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Terrorists meeting their victims: a case study of psychologists' experiences of former terrorists meeting survivors

Ian Gargan (Imagine Health, Dublin, Ireland)
Fíona Kelly Meldon (Imagine Health, Dublin, Ireland)
Cian Aherne (Imagine Health, Dublin, Ireland)
Noelle Fitzgerald (Imagine Health, Dublin, Ireland)
Jane McNicholas (Imagine Health, Dublin, Ireland)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 28 September 2012




Acts of violent extremism have become more regular in the past decade. Little research has managed to analyse the interplay between the individuals who have carried out these acts and those who have experienced them. By bringing two such groups together in direct contact with each other, The Summit Against Violent Extremism (SAVE) offered a unique opportunity to explore the experiences of former violent extremists and victims of terrorist acts. This article aims to focus on this initiative.


The article is designed to take the reader through the discussions of three senior psychologists who attended SAVE to offer support to all involved. Their experiences and insights were gathered, within a focus group, to develop themes with the aim to discuss and share.


Psychologists outlined social development, self‐identity, family and peer groups as critical to the development of extremist views and to the de‐radicalisation of such views. It was reported that the summit gave survivors a chance to express their anger in a positive setting but that this setting could be improved for future summits. Challenges that faced the psychologists included the multi‐lingual environment and confidentiality issues.

Practical implications

The summit was seen as a successful means for developing an understanding of those who have taken part in acts of extreme violence and terror. The psychologists provide practical suggestions for future de‐radicalisation of people in extremist groups.


The role of therapeutic psychologists in such a summit was viewed as critically important as a support to both formers and survivors.



Gargan, I., Kelly Meldon, F., Aherne, C., Fitzgerald, N. and McNicholas, J. (2012), "Terrorists meeting their victims: a case study of psychologists' experiences of former terrorists meeting survivors", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 4 No. 4, pp. 216-225.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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