It's Wednesday. I'm now in the the final mile of this legal marathon, and I'm tired. On Monday morning he will stand before a judge and accept the terms of the plea agreement. He will be sentenced. And I will tell the world what he did to me.
My impact statement is 10 pages long. It has been painful to write, as I have had to painstakingly choose the best words to describe events that should have never occurred in the first place. I was told by the prosecutor, counselor, victim advocate, and my attorney to be specific, detailed, to include as many sensory details as possible, as my statement will be on the record and searchable. I have had to go back to being that child. This week I have heard every sound, felt every touch, tasted every taste, and felt all of the fear all over again. I have cried a lot this week.
I don't expect Monday to be pleasant, I expect it to be one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. Maybe the hardest. I am going to revisit, publicly, the darkest, most painful moments of my life. I will be raw and exposed as I confront the defendant in front of my husband, my friends, strangers, and quite possibly the media. And that is OK. In fact, I invited all of them.
Here's the deal. There's something that has bothered me for a long time, but I haven't really had a good way to talk about it. I had a conversation recently with a friend about a rape case in another state. Part of the victim's testimony had been aired on the news, and there was a discussion about it on Facebook. A number of people had posted comments about the victim and whether or not her testimony should have been aired. "It's too private," was one comment. "It's too personal" being another. While I appreciate that these comments are intended to support the victim, I think they also have another effect. They are in a way victim shaming.
As a victim, I have a different take. Sex and intimacy are personal and private. Rape is about neither sex nor intimacy. Unfortunately, many of us (victims) have been told way too often that "what happened" (a phrase people like to use instead of the real word, crime) to us is personal and private. We begin to associate being raped with having sex, and our ability to be intimate becomes compromised. Rape is an act of violence more similar to theft or being stabbed than having sex with someone you love. Something was taken from me. Yes, it involved my "private" parts, but that does not mean I view him taking my body as private. I was injured. And yes, that injury involved parts of my body that I don't normally talk about in public, I did nothing wrong.
Keeping quiet helps only one person: the perpetrator.
I am inviting media coverage for two reasons. First, I am of the opinion there are other women out there who have been victimized by him. I want them to know that they are not alone. If he does have other victims, perhaps hearing my story will embolden them. Second, I want all victims who suffer in silence to feel empowered. I want them to know that they can come forward and have their voices heard. I want them to know that they do not need to hold the shame for the violent acts they suffered at the hand of another. The shame does not belong to them, it belongs to the rapists who came only to steal and destroy.
So, if I'm on the news, if you see video of me in a fragile state, on the witness stand, testifying about all of the horrible things he did to my body (and my mind) in graphic detail, know that it's OK. I don't mind you hearing about it. I have no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed. I do not hold the shame for what happened, he does. I did nothing wrong, he did. I have nothing to hide, he does.