I have had the good fortune to be around victim offender conferencing for over 10 years. I must completely admit, when I sat in a circle, with a cardboard necklace that said “victim”, I thought “yeah, right”. I didn’t much care for the role plays. I remember it clearly, sitting in a Circle, in a Church basement. I even remembering being confused over why we weren’t using the County conference rooms, where most trainings took place. We processed an apartment building vandalism. I even remember that.
So cases have come and gone. A common theme I have seen is the ‘victim’ who owns the offense.
When a student pulled the fire alarm at prom, a teacher said “If only I had been watching closer”.
When a trusted employee took money, a supervisor said “well, if we had better accounting”.
When jewlery was stolen “I shouldn’t have left it out for a temptation”.
You see when victimized, self blame is an option to try to define and make meaning of the crime.
Sometimes it makes me mad, when people outside of the crime do this. There was a violent rape and a South Dakota rest stop. Our Governor at the time said “I wouldn’t want my daughter to stop there”. He was blaming the victim. My years as a rape crisis responder just make me a little upset.
Some cases not all, have that person wanting to take responsibility, which isn’t always a terrible thing. I prefer when it comes from a community member. Remember the three pillars of RJ, and these apply to everyone (victim/offender/community).
In another case several contributing factors combined – and a building was burned down. Playing with fire was intentional, burning an entire building and the food supply for the farm animals, was not.
One of the victims, who orginally had no interest in attending, turned around and donated scholorships for the young people to attend summer activities. That is taking up a piece of needs and obligation.
It’s a theme, and I think it’s important to deal with the victims that self blame just a little differently. Thankfully in a recent conference, it was the offender who directly told the victim, “it’s not your fault I stole those things”.