A Plea for Justice, Impact Statement Pt. 3

In the final part of my victim impact statement I decided to begin with the day I was freed from my abuser. While I was so thankful to have someone believe me and take action against my abuser, it was also one of the scariest days of my life. Things did not get better on that day and at the time it felt like life became immensely more difficult. I want the judge to see that my abuser’s actions did not just effect me, but they also significantly impacted my family.

What I call my “Freedom Day,” came on November 10, 2004. I was a little over a month shy of turning 14. While I was freed in a physical sense from the hands of my abuser, I am still learning today that healing is life-long. Over 250 counseling sessions, a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnosis, antidepressants, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, shame, low self-worth- these are just some of the things I’ve dealt with in the last ten years. When physical freedom from the abuse happened, my entire world was turned upside down even more. My siblings, mom, and I were forced to leave a house we dearly loved, our belongings ended up ruined in storage, our precious pets were left in the care of my abuser, and we moved into a single bedroom in my grandparent’s house. And that was only the beginning.

Next I wanted to convey to the judge my concerns regarding the potential of my abuser harming another child. I want the judge to see that my abuser was very skilled in manipulative tactics. It provides me with some peace of mind that my abuser is listed on a public sex offender registry. I also want the judge to look at the picture below and see what I looked like a year after the abuse began. I want the judge to see that I was just a child.

I could spend a really long time detailing the last ten years of my life. There have been highs and lows but I’ve made it through them all, just like I survived the years of abuse. But that is not why we are here today. For nearly two years I have been anxious about this day. It absolutely terrifies me that there is a chance my abuser can be removed from the sex offender registry. There are hardly words to describe the peace of mind I have knowing that law enforcement knows where my abuser lives and that people who have children around him can know that he is a predator. It brings comfort to me to know that the likelihood of another child being abused by him is at least decreased some by him being on the sex offender registry. I am not his only victim. He also assaulted my XXXXXXX. The abuse was not a one-time incident. I can look back at when I was an eight year old child and see just how manipulated and controlled I was by my abuser. He was brazen enough to abuse me not only in his bedroom, but also in the living room, in the swimming pool, and in the cab of his truck. The fact that he abused me despite the rest of my family being one room away shows just how capable he is of grooming another child and abusing them without anyone knowing- for years.

In conclusion, my abuser added me to a list that I never wanted to be on. If I ever go before the judge, my plea will be that my abuser remain on the sex offender registry for the duration of his life.

Not only does a denial to my abuser’s petition for removal from the registry protect other kids from the potential of being abused by him, but it also serves as continued justice for the crimes he committed against me. That August night when I was just eight years old, hoping to watch a television show and bond with my XXXXXXX, I was forever added to a list I didn’t choose- child sexual abuse victim. My XXXXXX chose to put my name on that list. I will forever live with all that list brings. Just as I will always deal with the effects, I believe that my abuser should have to live with the ramifications of his actions, which landed him on a list. Even if my abuser is one of the very few predators that never abuses another child, it would be an injustice for him to no longer have to face the consequences of his choices that forever altered my life.  

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Not My Shame, Impact Statement Part 2

***Trigger Warning***

I am going to be authentic at this moment and tell you that it is scary posting the second part of my victim impact statement. I am definitely experiencing some anxiety just thinking about pressing “publish.” That feeling of shame resurfaced as I read back over the words I typed months ago. I choose to overcome and rise above because today I know it is not my shame.  

This part of my impact statement focuses on what I want the judge to know regarding my abuser’s actions. I did not want the judge to simply look back at the charges and see three counts of indecent liberty with a minor. The title of that charge does not convey, in my opinion, what really happened. If I ever stand before a judge to read my statement, I want the judge to hear what my life was really like during the years of abuse. I want the judge to know, it didn’t happen just three times. What I did not want to do though is recount every detail of the abuse. Because, I am so much more than what happened to me. I don’t want the judge to see me as a victim. When I go before that judge, I want him/her to hear the reasons my abuser should not be removed from the sex offender registry and I want him/her to see how strong I am today and how I am thriving. There is hope. Always.

So here is the first part of my statement, if you missed that post, and part two follows it:

Today, when I entered this court room, I did not come in as a victim like I did ten years ago. Today, I am standing here as a survivor. However, being a survivor does not mean that I am freed from the effects of long term sexual abuse at the hands of Jeffrey, my former step-father, my abuser. Rather, being a survivor means that through the flashbacks, depression, anxiety, guilt, and shame, I will choose to keep living, thriving, and healing. Ten years ago, as a victim, I did not have the courage to stand before the court and speak about the heinous acts that were committed against me. Today, as a survivor, I have a voice that is ready to be heard. And it begins with that August night I watched “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” with my then step-father which forever changed my life.

What should have been an innocent bonding time turned into a nightmare that I lived every time the show aired and my abuser was home- sometimes five nights a week. While that August night is when the ongoing sexual abuse began, the intentional grooming process began long before that. When I was just six, seven, and eight years old, my abuser was preparing me for that night I would come lay in bed beside him to watch a television show- but leave a victim, terrified by his threat and feeling completely ashamed and broken. That August night I could have been covered from head to toe in manure and still I would have felt cleaner than I did as I washed my abuser’s semen off of me, at eight years old.

