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 VERA : Victim Empathy Response Assessment 

Pages 752-768 | Received 15 Sep 2008, Accepted 16 Apr 2009, Published online: 18 Sep 2009

Victim Empathy Response Assessment (VERA): The validation of a new measure for forensic patients
Pages 191-204 | Published online: 24 Apr 2008


A review of the literature reveals a poor relationship between general and victim empathy. Victim empathy measures, which are more directly relevant to forensic work, have been shown to have poor reliability and validity. The aim of this study was to provide preliminary validation of a new measure of victim empathy, the Victim Empathy Response Assessment (VERA). The VERA requires respondents to listen to staged, tape-recorded interviews presented as radio broadcasts. 

There are five interviews, each presenting a different female ‘victim’ and a different event (assault, car accident, rape, house fire, and child sexual abuse). The five interviews were presented to 82 forensic inpatients. Afterwards they completed two questionnaires, measuring affective and cognitive empathy, respectively.

 A principal components analysis of the scores revealed that affective and cognitive empathy are distinct factors, each with a very high level of reliability. Affective empathy was rated significantly lower in terms of distress than cognitive empathy across all five vignettes. Rape elicited the greatest amount of affective and cognitive empathy. This initial validation of the VERA suggests that it is a potentially useful instrument for assessing empathy problems and determining treatment intervention.