What is mediation?

It is not counseling.  It is not therapy or legal advice.  It is not mediators telling participants what to do.

Mediation is a process for resolving disputes in which neutral persons help the parties negotiate a settlement.  SMS uses a structured mediation process designed to resolve conflicts.  Its mediators  “trust the process.”  They have experienced mediations where the parties seemed bitterly entrenched; yet after a short while those same stubborn, angry people were engaged in a friendly, productive discussion.

Mediation can work spectacularly well.  The participants resolve problems, let go their sense of grievance, and mend broken relationships.  Almost always people find answers to their concerns and walk away emotionally relieved, with a written agreement or contract that they will try hard to uphold.

Mediation gives people the chance to air their wounds.  Intense conflict tends to generate misunderstanding and suspicion; many of these evaporate when the parties are able to talk directly.

During mediations, SMS volunteer mediators facilitate communication between the parties and help them come up with a written contract that helps protect them from further friction and misunderstandings so that the conflict can fade away.

What is VORP?

VORP of Sumner County, Inc. is one of the services offered by Sumner Mediation Services.

The initials VORP stand for Victim Offender Reconciliation Program.  This is a program that enables offenders an opportunity to sit down with the victims of their offense and make things right. VORP cases are referred to SMS by Sumner County Juvenile/General Sessions judges.  SMS then contacts the victim and the offender, schedules and facilitates a mediation with the respective parties.  SMS mediators are neutral.  We listen, understand and clarify the offense and gather information that is helpful in bringing the offender and the victim together to begin the process of reconciliation.

What are the benefits?

For Victims:

  • Opportunity to have direct part in the settlement of a conflict
  • Restitution, when applicable, is possible in the form of cash or labor for damages
  • Relief from frustration through direct healthy communication

For Offenders:

  • Opportunity to have direct part in the settlement of the claim
  • Alternative to court record or imprisonment and its damaging effects
  • Opportunity to ask for and receive forgiveness for the offense committed

For the towns and communities in which we live:

  • Lowers the rate of repeating offenses
  • Expedites the legal process
  • Offers a more cost effective approach

VORP offers opportunities for:

  • Responsibility–It offers an alternative to a court record
  • Restitution –If applicable, it establishes fair restitution amounts and doable payment schedules
  • Reconciliation–It increases positive attitudes, communication patterns and understandings between offenders and their victims as well as within the communities in which they live.

Can I Mediate?

Volunteer mediators are invaluable

The programs of SMS would not be possible without the skills, experience and commitment of volunteer mediators.  They bring their lifetime of experience from a variety of backgrounds.  There is much room for varied personalities and experience.  After participating in Volunteer Mediator Training during which they learn communication skills and the mediation process, prospective mediators observe actual mediations until they are ready to co-mediate.  SMS always uses co-mediation, so mediators don’t face conflicting parties alone.

Volunteer mediators express satisfactions

“People get discouraged.  You have doubts too, but it’s important to say to them, ‘Yes, you are getting somewhere.  You are talking.’  It is a miracle to see at the end of the session how it has come together.”

“The simplicity of it is almost embarrassing.  In short time people can solve ‘impossible’ problems and let out hostility that has sometimes built up for years.  The exciting part of mediating is watching that process work again and again for different people in different situations.”

To learn more about becoming a volunteer mediator, please contact us.

How can I get involved?

You are invited to become a volunteer mediator.

Training involves classroom instruction and observation of real mediation until you are ready to co-mediate with an experienced mediator.  Please consider serving your community as a peacemaker today.