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Treasures: Victims Voice, Safe Justice and Lemonade

Sep 14, 2009

by Dan Van Ness

I just came across several treasures that will be extremely useful to people who have been, who love, or who work with crime victims.

The first is the website of Victims' Voice, a Canadian NGO sponsored by the Mennonite Central Committee and whose purpose is "to address the revictimization of victims in the criminal justice system, to create understanding about victims among practitioners who work within the system and to give emotional and informational support directly to victims through victim-centered programs."

The website has a number of resources that can be downloaded. And it contains links to two more sites, also sponsored by Victims' Voice.

The first is Safe Justice, whose purpose is "to empower, support and help victims to process and deal with issues arising from the Victim/Offender Trauma Bond they have developed with someone who has hurt them."

The premise is that if this is not done well, the relationship can continue in an unhealthy way for the victim. Those who seek a safe way to a good resolution are offered a Victim Guide, a person who helps victims understand what they seek in communicating with the offender and who helps them determine a fitting method of interaction.

Some of these methods are familiar to restorative justice practitioners: conferences, mediation, etc. Others include exchange of letters or negotiation of an agreement about how the encounter will take place. There is no cost for this service.

The second is Lemonade, a website dedicated to victim resilience. It is here that we first meet Wilma Derksen, a survivor of homicide and the Director of Victims Voice.

Many people will know Wilma because of her excellent work in North America, and because of her accounts of the killing of Candace, her daughter. The 13-year-old disappeared while walking home from school in November 1984. Her body was found six weeks later, frozen and bound. No one was arrested for the crime until February 2008.

For nearly a quarter of a century, Wilma and her family had tried to come to terms with this devastating loss. Wilma's work with Victims' Voice was both an expression of what she had learned on that journey as well as part of the journey itself.

For those who have not read her book "Confronting the horror: The aftermath of violence", Lemonade has a section reviewing 15 elements of damage that violent crime does to victims and survivors. These are the lemons. The purpose of the site is to recount stories of those who are able to make lemonade out of those lemons.

Several writers use this site as a personal blog, sharing their insights and experiences in a compelling way. Wilma's is particularly powerful because it began at roughly the time that she and her family were informed that with better DNA analysis testing the police had identified a suspect in Candace's murder.

Wilma's writing is powerful and insightful. It is honest. She has frequently stated her intention to forgive Candace's killer, but now that someone has been accused of the crime her feelings are ambivalent -- she chooses to forgive but finds it is not easy. A recurring question in her entries is the question she has been frequently asked in the past "If they caught the man, would you meet with him." Her honest reply is "I don't know."

When you have 45 minutes or an hour, go to Wilma's blog on Lemonade, called Bittersweet. Think about what it would be like to have 25-year-old wounds reopened by the commencement of court proceedings. You will find yourself wanting to support her in prayer and best wishes.


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Lisa Rea
Lisa Rea says:
Sep 15, 2009 08:30 AM

Thank you for these resources, Dan. It is exciting to see so many victims speaking out and telling their stories. I am particularly eager to learn more about the important work of Wilma Derksen in Canada. <br /> <br />Lisa Rea

Onnem Snommis
Onnem Snommis says:
Sep 22, 2009 04:06 PM

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