Maine Man’s “Victim Offender Dialogue” Helps Survivors be Heard


Boat builder Jon Wilson of Maine runs Victim Offender Dialogue, which lets agonized victims or their surviving loved ones do something the justice system rarely lets them do: talk with the wrongdoer, the Christian Science Monitor reports. “I believe that the process of giving voice is therapeutic,” says Wilson, who is not a professional therapist. “When a survivor is able to give full voice to their feelings, they suddenly feel heard in a way they never could have in any other context.”

The program brings together victims, or their surviving loved ones, and their imprisoned offenders to discuss the acts that bind them: domestic violence, rapes, and killings. The dialogue happens in a secure setting at the inmate’s prison. It’s the survivor’s day, Wilson says, their time to ask, to describe their loss, to speak with measured anger – whatever they want. Convicts listen, answer, sometimes try to explain. “Everything I do is about enabling the survivor to be heard and preparing the offender to respond in a way that’s more substantial than ‘I can’t explain it.’ ” Through his nonprofit group, JUST Alternatives, Wilson has worked with clients in Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Texas, Virginia, and Vermont.

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