Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation

by Center for Conflict Resolution
Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation

Dion came to mediation at CCR with his father, Michael, after he was arrested for aggravated assault. He threatened a classmate with violence after being called names on social media. The mother of his classmate called the police and made a complaint about the threats. Dion was arrested and taken to the police station. The case was referred for mediation with CCR. The classmate declined to participate in the mediation and so a family mediation was held for Dion and his father. Dion wanted to put the whole incident behind him and Michael wanted to open up lines of communication with his son. 

Through a guided conversation, the mediator was able to find common ground between Dion and Michael, as well as help them recognize ways to improve their relationship. 

Dion shared that he spends most of his free time rapping. He discussed the fact that his Dad worked long hours and, as a result, he spent more time with his aunt who cared for him. The mediator asked Dion’s second favorite thing to do and he said he was really good at basketball. When asked how he got so good he replied that his Dad taught him. 

After explaining that Dion’s Mom died during COVID, Michael said he felt basketball was the most important thing for Dion to concentrate on. Michael felt Dion’s trouble at school was caused by the loss of his mom. The mediator asked Dion if he agreed but he did not. The conversation gave Michael an opportunity to hear new information about his son’s experience losing his mother and its impact on his life. 

With the mediator’s support Michael and Dion were able to come up with a plan for moving forward from the incident in a safe, neutral space, and to develop solutions that worked for them. Michael agreed to contact the local church to inquire into a grievance support group and family counseling. Dion agreed to participate. This discussion allowed Dion to express how his father taught him how to play basketball but that now he works very long hours. The mediator inquired into the work schedule and discovered that Sundays and Saturday afternoons are free, if needed. Father and son agreed to every other Sunday which included either lunch and chat or basketball andlunch. They both agreed to use the time together on Sundays to communicate better and prevent incidents from happening again in the future. Michael expressed his appreciation and both seemed happy to have a plan to move forward together.

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Sarah is 16 and the last year has been hard on her and her friends – they are bored all the time and the limitations of Covid-19 have started to feel really exhausting. One night in late winter, Sarah was hanging out with her friends when some acquaintances arrived at her house and invited her and her friend to get into a car. Sarah didn’t recognize the car, but she still got in. While they were driving, her acquaintances confessed that they had stolen the car and were out for a joy ride. The police pulled them over and Sarah was arrested along with the others for stealing the car. A few months later, Sarah and the owner of the car were referred for mediation. Due to Covid-19 precautions, the mediation was held remotely over Zoom.

Adam owned the car that had been stolen. He arrived to the mediation tired and upset, but wanting to share his experience of that evening with Sarah and understand Sarah’s experience.

Adam had been taking his mother-in- law out for dinner in the city. He parked the car on the street outside her home and went inside to help her to the car. When they came back the car was gone. Adam was furious. He depended on the car to get to work. Not to mention, his evening was completely ruined. The event was terribly stressful and he ended up having to contact the police and friends for help. When the car was ultimately returned to Adam, it was in disarray.

When the mediator brought Adam and Sarah together to start the session, she asked them both to tell brief stories about the night when Adam’s car was stolen. Although she was participating, Sarah was hiding her face and speaking almost inaudibly. She was visibly shy and extremely quiet. Sarah’s dad was with her at the start of the mediation, but also had other responsibilities and did not participate in the conversation. The mediator encouraged Sarah to continue to share her experience. Adam set the tone by expressing a desire to talk and understand the impact this event had on both of them. In response, Sarah spoke more clearly and expressed a desire to make amends. The mediator opened up a conversation so they could share with one another how the event had impacted their lives.

Adam was able to tell Sarah about his job, how he needed his car to get to work, and how sad he was to see it returned in bad shape. He was also able to tell Sarah about his family: how he had to frantically try to get into his house with no keys because his infant daughter needed a medication stored in the bathroom there. As Adam was talking, the mediator noted Sarah’s engagement in what Adam was saying. Sarah was nodding, and interjecting with apologies and remorse.

Sarah was able to then share her experience. Sarah felt pressure that night to join in what her friends were doing and not to be the one stopping the fun. She shared her surprise at learning the car had been stolen, the trapped feeling she felt in the backseat after learning this information, and the fear she felt when arrested by the police.

Sarah expressed that she did not have a strong parental presence in her life. Adam was sympathetic to Sarah’s story and gave her some sincere and thoughtful sharing of advice about how to deal with difficult situations like the one she was in. Adam expressed that he did not want this one mistake to affect Sarah’s dreams and goals. Sarah was able to hear what he was saying and she went on to ask Adam’s advice on school and friends.

