Sunday, May 15, 2011

He was found not guilty

As you know last week was the trial.  It was Monday and it took most of the day.  After the trial I was exhausted and depressed, and that's why it has taken me so long to post the results.

What happened Monday was that we went in and waited a bit.  My parents had gotten their early and seen my uncle come in with my aunt, grandmother, and his wife.  I wasn't expecting my aunt to be there, and this upset me a bit.  What I was the most unprepared for was seeing my grandma there, I knew she would be, but actually seeing her there was pretty painful.

So, first was jury selection, and the ADA wanted me to be in the room so she could introduce me and make sure none of the potential jurors knew me.  That was a bit uncomfortable because as I said above my grandmother and aunt were sitting right there, actually two rows in front of me.  I did however have my parents, my boyfriend, and my boyfriend's mom with me to support me though.  After introductions, they asked if any of the jurors knew any of us, and then they asked if any of the jurors felt they could not be impartial in a case like this, involving child sexual assault.  Three women went up, explained to the judge that they had been abused themselves, and were excused visibly upset.  Next they did Voir Dire, which is having the potential jurors leave the room and come in one at a time for individual interviews.  I felt uncomfortable sitting in the courtroom, so my supporters and I went back into the conference room that they were keeping me in so I wouldn't have to see the defendant.

This is a bit hard for me to write and re live at the moment so I'm going to continue tomorrow.  TBC...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tomorrow is the trial

I'm scared.  I don't want to have to testify, but I will.  I want justice, and I'm worried about how I'll feel if I don't receive it.  Just being brave enough to say what he did to me in front of him and everyone in the courtroom will be worthwhile though, just to show myself I can do it.  He can't scare me into silence any more.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

It's getting closer

The trial I mean. I'm nervous. I keep thinking about all of the possible outcomes. None of the options will make it go away. He still raped me.

The worst thing, if I lose will be that he'll realize he can get away with doing awful things, and perhaps hurt somebody else. I also just don't want him to be able to pretend he didn't hurt me. I don't want to feel like he was believed and not me. It hurts, and it's frightening.

All I can do is wait.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I spent a long time waiting

To hear anything.  I wasn't particularly kept up to date on where things were at.  After almost a year I got a call from a different detective.  Since I had reported in the wrong county my case was being passed off to the correct county and the new detective wanted to go over my statement and clarify some things.  This time they would need to interview my boyfriend as well because he was the first person that I told what happened to.

We picked a date and went in together.  Again it was a sort of office building that the state police had some offices in and the Special Victims Unit was housed there.  I got the female detective that had called me, and my boyfriend was partnered with a male detective to give his statement to.

This time went much quicker than the last.  The detective had me re-read my statement and agree that it was the one I had given previously.  She then asked me some questions that my statement had left her with.  That was it.

Before we left both detectives gave us their cards and said to call if we had any questions.  The female detective told me that if my abuser started to harass me or intimidate me I should call and report it to the police as well as to the detective herself.  She then told me that she would be questioning my abuser, and would give me a heads up when she was going to be doing that but that it might take a week or two.  She told me to feel free to call her if I had any questions or concerns.  She too was very kind and comforting and did not second guess my story.  This step was fairly quick and painless.

Then we left the police station.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More nightmares last night

This time it was that my abuser had taken out an ad in a local newspaper detailing every thing he did to me.  I kept running into people and they all knew who I was and every disgusting thing he did to me.  It was awful.  In my dream he did this to try and discourage me from continuing with the trial, kind of as a show that it's only going to get worse.

In real life I know that this won't happen.  It would be an admission of guilt.  I think what the dream really signifies is that I'm worried about testifying.  There are hundreds of reasons I'm worried about it, but a major one is just the same as when I told my family: I feel like what he did to me makes me gross. I'm embarrassed to have to admit in front of a bunch of strangers what he did to me.  I know I was just a little girl, but I still partly blame myself for not being able to stop him.

After talking with my therapist I think that the other major reason I'm afraid is simply because he threatened me when I was little in order to keep me quiet.  It still feels scary and risky to go against that and tell.

So, what do I do after a nightmare?  When they wake me up I make sure that I'm completely up.  I get up and get some water or use the bathroom, this way I don't fall right back into the same nightmare.  I might also leave a light on, or turn some quiet music on, if I'm really upset I might get a cup of peppermint tea.  Then I usually do a grounding exercise such as petting my dog and really thinking about how he feels and reminding myself over and again that I'm safe in the here and now.  Another thing I might try if my dog is being irksome is just feeling the weight of my body on the bed and feeling the sheets while reminding myself I'm safe.  Then I usually try to think of something happy and daydream until I fall back asleep.  Usually this allows me to finish sleeping without follow up nightmares.

