Victim Awareness/ Victim Impact Programs
Victim Empathy Programs promote understanding of the harm that individuals have experienced as well as the harm they have done to others. Recognizing that they have been victimized is essential. The purpose is not to condone their harmful behaviors, but to begin a process by which they can know that they have caused similar pain in others. These explorations facilitate development of empathy: an emotion often dormant in youth at-risk and other individuals who have built walls to protect their self-worth.
Victim Impact Programs
Several victim impact strategies have been designed to teach offenders about the human consequences of crime. Two such programs are the Victim Impact Panels and Victim Impact Classes. Victim Impact Panels provide a forum for crime victims to tell a group of offenders about the impact of the crime on their lives and on the lives of their families, friends, and neighbors. The offenders of the victims are not present. The purpose of the panel is for the victims to speak rather than for the victims and offenders to engage in a dialogue. Victim Impact Classes help teach offenders how crime affects the victim and the victim’s family friends, and community, and how it also affects them and their own families, friends, and communities. Specific models address particular crimes, such as property crimes, sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, drunk driving, and drug-related crimes.
- Help offenders understand the impact of their crimes on victims and communities.
- Encourage offenders to accept responsibility for their past criminal actions.
- Build partnerships among victim service providers and justice agencies that can raise individual and community awareness of the short- and long- term impacts of crime.
- Provide victims with a structured, positive outlet to share their personal experiences and to educate offenders, justice professionals and others about the physical, emotional, and financial consequences of crime.
- Research on victims speaking on victim impact panels to convicted drunk drivers found that recovery was aided for 82% of victims who told their stories to offenders.
- Pre- and post-tests administered to offenders participating in Washington Department of Corrections Victim Impact Classes indicated that most had increased sensitivity to and understanding of the negative impact of crime on victims.