After seeing the father of a murdered daughter shake hands with the Kingpin in prison and witnessing his ongoing transformation. And, after having experienced my own healing conversations with Rene, I was eager to promote “encounter” opportunities for every victim of serious crime.
Actually Rene and I became the "dog and pony show" – often finding ourselves on the same platform as I had at one time feared.
This created a natural demand for our services and we began to organize these “encounter” programs, witnessing the miracle over and over again.
These were helpful but then I began to notice that there was an inherent imbalance. Victims telling their stories were able to resolve their anger issues - which was enough for them. But offenders - were not only able to resolve their anger issues - they would stand to gain concrete brownie points that would go on their record and aid in early release, etc.
When the victims found out about these 'brownie points' they were horrified and felt that they had been manipulated. I began to sense the imbalance more and more and decided that these encounters were offender driven and focused and not as victim friendly as I thought.
Eventually we found the funding to pilot our own Safe Justice Encounters in which the victim was in control.
It was set up to partner with the John Howard Society and Mediation Services. I felt that we had finally developed the perfect victim-focused, victim-driven, and victim-initiated restorative justice program.
In this program, victims were in control of the entire encounter process. They were front and center. They could outline their needs, their expectations, and then we would take their custom-made plan and set up a meeting with the offender.
We were so excited. One of the first encounters met every one of our expectations. The victim was able to lay out her plan carefully, concisely and descriptively.
She bravely met the offender who was at times disgusting. Through out the session he was still trying to control her. I was glad for Rene who managed the offender, while I managed to keep the victim safe.
There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community. M. Scott Peck
Both Rene and I have documented our work together. You can find them on Amazon “Most Wanted,” by Rene Durocher: “Dispelling the Clouds,” by Wilma Derksen.