At the end of the mediation, both Adam and Sarah were given the opportunity to share some last thoughts and words for the other person. Sarah, now fully on camera and speaking more confidently, apologized again. She acknowledged the specific ways in which her actions had harmed Adam and his family. Adam responded to her and clearly said, “I accept your apology. It takes bravery to apologize. Please, don’t let this stop you from your studies and pursuing your dreams. I wish for the best for you.”

The mediation gave them both an opportunity to share their stories and, most importantly, to show up and listen to the other person.

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Denise had been having a lot of conflict with her mom. Her mother, Sharon, had been hoping the two of them would be able to work things out on their own, but things had continued to get worse between them and eventually Denise went to live with her aunt. After staying with her aunt for a few months, Denise got in some trouble. She ended up getting arrested and her aunt told her she could no longer stay with her. After that, Denise went to live with her Dad, but he didn’t have the space for Denise to stay comfortably full-time. Denise was working with a social worker who decided to refer Denise and her mother to mediation with CCR.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Denise and Sharon participated in mediation via Zoom. The mediator began the mediation by checking in with each of them privately to discuss the mediation and see if they had any concerns. Sharon told the mediator she was really angry about Denise’s behavior and was not happy to be at the mediation. She said she felt like she didn’t know what else to do and that if Denise continued to misbehave she would have to ask her to move out permanently. Denise told the mediator she was optimistic about having a conversation with her mother, that the two of them had not really had a conversation in months that didn’t result in yelling, and that she was nervous she might need a break when her mom got angry. The mediator and Denise made a plan that if Sharon was yelling and Denise felt overwhelmed, she could ask for a time out and the mediator would stop the mediation.

Denise was right to be concerned about Sharon’s anger. Early in the mediation the mediator found it very difficult to help the two women speak with one another. Sharon was so upset that she could not contain herself and often spoke over Denise, raising her voice. This would cause Denise to raise her voice and repeatedly the mediator found them in a screaming match. The mediator realized the parties would need to make a better plan for how to communicate in order to have a positive experience in mediation.

The mediator brought each party into another private meeting and talked to them about how they were engaging one another. In the meeting with Sharon, the mediator gave Sharon the opportunity to express the anger she was feeling. The mediator listened while Sharon got louder and angrier, her voice trembling as she recounted all her efforts to support Denise. Once she finished, the mediator summarized everything back and checked in with her to see how she felt about moving forward. Sharon said she felt much calmer after her outburst and wanted to continue the conversation. When the mediator met privately with Denise she learned that Denise was really apologetic about her previous behavior and that she wanted to come home and live with her mother. The mediator was surprised to hear this, as it had not been said when the parties were together. The mediator spent time with Denise making a plan for how she would ask her mother if she could come home. Then the mediator brought the two of them back together.

It wasn’t an easy conversation, but both parties were calmer and more focused and, with the mediator’s help, they were able to keep talking. Denise asked to come live with her mom again and the two of them agreed on a set of expectations for living together. The agreement included obligations for both Sharon and Denise and the two left the mediation in good spirits, ready to share a home again. 

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Trent and Jess were referred to mediation at CCR after a fight at their school. A conflict between the two of them got physical and escalated into an altercation involving multiple students. Trent’s probation officer recommended the two try mediation to see if they could settle things between themselves.

The mediator began by asking about the history of their relationship. Jess and Trent started dating in 8th grade and continued until their Junior year. They had been their school’s most recognizable couple until March when rumors began that Jess had cheated on Trent. After hearing it from several friends, Trent broke up with Jess. That same week during lunch, Jess and a couple of her friends confronted Trent and demanded to know why he believed others and not her. Trent shoved Jess down and a fight broke out. As a result, Trent was arrested.

Both students attended mediation with their mothers and the women began to chime in about how the other kid was a bad influence on their own child. The dynamic between the two mothers began to worsen and they each began questioning the parenting methods of the other.

The mediator stepped in and asked the parties if things had always been this way. Everyone agreed that it was only within the last year that things had started downhill. Sensing a tipping point, the mediator continued to explore by asking why things had changed. Jess’s mom, Maria, said, “Because Trent started hanging out with those gang boys.”

Trent denied that he was in a gang and said that he had only been trying to protect Jess. Everyone began speaking at once and the mediator helped focus the conversation by asking Trent to explain more about what he meant.