Friday, March 11, 2011

What reporting was like

It was hard.  It felt like it took forever, but probably only took an hour or an hour and a half.  It mostly involved me talking, with the State Police Special Victim's Unit detective interrupting with questions to clarify what I was saying.

I had to start at the beginning, the first incident of abuse, and explain in detail what happened to the best of my recollection.  Of course there were things I didn't know because I was five when it happened.  I didn't know the exact date, or the time of day.  I did remember how old I was, and what was on television while he was abusing me.  That was enough for them.  The hardest part for me was specifically naming what he did to me.  I had to name body parts and describe acts that made me ill to have to think about.  I reminded myself it would be over soon.  I felt detached as I spoke, but I got through it.

The detective I spoke with was a woman, which allowed me to feel as comfortable as possible.  She was kind and professional.  She did not try to deter me from reporting, nor did she tell me it was my obligation to take this as far as I could.  She was there, she was supportive, and she did her job.  When I was leaving she gave me a card with her number on it and told me to call anytime if I had any questions.

I left the detective, went home, and took a nap.  I was honestly exhausted after reporting.  I tried not to think about it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

From the beginning

So, I realized I didn't explain the process of how I went about reporting what my uncle did to me to the police.  Well, I did some research first to find out who I should report to, as I already said I reported in the wrong county at first because I didn't see anything to tell me definitively which county I needed to report it to.  This mistake caused the process to take longer, and once my statement got to the correct county I had to be requestioned and go through my whole statement again.

What I found out in my research was that I had a choice; I could go to the regular police station and make a report with whatever officer I happened to get or I could call and speak to a detective from my county's special victim's unit and make an appointment to go in and give my statement to them.  I chose to do the latter.  Honestly the deciding factor was that when I called I was given a female detective and I felt much more comfortable giving my statement to a woman and didn't want to risk getting a male detective.  Also, I thought it would be less scary to walk into an office building rather then the police station.  This may be different in other counties or states, but both SVU units I've dealt with in two different counties in my state were housed in an office building and not the police department.

In my research and in my advocacy training I've heard horror stories of people who went to the police and were not believed or were discouraged.  This made me really appreciate that I had the option of going directly to the Special Victims Unit and filing a report that way.  I would definitely recommend looking into this if you are thinking about reporting.  The most appealing thing about the SVU to me is that they are trained to deal with rape survivors, and also that they are in that field because they care about the subject and want to help survivors.  In my advocacy experience though I can also say that I have not personally encountered a police officer that treated a rape survivor negatively, or that didn't seem like they believed her.  I think that a lot of times all we see are the horror stories because people who complain are more likely to want to be heard than people who've had a good experience.  Also, I think that in the last ten or so years there has been a lot more training of the general police regarding sexual assault, and a lot more education around victims, so I would like to believe that if you were to file a report regarding sexual assault with the regular police you would have just as good of an experience reporting as I did.

For me reporting to the Special Victims Unit detectives was definitely the right choice.  Reporting was really difficult, and I'll go into more about that next time, but the SVU detectives made it as easy as was possible.

Monday, February 28, 2011

So, I'm sick of the blame

From my extended family regarding me reporting my uncle and pursuing justice.  My grandmother has actually told me that "He's a good person now, and you're going to ruin his life."  No.  He committed a crime against me that has hurt me irreparably.  He made the decision to rape me, I was a child, I was not to blame then and am not to blame now.  It infuriates me to hear this sort of thing.  He deserves to pay for what he did to me, and others deserve to be protected in case he reoffends.

I've talked about this with my therapist, and thought about it a lot.  What I keep coming back to is why, if he's so worried about this going to trial, being found guilty and getting jail time, why is he refusing to even consider a plea bargain.  All I want is for him to be on a sex offender registry so that others can be informed to appropriately protect their children.  Probation for a while would be nice as well.  He's facing jail time by bringing this to trial, and again, it's the risk he is choosing to take regarding his future.  Even if he's worried about his wife and others, he could always lie and be like "Oh, my attorney said that this was the best option for me", and still maintain his innocence if he'd like.  I don't fricking care what he tells people and what they believe, all I've cared about since reporting is doing the best that I can to not allow him to hurt others.  None of these legal proceedings or ramifications have will make up for what he's done to me, I just need to know I've done all that I can to make sure he doesn't hurt any other children.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I had a nightmare last night

It was about the day before the trial and then the trial.  I had to go to my grandmother's house for something, and when I got there he was there.  His daughter called me a stupid bitch and said I was trying to ruin her father's life.  He and my grandmother made a last ditch effort to try and get me to not go through with the trial.

