One of the stipulations Joseph and I adamantly fought for in Asher’s disposition was victim mediation. I don’t even remember where we first learned of it, but by the time we were sitting in court, three months after Asher’s removal from our home, we knew it needed to be included in any sentencing. We certainly didn’t understand what would go into victim mediation or where, in the process, it would fall. We just needed some kind of official validation that Asher would be required to face his victims and acknowledge his hurtful and abusive behaviors to each of them.
Back in November, Asher’s behaviors were settling into a consistent enough pattern of good choices and self-reflection that we began discussing release. Staffing that month was a positive affair with Asher’s staff workers and probation officer all verbalizing their excitement for apparent changes in a positive direction. And even more rewarding for Asher was the announcement that if he continued on the same course, he could look forward to release in 60-90 days.
We all left that meeting walking a bit on air.
And of course, the next question that came to us was about victim mediation. If Asher was potentially ready for release within 2-3 months, then when and how were we to expect victim mediation to occur.
The following several months were grueling, to say the very least. Asher almost immediately fell into a backward slide of selfishness and entitlement reminiscent of his first weeks out of our home. He refused to stay accountable for poor choices, bad decisions, inappropriate conduct, and irrational breakdowns. He grew increasingly belligerent. And as each month passed, the staff meetings became more and more hostile. Asher couldn’t understand why he was told in November that release could be as early as 60 days and yet here we were 120 days later, and he still was being denied access to release specific preparatory meetings and privileges. And though his own lack of responsiveness to treatment and gross entitlement were at the root for the delay, all he could do was complain miserably about how unfair it was that he worked so hard for nothing.
Slowly – very slowly – Asher began to come around to an understanding that this process was not simply about checking boxes in a linear timeline of to-dos. We also fought to move him from the counselor originally assigned to him and were at last granted a counselor that works closely with sexual offenders (something the previous one did not do). Through his work with Asher, our son drafted three individual apology letters that will be read aloud during the person-to-person victim mediation meetings.
However, the first step before they can be read by Asher is a proof-reading of sorts. Georgia, Olivia, and Nathan will each read the letter in their own therapist’s office and then work through edits and changes they need. This ensures that Asher understands more about what each sibling requires for relational reconciliation. It also ensures the letters are indeed focused on what the victim needs and not what the perpetrator believes they need. Lastly, it starts to emotionally prepare our children for that face-to-face meeting.
We sat down with Georgia and Olivia’s therapists a few days ago in separate appointments and read Asher’s words aloud to them.
And so a fresh hell is beginning in our home.
We will now spend the next week working through his apology letter with each of the girls before meeting with their therapists. Our suggestions and corrections will then be sent back to Asher’s counselor who will work through those changes with him before delivering them back to us for further review. I’m told this process could take as many as 4 or 5 iterations (each iteration taking approximately 2 weeks) before everyone feels good about the letter.
We aren’t even beginning Nathan’s letter because his therapist believes there is too much material for our family to try and handle all three letters simultaneously. But we will do the same process with him.
Then we meet.