Victim-Empathy Training (VET)

More often than not, offenders are not aware of the consequences that their crimes have on the victims as well as the community and society at large. They do not spend time analyzing their own situation, history, values and lifestyle; instead they find justifications for their actions. The fact that victims suffer in the aftermath of crime and struggle with psychological ramifications such as insomnia or anxiety states is often not on the offenders’ minds. The victim-empathy training (VET) pinpoints exactly this. In group and individual sessions, the offenders are being sensitized for the thoughts and feelings of the victims of crime. The examination of the harm done by crime (including the ripple effects on many unseen indirect victims), the development of a new perspective on criminal offences and the progression of empathy towards the victims (and also themselves) play a major role in secondary prevention.

Goals of the VET:

  • Examination oft he roots and consequences of their criminal offenses
  • Taking responsibility for the offenses and the (further) development  of empathy fort he victims
  • Consideration of ways towards reparation, restitution, restoration and reconciliation

Before the training begins:

  • General information session for interested, pre-selected (by social workers and psychologists of the correctional centre) inmates with a basic introduction to the rules, process and topics of the VET, as well as the meaning of empathy and the goals of the training
  • Individual sessions with each interested person before the final binding decision of both parties (trainer and inmate)
  • Selection of not more than 8 suitable participants by the two trainers (criteria: adequate language skills in German, willingness to take responsibility for their offense and to deal with the roots and consequences within the group setting, acceptance of the training rules and content, composition of group members)

Course of the VET:

  • 4 to 8 participants – voluntary decision for the program, followed by compulsory attendance
  • Depending on the specific correctional centre between 11 and 13 group training sessions with a duration of 1,5 hours (practice-oriented, interactive, close to reality)
  • collateral weekly individual counselling sessions (content: deepening of the  group sessions‘ topics,  focus on the roots and consequences of crime, presentation and discussion of their homework) with a duration of  one hour (if the need arises, 90 minutes to cater for inmates with a higher language barrier, complex cases and life stories, extensive need for talks, analphabetism, etc.)
  • In closing: certificate of participation with marks (social conduct, active listening, Participation), final report for the attention of the correctional facility

Voices of participants:

„The individual counselling sessions did me very good. I had the opportunity to talk about my mistakes. The group-training was good. Through the other participants I developed the courage to talk about everything and to understand some correlations better.”

„The training was helpful and opened my eyes. It led to me being more able to see things from others’ perspectives. I’m very grateful for this time.

„I am much more aware of the extent of consequences that my offence had. Through the constellation of the direct and indirect victims I realized for the first time how many people had to suffer from due to my deed.”

„Usually I have a hard time opening up in front of other people. In my training group it was different. I have tried to participate actively as much as possible. I want to draw the best lessons from each topic and to implement them in my future.”

„Despite me being a grouch for therapy, I have decided to participate in the VET. I discovered that I have quite some potential inside of me and that I need help in some areas regardless.”

Currently the VET is being offered in the following correctional facilities:

  • Offenburg
  • Ulm
  • Heimsheim
  • Heilbronn