Victim participation and inclusion are widely regarded as cornerstones for the success of transitional justice efforts. Victim participation is thought to increase the legitimacy of interventions, stimulate healing and reconciliation, and even impart agency and empowerment to victims and affected communities in societies emerging from violent conflict. In reality, there exists little evidence-based research to support these claims. The existing body of literature has so far produced inconsistent or even contradictory policy advice. We argue that methodological challenges and shortcomings are at least partially to blame for this ‘messiness’. Few studies take recourse to formal models and advanced statistical tools to analyze victim-centered TJ policies, and this in turn exacerbates the skepticism whether complex and diverse TJ interventions can be modeled, measured and analyzed to provide fair assessment of potential cause-effect relationships. After decades of research, it is time to take a step back to develop a novel, mixed method research design to measure the effects of victim participation, with renewed focus on the conceptualization and operationalization of desired outcomes, and stronger complementarity between different epistemological approaches to establish cause-effect linkages on the one hand, while being able to demystify the process or ‘pathway to impact’ on the other hand.