Rais Bhuiyan, as we saw the other day, is suing in Texas to enforce his right to mediation with the Mark Stroman, the man who shot him in the face.
There's a similar program in Ohio (we are, after all, the Texas of the North) though we call it "Victim Offender Dialogue" and as far as I know, nobody's yet sued over it. Of course, that may be because almost nobody knows about it. I mean, there's a link on the DRC website, but how much is that really worth? Apparently not much.
Erica Blake, reporting on the program in today's Toledo Blade, makes that clear.
Prison officials recognize that many victims are not aware that the program exists or how to initiate the process.
Of course, those same officials seem to be thoroughly confused about what they've done.
To date, about 100 dialogues have successfully taken place statewide, said Karin Ho, administrator for the state's Office of Victim Services.
"We realize this is a minority of individuals who want to go through the program, but for those who do they are passionate about it," she said.
"There are so many different reasons why someone would want to do this. A victim may have questions that have been burning within them for years like 'What were my son's last words? or 'Did he suffer when he died?' " Ms. Ho added. "On the other hand, the offender on the other side of the table has to be held accountable. They have to be willing to answer questions."
Ms. Ho admitted that impetus for the program came from victims -- requests that initially took those in the prison system off guard. In particular, the mother of a murder victim asked in November, 1995, to speak to the man who had killed her daughter.
At the time, it was a request that could not be easily granted, Ms. Ho said.
Oh, and there's this.
They are also in need of volunteers to train and serve as facilitators.
In the Toledo area, there is a significant need for volunteers to help guide victims through the process, Ms. Ho said.
Let's parse that a bit.
It's only a small number of people who want the program. But there are all sorts of reasons people want it and it's really important. And there's a desperate need for more people to help facilitate these visits. Oh, and DRC policies (which are still in place) basically prohibit victims from visiting the people who harmed them.
So you've got this really important and popular system that almost nobody knows about but you still can't satisfy the demand for even though it's really only a few oddball people who have any interest in it.
If that sounds schizophrenic, it is.
But then it's a program in a system built on the understanding that victims of crime want anything other than blood revenge. That anyone who doesn't want revenge doesn't really count as a victim. Hell, why do you think it takes so long?
[I]t can take months, if not years, before completion.
But really, if you want to get it done . . . .
And why would you?
Marie knew something had to change.
It had been several years since she and a roommate had been brutally assaulted in their apartment in suburban Westerville, Ohio, and yet she still felt the rage.
She felt it creep into her decisions and into her relationships with others. She knew it could overtake her on a moment's notice. She recognized that it kept her from living a normal life, one not overrun by the memory of a masked man raping her and her roommate at gunpoint when they were only 23 years old.
She knew something had to change.
For Marie, now 42 and living in Columbus, that change came in the form of a conversation with the least likely person: the rapist himself.
"People may think that this is revictimization, but sometimes you have to face the beast," she said in a recent phone interview.
"It was truly a path of not wanting to live the way I was living," she added. "I hated being that person. I thought that forgiveness might help."
. . .
Marie -- whose last name was withheld because The Blade does not identify victims of sexual assault -- said that she learned a lot about Parks and his background through questions she posed to the facilitators months before she ever saw his face.
And although much of what she needed to know had already been discovered, she went through the barbed-wire gates where Parks was institutionalized to finally confront her rage once and for all.
"Forgiveness truly is for you and not for the other person," she said.
"For me, I looked at the man that I had built up in my head as a monster and I realized, he's just a crazy man. He's just a man who had a shattered psyche and I can forgive just a man. It's hard to forgive a monster," she added. "Eight-five percent of who he is is just a goofy little dude."
. . .
"The dialogue has helped me distance myself and package it up and put it on a shelf," she said.
"I walked out of that prison 6 inches taller and 30 pounds lighter. I left so much there. It was an incredible experience."
I've written a fair amount here about forgiveness and reconciliation. I'm awed by its power to heal. And struck over and over by how hatred and revenge never do.