About a week ago, I spoke on a Victim’s Impact Panel.
Somehow I ended up speaking last. For the past two and a half years, each time before this time, I spoke first. Not that it matters what order we go in. It’s just how it’s been. And even though going first was the same experience before, there’s always a different kind of vibe to being in front of this room-full of offenders. The first time was scary, kind of like having an out-of-body experience. Surreal. I was fixated and fascinated by the men and women who sat before me. I knew I was speaking but I couldn’t really hear myself. Six months later, the numbness had worn off. My wounds resurfaced and there was anger in my words. The anger stayed with me for the third time as well. Time I have discovered does indeed heal wounds but it does not take them away, completely.
After that, I realized in having their undivided, mandatory attention, if I could manage to get over myself and my hurt, maybe I could seize the opportunity and convey a message. One that might say something like…
“Hey, you had no right to do what you did!” with composure and conviction instead of anger.
So that’s what I did.
There’s a certain kind of pressure that comes with going first though that leaves you wishing you had said ‘this or that’ by the time it’s over but this time, I spoke last.
This time, I began with the words “I’m blessed”, because I am. In so many ways.
Being the last to speak gave me the opportunity to really hear the others’ stories in a way that I hadn’t before, even though I had.
After hearing the other women panelists’ speak, I realized in comparison, how truly blessed I was to be in the company of such courage. I also realized how truly blessed my family is. We did not suffer physical assault. We were not beaten like the two brothers that were jumped for their iPods on their way home from school and ended up in the hospital. There was no loss of limb like the carpenter whose thumb was taken from him by a machetes-wielding, teenage boy who pushed his way into his home looking for his daughter. There was no rape; no loss of life. For us there was a repeated home-invasion over a period of several months, there was, the not knowing who or why for so long, but our obvious losses were only material ones.
This time despite how different our stories are I set aside the details and through all of our anguish, heard the common threads.
Fear. Stress. Anger.
We are bonded by these common threads that continue to reappear in our lives as a result of the actions of another human being. We are all still trying to pick up and put together some of the broken pieces of our lives.
So, yes,“I am blessed” I said,
“…the tentacles of your crimes extend further than you can see. Further than you can imagine. Further than I ever imagined they would continue to go even after you were arrested.”
And still, they reach.
No matter how far we move away, or how much we move on, no matter how long it’s been or how incredibly, fiercely, strong we have become, the domino effects of what you did lingers in the lives we live today.
We all have them, now. Once, we were whole, in a way; in our own livable way but what you did served to sever that. We became unraveled. All of us have children that were affected. All of us felt helpless when it came to protecting them. This is the saddest common thread of all. All of our families are fractured now. Alcoholism. Separation. Divorce. Suicide. Everyone copes differently with any given circumstance. When a tragic event occurs, some of us find the strength to keep moving forward. Some of us get stuck and can’t move forward. Some of us never will.
My message this time was that your actions affect other people – hugely—in ways you can’t even begin to imagine.
At that moment in time, when you did what you did, you couldn’t possibly have thought ahead, to what your behavior then, might bring two or three or five years down the road. There is no way you considered how many lives; children, families would be negatively effected by your deeds. If you had stopped and thought about it, even just a little, maybe, oh, just maybe, you would not have done what you did.
I’m blessed it’s true, to be bonded to these women who continue to be a power of example to me, who continue to help me move forward in gratitude.
Photo Credits #1 & 2 Google Images