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When it’s so hard to relate: Can legal systems mitigate the trauma of victim-offender relationships?

Madeira, Jody Lyneé
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) ExpressO

This article argues that, in the aftermath of violent crime, a relationship that is
both negative and involuntary can form between crime victims and offenders.
This relationship fetters the victim to the crime and the criminal, rendering it
difficult to recover from the transgression. To illustrate how such a relationship
may form and what consequences it may have for victims, this article uses the
Oklahoma City bombing as a case study, documenting through the use of
original interviews an involuntary relationship in which victims’ family
members and survivors perceived they were tethered to Timothy McVeigh. This
perceived relationship with McVeigh aggravated family members’ and
survivors’ emotional and psychological wounds, delaying their healing. The
article further argues that this relationship originated in media coverage of
McVeigh that portrayed him as defiant, remorseless, and unemotional, and that
it was further developed at trial when family members and survivors were
profoundly disturbed by McVeigh’s conduct. To minimize the harmful effects
of victim-offender relationships, this article proposes that victim services
workers educate victims about the possibility of such a relationship, help victims
cope with media coverage of the defendant, and assist victims in understanding
defendants’ behavior during trial. Finally, it recommends that opportunities for
voluntary victim-offender mediation be made available to help mitigate the
negative consequences of these victim-offender ties. (Author’s abstract)


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