My First Victim Impact Panel

Written By: Sydney Vitale, MADD Intern & Florida Gulf Coast University Student

Tonight was my first time attending a Victim Impact Panel, and it was an experience that I will never forget. I drove to the courthouse wondering what I was about to experience and how the people there were going to react to tonight’s event. When we arrived at the courthouse there were dozens of people standing outside the courtroom doors waiting for the panel to begin.

When the courtroom doors opened everyone flooded inside. I followed along towards the end with the guest speakers and members of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. We sat at the front of the room, facing the attendees. I couldn’t help but to look into the sea of people and just watch what they were doing when our first speaker stood up. Many seemed to be interested in all that she was saying while others rolled their eyes and stared at the ceiling trying their best to not participate.

When our first victim/survivor spoke everyone in the room laid eyes on him. His story was very personal and many were happy he shared what had happened. The next speaker was an offender. He had hoped that him speaking tonight he could share what would happen to everyone in the room if they continued with their actions. It seemed to work, many people asked him questions, and they also felt more connected to him since they were DUI offenders too.

Towards the end of the night, you could see people starting to get restless and on the edge of their seat, as if they were back in high school waiting for the bell to ring for them to start their weekend. When it was finally time for them to leave many of them stayed back to talk to the Sheriff’s Deputy and the MADD Director about tonight.