I made it to my birthday. I made it past my birthday. I made it to here. Here is where my true new road begins. The road where I can leave all of the bad things in the past and finally look forward. I have been humming along to an Adele song throughout the day. It just popped into my head this morning as I was driving to the Hall of Justice and repeating my mantra and prayers. I know the tune but the only actual words to the song that I know are “how bittersweet this could be,” and “and sometimes it hurts instead.” I could look up the lyrics but never mind that. I like the picture that is created in mind from my memory. Those quotes are very appropriate for describing my morning.
My day started at 7:00 with the sound of my first of three alarm clocks. I made time to eat strawberries which I had washed and cut the night before, and some yogurt. I made Earl Grey tea with the tea bags my mom had sent me. The sun had already been awake for some time by the time I stepped out of my front door. It was difficult to find parking downtown and it was also expensive. None of that bothered me. What was important was that I had arrived on time.
As the victim advocate led me into the conference room they had set aside for the morning, I saw two other women in suits. They stood up and introduced themselves and greeted me. I sat down and as I was listening to the intro speech I broke out in tears. It was intimidating walking into that room, with the door closed. There were tissues. I had my cup of hot tea to comfort me. I had dressed up but was still wearing comfortable clothes. I knew I was going to be okay.
It took about two hours to tell my story. That’s an hour less than during my practise run with my friend the week before. She hadn’t heard my story before then. The sheriff took occasional notes on a notepad whilst the district attorney was fully attentive, and ready to make eye contact whenever I was ready. I couldn’t for the hard parts. In front of the DA there was a two-inch neat and organized pile of paper which consisted of the documentation for the case. At the end, I was reassured that this documentation stays on file. It doesn’t go anywhere. It will even be scanned in for electronic files.
It was impossible to go in chronological order. The important bits came to mind sporadically and I jumped from topic to topic. I spoke of general trends of the abusive relationship and I also gave specific examples. Unfortunately coercion and manipulation and brainwashing are not illegal. Rape is. And the sexual abuse falls under the category of domestic violence, which is also illegal. But I didn’t make any reports to the police at the time that they happened, so there was no record of these events having happened. Driving someone to suicide also isn’t illegal. The justice system is not something that I would ever want to fully comprehend. How it works, why it works, why some rapists go free of any charges, how justice doesn’t always come to fruition.
Let’s take a break and enjoy the fact that I have hot peach tea brewing in one of my favourite huge Italian mugs, with saucer, of course. I hand-picked them at different stores back when I had money, that is, substantial alimony. All of which has been rightfully spent, because it needed to be. I needed to be able to sustain myself. Now I have a stable, full-time job, and I am supporting myself. I don’t have to rely on anyone. I have healthier relationships in the people with which I surround myself. There is a state fund for victims of crimes for which I applied today. They might be able to help me pay for some of my therapy. I wish I had known about this years ago. I am glad for any help I can get. However, it’s also nice to be able to have private health insurance. It’s a luxury that some people just cannot sustain.
By the end of the week I will learn the outcome of the case. The DA will contact me herself. It’s likely there will not be a hearing, during which I would have to face my assailant in front of a judge. It’s even less likely that from there it would go to trial. But I won’t know until I know so there’s no saying where this will go. My professor friend, with whom I spent the rest of the day, says that I cast a shadow upon him. No matter what happens, this case will always be on file, and if in the future he does something stupid and his victim gets out alive as I did, and they report it, there will be my case to reference.
Burden of proof. That’s a phrase ringing in my ear. It’s a new term. I’m not familiar with the courts. We, meaning those supporting me, would have to bear the burden of proof. I’m not going to meet up with a former rapist of mine, like I was planning on doing last week. He has media, photos and video, of sexual acts from eight years ago. But it does not prove that those acts were non-consensual or forced.
They said they believe me. Every woman in that room today believes my story. They repeated this several times so that it would stick with me. The outcome of this case has nothing to do with credibility. The district attorney said she read every single word that I wrote, my outline, my 20-page summary, all of the emails and journals from the past that I had forwarded. She knows my case inside and out, from my perspective. She knows what happened to me. Someone in the justice system finally has heard my story. This is where I am supposed to move on.
“No matter what happens today, my life will still move forward.” This was a mantra that one of my therapists suggest I repeat to myself. I did, on the drive down, and on the walk to the building. I do and I don’t want this to go further. I am not ambivalent. I am for and against it. I am for it because that would mean an evil abuser gets called out for his actions, and against it, because I would have to face him in person and become retraumatised.
I wish the sheriff had said more during the meeting. That wasn’t her job, it was to be a witness. But I wanted to connect with her too, the way I had with the DA. I thought that this was going to be guided and directed by them, but I had free reign of topic and conversation direction. The main thing that was important is that everyone was really nice to me and treated me with respect and gentle kindness. No judgements were passed. They just listened.
The rest of the afternoon was celebratory. I met my semi-retired professor friend at a park. We walked and talked and stood and talked. His glasses change shade when he’s in the sun, and I was wearing a hat I rarely don. We exchanged stories. I handed him my purse and ran ahead of him like a teenager might do. I stretched my arms and hands out for extended periods of time to signify that “I am free”. I am in an open stance, not closed up. Had I gone home and stayed home after this big day, I would have closed up, curled into myself on my couch, lost myself to a nap. I’m glad the day panned out so wonderfully. We went to the pier, had a fresh fish sandwich. He treated me. We went for a long, two-hour walk up and down the water. We talked about sex and relationships and abused children (he is a child development professor). He suggested I think about signing up to be a Big Sister down the road, maybe this Fall. Three hours minimum per week for a year. I can do that. It’s that young person’s therapy, but it would be so good for me too, to be a mentor to a teen who needs a role model. I would try to specifically request for a child who has been sexually abused. Because that’s where I want to go with my therapy training eventually.
I have this mere hour at home, before I drive to see a female friend whom I have known for eight years. She knew me when all of the bad things were happening in my life, although we weren’t close at the time. She has seen me come a long way. From spontaneously breaking down in sobs at the beach a year ago of being overwhelmed by the past, memories, and sensory stimulation around other people, to where I am today. Both feet are on the ground and I am standing up and walking forward, albeit cautiously with a wise mind. We are going to spend time together tonight to celebrate some more. Many people who know me know what a significant role today’s actions play in my life.
I am allowed to personify parts of my body. No one else may ever take that liberty again. And thus, I maintain that my stomach is “happy” (thus it emotes) and my mind is finally at rest, after two weeks of anxiety leading up to my statement today. I know who I am. I know who I want to become. I know where I want to go. I see myself achieving those goals step by step. I see myself in the field of psychology, and I know I can make it through the hard years of studying and training to get there. I can’t see myself doing anything else for a career. I want to have a career. Whereas ten years ago my biggest hope was to be a stay-at-home mom, and that is an endeavour which I so commend, it’s no longer something I aspire to. In addition to helping any possible future child of mine, I need to be helping other people. I need to pay my eight years of psychotherapy forward. Compassion for others and kindness to myself will help me get there at a healthy pace. I feel good, and although that feeling might not last for very long, as my emotions still go in waves, I am going to enjoy it for the moment. Because I deserve it. And I am so very worthy of this life I am living now.