Some of the issues raised by the case are explored, notably the nature of trauma and how guided communication between victims, offenders, and other involved parties can assist recovery. The presentation of the case study is followed by a review of the history of the program. There is growing evidence of the therapeutic impact of victim-offender mediation upon the participants. Victims often report that the mediation experience has helped in their recovery from trauma, including a diminishing of severe symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Participating offenders have also described the mediation process as healing. Therapists and prison program facilitators have reported observing significant increases in victim empathy and a commitment to relapse prevention in offenders who have participated. Other jurisdictions are implementing similar programs with technical assistance from FRCJIA staff. The first 15 years of the program have continued to show the value of mediation in helping to heal the harms caused by violent offenses. Well-conceived victim-offender dialog models, especially when informed by trauma recovery and offender treatment research, are apparently effective in bringing positive outcomes even for cases of violent crimes. Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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