Discover the video “Un pas vers la libération” on You Tube – 10 minutes, subtitles in English.
Carole B. speaks, Mother of a young murder victim
My therapist, who knew I would do anything to heal and bring an end to my victimization, gave me a brochure about victim-offender encounters (VOE) offered at the Centre for Services in Restorative Justice. These sessions gave me the chance to express myself freely. They encouraged an awareness of the impact that the murder of my child had on me and a release of destructive feelings for all parties. The sessions fostered mutual understanding of the experience of prisoners and of victims and the giving up of prejudices.
I was convinced from the first session that this process would be beneficial. I was right. Each participant was very respectful of the feelings expressed by others and a great compassion was present within the group throughout the six weeks of sessions. I was nervous; I didn’t know what to expect or what my reaction would be when faced with four men judged guilty of homicide. To my great surprise, these men were deeply moved to meet victims of a criminal act and to listen to my experience, which showed them the consequences of their actions. At sessions, we shared our perspectives on our common experiences. My belief is that, as humans, we are all interactive; a word or a look can lead us further in our personal development. Talking about my experience gave me back my dignity; I could finally talk directly to people that had done something unacceptable to others. I discovered how my mind was open to all humans, no matter who they were, and that I was willing to give them their chance. (…)
I think that all perpetrators of crimes must be stopped in their wrongful behaviour: this can bring about awareness. Then, if the person sincerely wants to be rehabilitated, he or she should have a second chance.
Restorative justice has been part of my therapy, and I took part in VOE sessions first and foremost for my own well-being, to explore my own limits. The four prisoners I met have been in therapy since their imprisonment and are serious about their desire for rehabilitation. In my opinion, inmates, like victims, are affected by the same extreme act. We have to go through the same process to have closure, to get to the bottom of the barrel and then reemerge through forgiveness and through making things right with ourselves.
Other brief testimonies.
“We kept thinking: “They’ll come back, they’ll come back.””
P. victim of a robbery
“They stole my feeling of safety and for my kids’ too.”
A, victim of hold-up and rape
“As unbelievable as it sounds, I was trying to find how I contributed, if I was guilty for this to have happened to me.”
J, victim of incest
“It was an old glass. It was my mom’s glass that she used to drink, just plastic, because she dropped everything. It was precious to me, like a wedding ring. They stole my mom from me.
P, victim of robbery
Victims’ voices… On the way to wellbeing
“I’m convinced that meeting someone who has hurt us – or who did something similar – is definitely an important step (when possible) in a healing process.”
R, secondary victim of their mother’s murder
“The will to go all the way gives us the opportunity to witness something extraordinary: an unexpected openness, compassion in front of human suffering, even when experienced by the offender. From there, the offender is no longer a beast, a monster, a demon, they become human.”
J, victim of incest
“I could be human, with my emotions, positive as well as negative. By expressing to offenders my anger of having been robbed several times, I found that forgiveness cannot happen without first being honest.”
P, victim of burglary
“It is the first time in 36 years that I have been able to talk about what happened to me. I would have never thought it possible. I would always get choked up.”
G, victim of incest
“We were all behind bars in our lives, but they were not all the same. The RDV meetings helped us each understand that…as much as the victim depersonalizes the inmate so the inmate depersonalizes the victim.”
Lise, victim of a hold-up