What is a Victim Impact Panel?
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.
Dr. Tom Starke 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.
Dr. Tom Starke 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. Tom Starke 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. Tom Starke 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.