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Victim Impact Panels

What is a Victim Impact Panel?

Victim Impact Panels provide a forum for victims of DWI to tell a group of offenders about the impact of the crime on their lives and on the lives of their families, friends, and neighbors.

At most panels involve offenders and victim speakers, telling their stories in a non-judgmental, non-blaming manner. While some time is usually dedicated to questions and answers, the purpose of the panel is for the victims or offenders to speak, rather than for the victims and offenders to engage in a dialogue.

Victim impact panels were first initiated in 1982 by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). In light of the devastating consequences of drunk driving on its victims and on society (causing over 17,000 deaths and more than one million injuries in 1995 alone), MADD felt that it was critical to change the generally accepted attitude that these incidents were "accidents" rather than crimes. They believed that a key component of changing attitudes was to confront drunk drivers with first-hand testimony from the victims of drunk driving crashes.

A spectator's observation:

Dr. Richard Roth, PhD is a Citizen Lobbyist who has been developing a DWI Impact Panel that differs from the rest.
DWI Offenders are not very happy that Court Orders mandates attendance in DWI Victim Impact Panels. Usually, as they arrive to their designated Panel, they are angry for having to sit there for an hour and listen to Victims.

Dr. Roth has a general understanding that DWI Offenders do not have the concept of any wrong doing, so he immediately puts the audience at ease by assuring them that he does not view them as criminals who intentionally rob, rape, assault, or kill others.

He assumes that none of the offenders wants to kill or injure themselves or anyone else. They just want to get home after drinking. And they have done it enough times previously to make them believe that driving after drinking is a safe activity.

He then gives the offenders the opportunity to attempt the field sobriety test of walking the line with intoxication-simulation goggles. The goggles distort the vision but not the brain so both the walker and the audience can see how dangerous it is to drive with a similar impairment. The important difference between the goggles and alcohol is that alcohol makes one think that he is not impaired. The goggle exercise becomes a tension release where laughter generates openness to new ideas.

Dr. Roth addresses their arrest in a non-judgmental manner and proceeds to educate them about "What is a Drink", setting up a table with mock samples of beer, wine, and liquor. Most Drinkers do not know how much alcohol impairs their driving skills and increases the risk of injuring or killing someone. As Dr. Roth demonstrates how much of each beverage will take them to the .08 BAC and how much the crash-risk is increased, you can see that the offenders are truly giving their undivided attention to this demonstration.

Dr. Roth usually has recovering alcoholics speak to the offenders about their own experiences. Alcoholics speak first-hand about how their drinking affected their family, friends, work, and driving risks. Some of them have been injured because of their own actions, and that makes the audience relate to the fact that they can also be injured and kill themselves.

The Victims of DWI are prepared before hand to address the offenders in a non-judgmental fashion, their main function is to relate their tragedies as examples of what could be caused by another attempt by the offenders to drink and drive. Victims are urged to assume that the offenders have no intention of killing or injuring anyone. Victims have a close proximity to the audience so they can pass around pictures of the loved one they have lost, answer questions and even at times get a hug. Some Victims also show short videos to further illustrate their stories.

Near the end of the session, questionnaires are passed to the offenders to give them the opportunity to give anonymous feedback on the panel and to offer suggestions. The feedback from the offenders indicates that the panels are an eye-opening experiences for most attendees.

Click Here to watch our speaker's videos.

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