Benefits for Victims

In the case of victims, the offense may affect their physical integrity and / or their possessions. In all cases, their psychic integrity is affected. Whatever the circumstances of the offense, victims often do not know, or truly understand, the motives of the author. Without exact knowledge of what circumstances preceded the offense, it is well possible that victims feel guilty and shameful and, later, often angry. In order to make meaning of what has happened, victims need to be able to express what they felt at the time of the events, as well as the fears and negative feelings that still pursue them. Victims often wish to express their incomprehension, anxieties and resentment directly to the author. For procedural reasons, retributive justice does not provide this possibility. It is very often at the hearing that the victim sees the author for the first time and nothing has been done to prepare the victim for this encounter - an encounter which is often experienced extremely badly by the victim.

Victims can choose to participate in the RJ encounter voluntarily and be able to get meaningful assistance…

Victims can choose to participate in the RJ encounter voluntarily and be able to get meaningful assistance before, throughout, and following the RJ encounter in order to overcome the fears created by the harm. When they do have a possibility to ask for a Restorative Justice meeting, this does not necessarily imply a direct encounter with the offender, and in no case it implies an immediate one. Important preliminary support is provided to prepare victims and offenders. The aim is that at the encounter the author will recognize the facts and accept responsibility for his actions. The other aim is to prevent, at all cost, a re-traumatization of victims..

The process allows victims to tell their stories, get to know the offender and, depending on the local circumstances, take part in the decision making processes that seek to produce a reparative plan. After expressing themselves and being assured that they have been listened to, victims are generally ready to listen to the offenders telling about their own journey and the circumstances leading up to the act. The victim then can ask the questions no one can answer beside the offender, which helps them to understand better what has happened, and probably why. Victims further can discuss their needs in terms of reparation and what they expect from the author to lessen their suffering.

Depending on the circumstances, there is the chance that court processes can be avoided (Umbreit et al, 2005). Thus, this gives victims a voice within the justice process, provides an opportunity to hold offenders accountable and increases the likelihood to receive restitution (Sherman & Strang, 2007, p.9). This generally helps victims to start a healing process and makes it less likely for them to suffer from post- traumatic stress symptoms (Sherman & Strang, 2007, p. 64).

Satisfaction rates are high for victims, generally within the 80 – 90% and they perceive the process as fairer than the traditional criminal justice procedure (Umbreit et al, 2002, p.3).