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When It's So Hard to Relate: Can the Legal System Mitigate the Trauma of Victim-Offender Relationships?

58 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2008 Last revised: 30 Jun 2013

Jody Lynee Madeira

Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington

Date Written: 2009


This article argues that, in the aftermath of violent crime, a relationship that is both negative and involuntary can form between crime victims and offenders. This relationship fetters the victim to the crime and the criminal, rendering it difficult to recover from the transgression. To illustrate how such a relationship may form and what consequences it may have for victims, this article uses the Oklahoma City bombing as a case study, documenting through the use of original interviews an involuntary relationship in which victims' family members and survivors perceived they were tethered to Timothy McVeigh. This perceived relationship with McVeigh aggravated family members' and survivors' emotional and psychological wounds, delaying their healing. The article further argues that this relationship originated in media coverage of McVeigh that portrayed him as defiant, remorseless, and unemotional, and that it was further developed at trial when family members and survivors were profoundly disturbed by McVeigh's conduct. To minimize the harmful effects of victim-offender relationships, this article proposes that victim services workers educate victims about the possibility of such a relationship, help victims cope with media coverage of the defendant, and assist victims in understanding defendants' behavior during trial. Finally, it recommends that opportunities for voluntary victim-offender mediation be made available to help mitigate the negative consequences of these victim-offender ties.

Keywords: capital punishment, death penalty, victim, victim services, trauma, McVeigh, Oklahoma City bombing, offender, relationship

Suggested Citation

Madeira, Jody Lynee, When It's So Hard to Relate: Can the Legal System Mitigate the Trauma of Victim-Offender Relationships? (2009). 46 Houston Law Review 402 (2009); Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper No. 105. Available at SSRN:

Jody Lynee Madeira (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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