University of Twente Student Theses


The offender’s empathy-taking toward the victim in Online Victim-Offender Mediation

Steinhauer, Judith (2023) The offender’s empathy-taking toward the victim in Online Victim-Offender Mediation.

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Abstract:In juvenile and criminal justice systems worldwide, victim-offender mediation (VOM) is one of the most accessed formal forms of restorative justice. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, VOM services worldwide were provided through direct, in-person meetings or by offline indirect forms. However, practitioners had to delay VOM programmes or consider alternate ways for parties to get in contact in the context of COVID-19. As a result, the viability and efficiency of performing VOM online are currently being discussed in Europe due to the advancement of digital communication technologies. Empathy is crucial in restorative processes such as Victim-Offender Mediation. It encompasses cognitive and affective dimensions, enabling individuals to understand and empathise with the feelings and perspectives of those involved. Cognitive empathy helps comprehend the emotions of victims and offenders, leading to a deeper understanding of their experiences. Affective empathy involves an emotional connection and shared feelings with the individuals and their stories. Studies consistently demonstrate that participating in VOM has been linked to an increase in the empathy of offenders toward the victims of their crimes. This study aims to explore to what extent online mediation might affect the offender’s cognitive, affective, and total empathy taking toward the victim. A fictitious crime scenario was presented to the participants (n = 34), they were asked to imagine themselves in the role of the offender, and they were presented with an online VOM and a face-to-face VOM in random order. We expected offenders who attend online VOM to feel less empathic toward the victim than those who attend a face-to-face VOM. Against our expectations, there was no significant difference in the offender's cognitive, affective, and total empathy between online and face-to-face mediation, indicating no difference in a face-to-face VOM or an online VOM considering the cognitive, affective, or total empathy of the offenders toward the victims. Given that the intensity of empathy of the offender did not differ in this study, it can be suggested that practitioners may consider online communication a valuable alternative to traditional face-to-face interactions. However, further research is required to examine and resolve this approach's practical elements and potential problems. In conclusion, technology can potentially improve VOM practice, but it requires thoughtful consideration and a commitment to restorative justice ideals.
Item Type:Essay (Bachelor)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology BSc (56604)
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