Abstract: "To not hate": Reconciliation among victims of violence (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12896 "To not hate": Reconciliation among victims of violence

Thursday, January 14, 2010: 4:30 PM
Pacific Concourse M (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
David K. Androff, PhD , Arizona State University, Assistant Professor, Phoenix, AZ
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: This study investigates the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission (GTRC), an intervention promoting reconciliation among the victims affected by the 1979 ‘Greensboro Massacre' in North Carolina. Although reconciliation it is often extolled as the goal of communities recovering from mass violence, it is not a well developed concept. There has been relatively little attention to the process of reconciliation among victims of violence, and no consensus on the process for how reconciliation is supposed to occur. Truth and Reconciliation Commissions are increasingly popular interventions for promoting restorative justice in communities recovering from violence, terrorism, and political oppression, and are a primary mechanism for fostering social well-being after mass violence, yet how they might engender reconciliation remains largely unexamined.

METHODS: An exploratory qualitative research design was used; in-depth, open-ended interviews were conducted with victims of the ‘Greensboro Massacre' who subsequently participated in the GTRC (n=17). Purposive sampling was used to include the population most affected by the violence who also participated in the intervention. Interviews took approximately two hours on average, were transcribed verbatim, and analyzed in ATLAS.ti using inductive content analysis. Nine respondents were female, 13 were white, and four respondents identified themselves as African-American/Black. Fourteen respondents had high levels of engagement in the GTRC. Three respondents had low levels of engagement. Seven respondents had a high geographical proximity to the GTRC, and ten respondents had a low geographical proximity.

RESULTS: Through analysis of participant's responses a typology of reconciliation was created that includes cognitive – affective (changes in thoughts, attitudes, and feelings), behavioral (making a gesture such as an apology to an opposing party), and social (changes in relationships when another's behavioral reconciliation is accepted) reconciliation. From the data, respondents were divided into two orientations with different priorities. Nine respondents were classified as ‘reconcilers' who valued reconciliation above truth-seeking and justice, and were more likely to interpret the perpetrators' behavioral reconciliation favorably. Eight respondents were classified as ‘seekers' who were unwilling to compromise their desires for justice and truth, and experienced less reconciliation, especially cognitive – affective reconciliation. Those who valued apologies – who wanted greater behavioral reconciliation – were disappointed by the GTRC.

IMPLICATIONS: These results suggest that three factors – engagement, proximity and orientation – determined overall satisfaction with this intervention. The GTRC was most beneficial for highly engaged individuals, in Greensboro, who had a reconciler orientation. Respondents with low engagement, low proximity, and with a seekers orientation were more likely dissatisfied. A third group, with high engagement but low proximity and a seekers orientation benefitted from participating but were mixed in their assessment of reconciliation. Future interventions must attend to the interrelated types of reconciliation. Cognitive – affective reconciliation is the foundation of the process, and contributes to humanization. Interventions should seek to encourage behavioral reconciliation which is necessary for social reconciliation. However social reconciliation may not result, even when gestures are made, depending on the orientation of participants. Future interventions must also promote engagement; the use of community participation strategies to accomplish this will be discussed.