Warning: this post may contain triggers for survivors of sexual abuse.
They told me the worst thing about giving my testimony in my sexual abuse case would be seeing him face to face in that courtroom.
They were wrong.
By far, the worst part was the pre-meeting with my team. District Attorney, Prosecuting Attorney, and Victims Advocate. Even with my husband by my side, holding my hand, the worst part, by far, was when I decided to read Stephen’s side of things. His evaluations. His statements. His arguments. His packet.
Legally, I had the right to read all of it. Pages of half-truths, lies. So many lies. I did it because I was getting nervous about speaking and figured it would help me solidify my resolve.
It was only a snapshot. Due to the statute of limitations, I was only able to press charges for a few short months of my nine years of sexual abuse. And I will never get to press charges for almost 30 years of emotional, spiritual, verbal, and psychological abuse. I get ‘justice’ for this tiny blip on a timeline.
“I told her I was sorry for a bad thing and she forgave me. I repented before the Lord. She never said she wouldn’t tell, but we had an understanding that we would never tell what we had done.”
Some psychologist somewhere had asked him why he never confessed. After reading those words, I was ready to go out into that courtroom and read every single syllable of my 9 page statement. Years and years of abuse.
“We had an understanding that we would never tell what we had done.”
Note the words ‘we had done’…classic Stephen. There were several remarks in that packet insinuating that it was consensual. Which, unbelievably, is still not even the craziest thing I read.
I don’t even remember this conversation, if it even happened. My brain locked everything away until I was thirty years old. And as my memories keep coming back for 20 months and counting, I know I’m not remembering everything.
I can’t explain the terror of not being able to know everything that has happened to me in my life. Most of my dreams are now nightmares. Trying to get away. Trying to get my kids away.
But I have this recurring dream, since the hearing, that we are sitting somewhere. He talks to me about this understanding we supposedly have.
Even as he was on his way to prison, he was trying to implicate me in his crime. Not even calling it crime, but minimizing everything by using words like ‘sin’ and ‘mistakes’ and ‘misunderstandings’ and lies upon lies.
But I went out into that courtroom with the resolve I had hoped to find when I cracked open that stack of his ramblings and precise wordings. He tried so hard to say what he thought they wanted to hear. To say just enough for plea bargains. But holding back what would’ve filled books. That measly packet.
And I couldn’t get past this ‘understanding’…and I clung to that every time I thought about just having Dave read aloud my statement. Or giving copies of my statement to all the necessary people. Or just running. At one point, I thought, “Why did I wear heels? I can’t run in heels.”
As I kept swallowing vomit at that podium, I repeated to myself: “There is no understanding between us. No more silence on my part.”
Every time I thought about kicking off my shoes and just running, I remembered that lie: “We had an understanding that we would never tell what we had done.” So I kept telling. I kept talking. Reading. Flipping my own packet. A stack of truth. Every word was true.
I told everything that he had ever done. Everything I could remember. And the fear of what I can’t. I told it all with snot dripping onto the podium. I told it all with strangers from another case sitting in as observers. I told it all.
I stole two glances of him in shackles. Seeing him didn’t phase me. My victims advocate assured me he couldn’t hurt me, but I wasn’t worried for a second that he would try to do anything physical to me ever again. No, he’s moved on from that with me. He wants his victims much younger than his now 32-year-old daughter.
No, my fear was that he would somehow silence me.
I don’t regret reading that packet in the pre-meeting. It was the worst part of that day, but it was necessary. And it gave me the realization that I now have an understanding with myself: “I will always tell what he has done.”