Perceptions of forgiveness for victims and offenders: Somewhere between “forgiveness frees me” and “I don’t expect their forgiveness”

T. Jenkins

Griffith Criminology Institute,

A substantial body of literature exists emphasizing the psychological, emotional, behavioural, and somatic impacts that crime has on victims. A smaller yet rapidly increasing body of work suggests forgiveness may hold healing potentialities for victims of crime. Significantly less is known about the impact that forgiveness has on perpetrators. Using qualitative in-depth interviews with 12 victims and 19 offenders this paper examines the different perceptions victims and offenders hold with respect to the giving and receiving of forgiveness. The saliency of forgiveness for victims lay primarily in its personal healing capacities whereas the receipt of forgiveness has varied relevance and meaning to offenders depending on the circumstances of the offence and/or the one offering forgiveness. Self-forgiveness has particular relevance for both victims and offenders. A better understanding of the significance of forgiveness in the lives of crime victims and offenders has practical implications for clinicians, service providers, and criminal justice professionals involved in the treatment or custodial care of these populations.


Tamera Jenkins is a PhD candidate in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University.  Research experience includes the reparative role of forgiveness in cases of traumatic violence and the impact of U.S. federal sentencing laws on rates of incarceration. Current research focuses on the impact of crime on victims and offenders, the manner in which they identify, appraise, or place value on giving and/or receiving forgiveness and the effect that these perceptions has on their psychological, emotional, behavioural, and somatic well-being.


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