It’s natural to make mistakes when we’re young. In our youth, emotions run high, peer pressure is prevalent, and we’re learning that our actions have consequences. However, some mistakes have far-reaching consequences. In 2020, youth accounted for 1 in 14 arrests for violent crimes. Thankfully, this number is declining, but many young people still commit crimes that put their futures (and that of others) at risk.
Let’s say that some friends pressured you into stealing some items at a convenience store. Maybe you knew it was wrong, but you wanted to impress your friends or prove that you belonged in their group. Of course, you probably had to face some harsh consequences as a result. It’s likely that your parents were disappointed in your behavior at the least. If you were caught and charged with a crime, your snap decision might have come a much greater cost.
At Lead4Life, we believe first-time offenders deserve a second chance. Additionally, we make it our mission to help young people learn from their mistakes and build a positive future for themselves. That’s why we offer an exceptional victim awareness program for participants between the ages of 10 and 20.
What Exactly Are Victim Awareness Programs?
A victim awareness program is a service designed to provide first-time offenders of crime with resources, education and support. At Lead4Life, individuals who take part in our VA programs have access to a safe, judgement-free space that allows them to receive the help they need. Through victim awareness programs, participants also learn about the effect their crime had on others. By taking responsibility for their actions, they learn to move forward in a positive direction.
What Do They Accomplish?
- Teaching accountability. Young offenders are taught to speak freely about their crime and its consequences. Through open conversations with a trusted specialist, individuals learn that blaming others doesn’t help. Even if your friends pressured you to steal something, for instance, you still made the decision to participate. In this situation, it’s important to face the consequences and accept your role in the crime.
- Developing empathy. First-time offenders often don’t think about how their crime affected others. The threat of punishment is usually the first thing on someone’s mind. Will they have to enter the juvenile justice system? Will this affect the rest of their life? Victim awareness programs teach first-time offenders to recalibrate their perspective. When they put themselves in the shoes of their victim(s), they learn to develop empathy and understanding. How did they make that person feel? How was the victim’s life affected?
- Learning about the impacts of crime. Let’s go back to our group of friends who engaged in theft at a local convenience store. At the time, the young offenders were probably caught up in the moment. They may have even felt thrilled to do something that felt dangerous or forbidden. However, they probably weren’t thinking about the owner of the store, a struggling business owner who has four children to feed. They’ll not only have to pay for those stolen goods, but they may be fearful of future attacks. During victim awareness programs, offenders learn about the impact of their crimes and how harmful their actions were to others.
- Making amends. Finally, victim awareness programs give offenders the chance to make amends with their community. Once as a first-time offender understands the effects of their crime, they often seek forgiveness. This might involve speaking with a victim if the other party is open to it. While offenders must still face the consequences, they can move forward knowing that there is always the possibility of a second chance. In many cases, victims are also appreciative when offenders apologize and attempt to right their wrongs.
Sign Up for Our Victim Awareness Program at Lead4Life, Inc.
At Lead4Life, we strive to empower every participant in our programs so that they may find their purpose, achieve their goals, and become poised, productive members of their community. We advocate for those in need and assist each and every individual by providing compassionate education and valuable resources like mental health tips so that they can make the very best decisions and develop important life, social, and competency skills. Visit our website or contact us at 240-499-8949 for more information about our victim awareness program.