The Victim Impact Panel Program
The Victim Impact Panel (VIP) program utilizes storytelling, dialogue, and reflection to help youth understand and internalize the impact that crime has on individual victims, their family and friends, and their community.
The VIP program was originally developed to meet the needs of youth who were referred to the CDR's Victim-Offender Mediation program but whose victims did not wish to participate. Rather then meeting with the victims of their own crimes, these youth instead meet with surrogate "victim-presenters" who tell their stories of how crime impacted their lives. The program has now expanded to include youth who are directly referred to the VIP program from the Juvenile Office as well.
Unlike a traditional victim-impact panel program, wherein offenders sit passively in a large group during a presentation by victims, in this program small groups of youth are encouraged to have a personal dialogue with victim-presenters. The presenters are prepared in advance to “tell their stories” in an impactful way, and youth are assisted in developing questions to ask of the presenters. As a result a meaningful and engaging dialogue takes place, facilitated by program volunteers. Where in other contexts youth may be defensive or self-focused, the structure of this program moves youth away from this mindset, allowing them to empathize with victims and see the far-reaching impact that even “simple” crimes can have.
Prior to attending a Victim-Impact Panel, all the youth participating in the VIP program come to the CDR to meet with a facilitator. The youth are put into small groups (typically of 2-5) grouped by age and/or gender. The facilitator talks with them about their experiences in the justice system, explains how the VIP program works, and help the youth begin to develop questions to ask the victim-presenters at the VIP sessions. The parents wait in a separate room, and program staff explain to them how the program works and what will be expected of their children.
Meeting with the Victim-Presenters
On the night of the panel, a trained volunteer facilitator and room monitor accompany the youth as they meet with two victim-presenters to hear each person’s story of how the crime impacted their life. Then the juveniles have an opportunity to ask questions about the victim-presenter’s experience, facilitated by the program volunteer. These dialogues typically last 20-30 minutes per victim-presenter.
Describing the Experience
Following these meetings, the youth are asked to think about what they have learned and to go home and write an essay describing their experience talking with the victim-presenters. They then submit these essays to the Juvenile Office.
The goal of this program is to provide a safe, appropriate environment where people who have been the victims of crime and young people who have committed offenses can talk about the impact of crime. The program is designed to help youth begin to understand the harm that results from crime and to recognize that victims are “real people” who are impacted in concrete and meaningful ways by crime. It is hoped that this realization will deter these youth from future offenses and encourage them to consider the unintended consequences their actions may have on others.
The CDR relies on volunteers to serve as room monitors, dialogue facilitators, and victim-presenters to support this program. If you would like more information on volunteering with this program please call 417-836-8831 or email CDR@MissouriState.edu.