Next in the nightmare it was the day of the trial.  I went to court and saw them in the hallway.  My grandmother was telling me I was being selfish, that he had a good life now and that I was trying to take all that away from him.  I remember yelling back that he should just take the plea, then he won't have to risk going to jail, because all I asked the ADA was to get him on probation and on the sex offender registry.  They yelled back that he would never take the plea and that they were going to make this as hard for me as possible.  Next thing I remember is having a panic attack, thinking I couldn't testify.  Then I was testifying, and it was awful.  His lawyer was trying to trip me up with my words, and I blanked and couldn't remember anything.  Then I woke up.

I know this nightmare is just my own fear of what's going to happen with the trial but it was awful and so realistic.  I'm so angry that this is giving me nightmares again.  I'm also really worried now that I am going to mess up when testifying.  This sucks.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Reading the comments

On the articles about Scott Brown makes me so very angry!  What especially upsets me is all of the people who keep saying that he owes it to other potential victims to report and press charges against his abuser.  Some people have even said that it would be Scott Brown's fault if others have or are abused.  This enrages me!  The only person to blame is the abuser himself.  No victim should have to carry the responsibility of their abuser's actions.  It's not the victim's fault that they were abused, it's not the victim's fault that they didn't tell, and it's certainly not the victim's fault if their abuser reoffends.

People who blame the victim are ignorant.  They, fortunately for them, don't understand the horrible reality of reporting your abuser.  It's not quick and easy like it's made out to be on television shows.  It's long, emotional, and often harmful to the victim.  Just the presumption of innocence of the person who has hurt you so terribly is a huge blow to your self confidence.  Survivors of sexual assault don't choose not to report their abuser to protect the abuser, they do it to protect themselves.  If that makes them a little selfish too bad, they don't owe anybody but themselves.  They deserve to heal in whatever fashion works for them.

I chose to report what happened to me, but not even for one second would I ever question someone's decision not to go through this hell.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I haven't heard back from the ADA

She's supposed to let me know if the victim witness advocate that I asked for is available for my court date and able to take my case.  It's stressful just because waiting in general is stressful, but also I keep thinking I'm being difficult just for wanting this switch.

Even though I thought I could push this out of my mind again I'm finding myself really anxious about testifying.  Just knowing that my grandmother is going to be there to support him makes my stomach turn.  I'm really scared of testifying in front of him.  I know it's stupid, it happened a long time ago, but his threats still ring true and I'm afraid that if I testify, that no matter what the outcome is, he's going to hurt me.  It's crazy because he's already hurt me in the worst way possible and here I'm worried about what?  Being punched, hit, shot?  It's ridicules.  I just keep telling myself that if he has the self preservation to deny what he did to me that he's not going to risk getting caught for something else.  At least that thought comforts me a little.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

So, I saw an article on Scott Brown

I started thinking about how wonderful it was that he was finally able to come forward about the sexual assault he suffered as a child.  I always think it's great when people in the public eye come forward, it's often a necessary reminder that I'm not alone in what I've gone through, and I find it comforting as I'm sure plenty of other survivors feel.

My second thought was that this abuser is still out there possibly abusing other children, with years of practice.  It's so sad that now that Senator Brown is at a place where he can talk about his abuse he no longer has the option of reporting what he survived as a crime and having charges pressed against his abuser.

I was lucky that I was able to tell my story while I still had the option of pressing charges.  I'm grateful for that every day because reporting my abuser felt like a load had been taken off my back.  I no longer felt like I was responsible if he hurt another person in the way he hurt me.  That relief was such a good feeling to have.

Even though it felt like I waited forever to tell anybody what happened to me, it was almost twenty years after the abuse occurred, I have since learned that it's not infrequent for it to take survivors of child sexual assault even longer to come forward.  It shouldn't be too late for those survivors to seek justice.  The people who have abused them may have abused other children who have also been pressured into silence, and if it takes so long and so much strength to come forward why would we want to risk the safety of future children by having a statute of limitations on reporting sexual assault.  Sexual assault is so humiliating and so difficult and time consuming to recover from, why do we further hurt survivors by not allowing them the opportunity for justice?

I believe that the statute of limitations on sexual assaults should be either extended or the limitations should be completely thrown out.  Particularly with such a sensitive crime as sexual assault.  The justice system is not just to seek justice for the crimes against one person, but it's also there to protect the public from a criminal re-offending, and with such stringent statutes of limitations we're not protecting the public.

Everyone should have an opportunity to seek justice.  I'm so very grateful for mine.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Today I received my summons

Because it's technically the State(Commonwealth) pressing charges against my uncle, as the victim I am also the witness to the crime and therefore have to be subpoenaed for the trial.  Unfortunately, as the first person I told my story to, my boyfriend was also subpoenaed for the trial.  This means he won't be able to be in the courtroom to support me when I have to testify and is the cause of a lot of my anxiety.