At the end of Sophomore year, Trent had been 5’8” and about 125 lbs. By November of Junior year, he was a little over 6’ and weighed close to 160 lbs. Gang affiliated guys that he had known, some since grade school, started to recruit him. Trent tried to duck them, but they wouldn’t stop. Trent said they just started telling other people that he was with them. Once word got out, he couldn’t deny it or he faced retribution from them and/or pressure from rival gangs.

To make matters worse, the guy whom Jess supposedly cheated with was one of those rivals. As the drama unfolded among seemingly the whole school, Trent said his affiliated friends told him that he couldn’t let this stand. If he wasn’t going to do something, they would. When Jess and her friends confronted Trent that day, he knew he had to do something and all he could think was to shove Jess.

Everyone was silent for a moment and then the mediator asked how that had felt for Trent. After a few seconds, he said that he had felt trapped and angry. Following up, she asked who he was angry with. Trent said he was mad at Jess, but he was angrier with the other kids who had threatened her and seemed to be controlling both their lives. He still cared about her and had been hurt by the alleged cheating, but he was afraid his new acquaintances would be a danger to Jess.

The mediator asked Jess what she thought about all this. Through tears, she explained that she’d never known this before and now she was even more upset. Not at Trent, but at the people who started all the gossip. Because things had moved so quickly, the two of them never had a chance to discuss the gossip and her friends had been pressuring her to stand up for herself. Jess hadn’t cheated and that’s why she had confronted Trent.

The mediator summarized for both parties that it sounded like they were feeling manipulated and out of control of their own lives. She said that it seemed like they both cared a lot about each other and that they wanted freedom to be themselves and enjoy their relationship without everyone else getting into their business. The mediator also highlighted that it wasn’t just their emotional safety that was at stake, but possibly their physical safety as well. Then she asked what they would want to do to move forward and to avoid something like this happening again.

Right away, Trent apologized for hitting Jess and for not trusting her. He said in the future, he would always come to her first if there was a question. She apologized as well for confronting him in public and agreed that they should always talk together about any issue before letting others push them towards an action.

Finally, the mediator asked how they would handle this when they got back to school in a couple of months. Both of them felt like things would have settled down, since COVID-19 had everyone thinking about other things and school would be remote anyway. But, they both agreed to tell any friends who asked that the cheating rumors were not true and that they were back together again.

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When David’s friend pulled up in front of his house on a Saturday morning and asked him if he wanted to drive, David said “Yes!” and cruised around the neighborhood. It turned out David was driving a stolen vehicle. As part of his probation, David participated in a mediation session with his mother, Monica, and Marina, the owner of the car. Due to Covid-19, the mediation took place via video conference.

David reluctantly began the mediation by sharing his side of the story - that he did not steal the car, claiming he had no idea the car did not belong to his friend. David felt his friend who stole the car should be the one at the mediation and not him. His mother, however, was quick to remind David that he was responsible because he was the one driving. She told him the minute he left the house, where he was supposed to be watching his younger siblings, and got behind the wheel, he was responsible for his behavior. Monica also wanted to be sure Marina knew that David was a good kid, had great grades and had never been in trouble before. During the mediation, David shared more about himself; that he wants to do well in school and become a video game designer.

Marina appreciated the opportunity to share her side of the story as well. Marina is a single mom with a teenage son and was completely panicked when she could not find her car one morning. She searched for an hour before finally calling the police. She could not go to work that day and her son missed school. Even though she got her car back, she had been unable to drive it due to the damage. Marina had to rely on others for rides and spend money on Uber to get to work. Marina also expressed that she felt violated that her car had been stolen.

During the mediator’s private conversation with David and his mother, David spoke about how frightening the entire experience had been for him. David was incredibly scared and cried when he was arrested. His younger sister and Grandmother witnessed his arrest and they both were traumatized by the experience. Mom and David both spoke about how they wanted to move forward and put this incident behind them so David could focus on school and his future.

When the mediator brought the parties back together, David apologized to Marina. Marina told David how much he reminded her of her own son and how she knows teenagers make mistakes and that is important to learn from them.

David’s mom then shared that her own car was stolen the previous year and found totaled in a neighboring state, filled with firearms. She understood what it was like to lose the independence a car provides and the expense of having to use Uber. Since she knew David did not have any money to give, she offered to pay Marina $225, and in return David would help her out more around the house; doing weekly laundry, cleaning out the garage and babysitting his siblings. David quickly agreed to this.  

They decided to write up this agreement, exchanged cell numbers and Marina, David and mom all wished each other well. Through mediation, David, Monica and Marina were able to find a solution that met their needs and opened the possibility for a more positive relationship in the future.

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Center for Conflict Resolution

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
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Cassandra Lively
Chicago, IL United States
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