During the years of abuse, I would go to school every day and come home knowing what my abuser would expect of me that night. The threat and fear he instilled in me on that August night, and the years of grooming broke me down to the point that my abuser never once had to tell me to come back to the bedroom and perform sexual acts. I reached the point of believing that this was my duty and my abuser reinforced this belief by telling me that he knew “how curious little girls are” and that he was just “helping me out.” My abuser was never drunk, high, or under the influence of any mind-altering substance when the abuse occurred. Those things would not have excused the crimes, rather I say it to clarify that my abuser consciously chose to abuse me hundreds of times.

It is still hard to see the words I have typed and to know that is a chapter in my book of life. But I find hope in the many chapters that follow. My chapter of accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and the journey of faith that follows. My chapters of graduating high school and college. My chapter of becoming a missionary through the North American Mission Board. My chapter of starting graduate school. My chapters of playing sports competitively. There are so many chapters in each person’s life. We can’t just look at one chapter and decide that’s what defines a person. We are more. 

In the coming days, or weeks (cue graduate school chapter of life), I will post the final part of my impact statement. 

Check out this song by Natalie Grant called “Clean

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Impact Statement Part 1

Today I am sharing the first paragraph of my victim impact statement. I wrote it about 7 months ago prior to the date my abuser would be eligible to petition for removal from the sex offender registry. I struggled the most with settling on the first sentence.

Here are a few of the questions I had in regards to writing my statement:

Am I allowed to use my abuser’s name and his relation to me?

Am I allowed to say what he did to me? Or is that too much detail?

Will the judge think I’m lying if I say that I am “thriving” now?

Do I address the judge professionally by starting my statement with “your honor”?

There were so many impacts of the abuse; how many do I list?

These may seem like trivial questions, but my concern with writing the statement “correctly,” was overwhelming.

When I began writing my statement, it helped me to imagine that I was bravely standing in the court room facing my abuser and pleading to the judge my cause. I found several helpful websites where some of my questions were answered. However, I have to give a huge shout-out to the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys for their assistance and compassion in answering my many questions. Two of their employees read proofs of my statement and gave me pointers. They answered questions and encouraged me along the way. They took the time to explain what the petitioning process would be like if my abuser filed and a court date was scheduled.

Here is how my statement begins:

Today, when I entered this court room, I did not come in as a victim like I did ten years ago. Today, I am standing here as a survivor. However, being a survivor does not mean that I am freed from the effects of long term sexual abuse at the hands of XXXX, my former XXXXXX, my abuser. Rather, being a survivor means that through the flashbacks, depression, anxiety, guilt, and shame, I will choose to keep living, thriving, and healing. That August night I watched “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” with my then XXXXXX forever changed my life.

Below you will find a list of websites that helped me as I was seeking guidance in writing my statement. These websites are guides for writing initial statements that would be heard in the court prior to the resolution of a case. The statement that I have prepared is somewhat different because my case has been closed. My statement will be heard if my abuser decides to petition for removal from the sex offender registry which would be a new court “case.”

http://www.victimsinfo.govt.nz/assets/Victim-Impact-Statements-2/Final-adult-jurisdiction-Nov-2014.pdf

https://victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/victim-impact-statements

https://law.lclark.edu/live/files/17711-sample-victim-impact-statements1pdf

If you are writing your impact statement and feel stuck, do not be afraid to reach out for assistance. You do not have to do this alone.writing-1209121

Finding the Words

“You will have the opportunity to make a victim statement if you would like,” the Assistant District Attorney informed me. After my abuser was read the terms of his plea bargain, the judge asked if there was anything else the prosecutor’s side wanted to say. The ADA turned to me to confirm before responding to the judge, “there’s nothing else.”

A year and a half had passed since my disclosure that resulted in being freed from my abuser. At 15 years old, I had absolutely no idea what a victim impact statement involved. I knew what the impacts of my abuser’s crimes were at that time- my world had been turned upside down; but where would I even begin to find the words to adequately say what I wanted to say. What do you say when you are a scared teen, in a court room in front of the judge, and sitting across a narrow aisle from your abuser for the first time in over a year? It did not feel like there were any words I could say that would make a difference.

Walking out of that court room, watching my abuser walk out of the same court room with his family, I immediately wished I had said something when the judge asked. I still didn’t know what I would have said, but I realized the “case” was finished. In my mind it seemed that maybe if I had just told the judge the details of what my abuser did, he would have responded with a harsher punishment. Instead, I was leaving the court house knowing my abuser would go spend 48 hours at the local jail.

Over the years, this regret was something I grappled with continually. I could not find peace in the outcome of the case or my silence in the court room. 10 years later, I recognized a truth I had known all my life- God’s timing is perfect. 10 years after registering as a sex offender, my abuser became eligible to petition for removal from the sex offender registry. As you read in my earlier posts, this was a tough reality to accept. However, it provided me an opportunity to find that voice that sat silent in the court room.

While speaking with the Assistant District Attorney that would handle the case if my abuser filed for petition, I was informed that I would have the opportunity to make a victim impact statement before the judge if I chose. Over the next few weeks, I am going to share the statement I have prepared if the day comes that my abuser files a petition. It was a rollercoaster to write.  I was googling examples of statements, contacting people in the District Attorney’s office, trying to figure out what comprises a victim impact statement. When I finally sat down and began to write, the words flowed freely and effortlessly. I have no way of knowing whether or not my statement will ever be heard in front of a judge and my abuser. However, simply writing the statement allowed me to find that voice that felt silenced in the court room over 10 years ago.

If you are at a place in life where you are considering writing a statement, even if you are the only person who will see it- I would encourage you to take that step. You will know when you are ready. If you aren’t sure where to start, stay tuned to see what steps I found helpful and the types of people I reached out to for assistance.