In many countries around the world, victims and offenders have the option to contact and interact with the other party after crime. In the Netherlands for example, this mediated contact is guided by a professional mediator of the foundation Perspectief Herstelbemiddeling (PHB) , where participation is on a voluntary basis for both parties. Through this victim-offender mediation (VOM), PHB aims to forge a constructive connection between victims and offenders and offers them a reorientation on the crime and each other. Offenders have the opportunity to apologize and show their remorse in a face-to-face meeting with the victim, or more indirectly (through the exchange of letters of through the mediator who acts as a go-between). In addition, such mediated contact may increase offenders' insight into the consequences of their actions for victims. Victims have the opportunity to ask prudent questions and to confront the offender with the harm s/he has inflicted. In addition, they are in a position to receive an apology. As such, VOM can contribute to victims' recovery after crime, as well as help offenders to make amends. Recent meta-analyses also suggest that VOM can help to lower offenders' risk of re-offending.
However, given the voluntary nature of VOM, not every victim and offender is willing to participate in mediation. Across VOM programs around the world, participation rates vary between 40 to 70 % (of victims and offenders who are offered the possibility of mediation). Previous research has focused mainly on the effects of mediation in cases where mediation is also reached. However, far less is known about the needs and reasons of victims and offenders to be (un)willing to participate in the first place. Therefore, this projects aims to unravel the factors that predict whether victims and/or offenders are willing to participate in VOM with the other party.
The project suggested here has scientific as well as policy relevance. The outcomes of this research may help to optimize the organisation and execution of victim-offender mediation for mediation programs like PHB, in such a way that the chance of mediated contact is heightened for victims and offenders who have needs in that direction.
The student will conduct a (short) search of the literature to examine what is known about the psychological factors that motivate victims and offenders to participate in VOM. Based on the literature findings, the student formulates hypotheses and tests these in an experiment among civilians who imagine being a victim or offender of crime. Preferably, technology is used in this experiment to enhance the imagination in such roles by participants (e.g. through making a 360 video and displaying this in a VR environment).
- Shnabel, N., & Nadler, A. (2015). The role of agency and morality in reconciliation processes: The perspective of the Needs-Based Model. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24, 477-483.
- Zebel, S., Schreurs, W., & Ufkes, E. G. (2017). Crime seriousness and participation in restorative justice: The role of time elapsed since the offense. Law and Human Behavior, 41, 385-397. DOI: 10.1037/lhb0000242
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