Meetings between victims and offenders suffering from a mental disorder in forensic mental health facilities: a qualitative exploration of their subjective experiences
Author | Mariëtte van Denderen and Michiel van der Wolf
Most studies about victim-offender meetings have been performed within prison populations, with little reference to offenders diagnosed with mental disorders. In establishing the effects of such meetings, these studies often use quantitative measures. Little is known about meetings between victims and offenders with mental disorders and about the more qualitative subjective experiences of the participants regarding these meetings. In this interview study, we inquired into the subjective experiences of sixteen participants in victim-offender meetings, six of whom are victims and ten offenders of severe crimes, currently residing in forensic mental health facilities. Topics of the interviews included benefits of the meeting and perceptions of each other prior to and after the meeting. Important benefits that participants experienced from meeting each other were reconnecting with family, processing the offence and contributing to each other’s well-being. Such benefits are comparable to those mentioned in studies on meetings with offenders without a mental disorder, challenging the practice that mentally disordered offenders are often excluded from such meetings. Most victims experienced a positive change in perception of the offender owing to the meeting. They perceived the offender as a human being and associated him less exclusively with his offence. Implications for clinical practice are addressed.