One of the SCVRJP programs is a Victim Empathy Seminar. I developed it with some help from my friend Jill, a restorative justice practioner and she modeled it after a California program. Basically it has evolved into a Restorative Justice Talking Circle. When I made it up, I didn’t feel my community was ready to deal with ‘Circle” programs. Boy have times changed! Its becoming a commonly used tool.
Multiple parent-child participation, with community members providing support. Not always the same crimes and I attempt to get a victim storyteller, but they are in short supply. One of our volunteers is physcially disabled and he recently brought both his service dog and his brother to Circle with him. It was really cool to have a service dog in Circle. Really cool.
Tonka sat right beside his owner. As our Circle grew closer and closer, Tonka became more and more relaxed. It was as if he was on the vibe. He started off in nature dog state, sitting with his front legs spread on the ground. Looking around. At first when the talking piece was passed over his he looked up. Eventually he was used to that. Then he just went to sleep. The next time I looked over, he was completely on his side sprawled out with his head nearly on the feet of the person next to him. It was oddly the most natural thing. Tonka brought a bit peace to the Circle it was cool.
The other amazing thing was when we had two parents moved to tears. The parents get to explain to the Circle, what they thought when they realized what had happened. They explain the impact on themselves and the hardest thing. (IIRP resource – cards). One sweet Mom, just got choked up explaining it. I looked across the Circle at her son, he was clearly engaged. I like having families witness this in other families. Another person in the Circle was a codefendent – he got to see just how much somebody else’s Mom was impacted by what they did. Later in the Circle, a Dad was trying to respond to the Mom, and I can’t remember what he was trying to say. Seeing a grown man tear up, as he is offering support to a stranger . . . my heart moved, and my memory is of the touching moment, and not so much the exact words.
Another awesome outcome of this Circle. One young man felt the need to own up to a cycle he had been doing and was going to break. He openly admitted and confessed that he would get in trouble, wait to build back trust, and go get in trouble again. He made decisions NOT to get in trouble when trust was low. See earlier in the Circle a community member offered this example. When trust gets broken, you put it back together, but its not exactly the same. When it gets broken again, it gets harder to put back together. Eventually you haven’t got much to work with. The Circle really moved on from that example, several people commented to it, and I think it was a real learning point for this young man.
It was one of those “homerun” Circles – closing comments had laughter, appreciation and you could just eat the hope with fork! I love it!