It kind of sucks that the ADA mailed the summons out so early because it brings the trial back to the forefront of my mind.  I've been having a lot of trouble pushing this out of my mind since the last court date where the trial was supposed to happen, and receiving the summons isn't going to help me with that.  Opening the mail to find the summons has definitely brought my day down a notch.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I did it!

I called the ADA and asked for the substitute advocate I had to be my advocate for the trial!  It was really hard, and I felt awkward when she asked if something happened to make me want this change.  I just told her though that nothing was wrong with the old advocate and nothing had happened, I had just felt super comfortable and supported around the substitute advocate and my therapist and I thought the change might help me especially on the day I have to testify.  So the ADA is going to see if the Advocate I want is free on the trial date and if so she'll switch advocates for me.  I just have to wait and see.

Unfortunately I didn't find a secret trick to make it easier to call and ask for what I need.  I just did it first thing this morning because I knew if I waited it would give me time to psyche myself out.  I had already gone over different ways to ask for what I needed without sounding demanding with my therapist and my boyfriend, so I kinda knew what I needed to say.  I was, however glad that I actually got the ADA and not her voicemail because if I had had to wait for her to call me back I'm not sure I would have been able to do it.

I'm glad I got this out of the way, and even if it doesn't work out I'm glad I asked for something that could really be helpful to me.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sometimes even with the best intentions

You don't get stuff done.  I really wanted to call the ADA on Friday like I said in my prior post, but I was already feeling anxious about a bridal shower I had to go to on Saturday, and I psyched myself out and didn't manage to call.  I'm going to try again tomorrow, but it's really hard to ask for something you need.

It wasn't all failure this weekend though.  I managed to get through the anxiety of going to this shower and went to it and was reasonably social and supportive.  I also was able to make a request to my friend the bride to sit near somebody I know at the actual wedding so that I'll feel more comfortable and hopefully less awkward.  All of this was incredibly hard to do even though the bride is a friend I truly care about.  When I started dealing with the realities of telling people what happened to me as a child, and reported it to the police to have charges brought against my uncle, I started to withdraw from friends and activities.  Some of it was that I needed to focus on healing and the whole situation just being so overwhelming, a lot was just depression.  I'm still incredibly worried about the trial, and moderately depressed, but I really feel like my depression is under control and I'm missing having close friends and doing activities that I love.  So I'm working on that.  I'm trying to be a better friend.  I'm trying to work up to things I used to love doing.  Going to this shower was a big step for me, and I'm really proud I was able to get myself there.  Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning in negative thoughts.  Not today though, today I feel like I've accomplished something that was really difficult.

Tomorrow, hopefully I can take some of these positive feelings and be brave and call the ADA.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

You need to ask for things you need

Nobody is psychic.  I know this, yet I keep putting off talking to the ADA and just hoping that she'll just change Victim Witness Advocates for me.  The advocate I have is okay, but I don't feel all that connected to her, and I kinda feel like she doesn't want to deal with my case or just doesn't understand how I feel.  Not the last court date, but the one before that I had a substitute Victim Witness Advocate and she was awesome.  It was truly comforting having her there.  What I'd really like is to switch to this other advocate.  I feel guilty though, the other advocate didn't do anything wrong, and I don't want her to take it personally I just would feel more supported going into this if I had the substitute Advocate permanently.  So, I'm trying to build up my courage to call the ADA and ask if this is possible, switching.  I feel like I'm being difficult, and I don't want to come across that way.  I talked about this in therapy and decided that if switching Advocates can be helpful for me then I need to at least ask about it.  So I'm going to do it, I'm going to make myself call the ADA tomorrow.  I'm going to ask for what I need and put myself first.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Just Because A court Date is Set

Doesn't mean it won't be delayed. January 5th the trial was supposed to start and I was supposed to testify. I was super anxious for the two weeks leading to the date, and everyday thought that there was no way I was going to make it. I did make it however, forced myself to get up, drove an hour to the courthouse with my supporters and waited two hours. Then the ADA said there weren't enough jurors and the trial was being pushed back to May 9th. May 9th! Over four whole entire months away.

On one hand this false alarm proved to me that I can do it, and make myself get there and testify. On the other I'm angry- this seems like a misappropriation of justice. I've been waiting so long. It seems like sex crimes just aren't as important as other crimes in this country especially drug crimes which seem to see their date in court rather quickly. Another thing that made me angry was the ADA telling me that they didn't ask for extra jurors for this court date because they've been burned in the past and had to send lots of jurors home. Seriously? Jurors are free! Also there's overpopulation in this country, you can't tell me they couldn't risk possibly sending jurors home without serving! I'm also disappointed, I was excited to start the new year without this hanging over my head! It was going to be a fresh start, but now it's not. Now I get to spend another several months waiting for this trial to start and end.