She had recently moved here from another state. She was making a fresh start. Why? Because in the small town where she used to live she walked outside her condo one day and encountered her neighbor, who had been drinking. He ended up making a sexual advance, which she refused, and he threw her on the ground and beat her. He bashed her head several times and left her there, in the snow.
Her abuser was charged with the crime. It took a year for it to go to trial. During that year she had to live in the same small town as this man. She was accused by the man's wife of instigating the attack by dressing provocatively and "clawing his neck" (there were defense wounds from when she tried to push him away as he was bashing her head).
The woman missed a great deal of work as she was recovering and after several months finally experienced an emotional breakdown. She went to stay with family where she stayed in bed and slept for several weeks running. She said she was incapable of doing anything else. Although she didn't seek treatment, I recognized what she was describing as classic symptoms of PTSD. To this day, she still has nightmares and flashbacks.
When the case finally came up for trial the assailant's attorney negotiated a lesser plea and the man ended up spending a week in jail.
At this point the woman chose to move to another state.
* * * *
Ever since my husband's investigation opened and, concurrently, our divorce stalled, I feel like I've lived in a prison. I can't move from this house. I can't start anew like I was so ready to do. I look across the ocean and I see my life moving forward without me. I live every day in fear.
My timeline for change, for comfort, for financial stability, for security, for safety, for peace of mind... it is determined now by the pace at which this investigation moves forward.
Have you ever lived every day in fear? For months on end? Been the target of rage? Been threatened? And all the while you must carry on with daily life and all it's responsibilities. It's a kind of oppression I wouldn't wish on anyone.
* * * *
When I wrote this post on crime and accountability and prison, the quite brilliant Steve made the following comment. He said:
"I think too much is made of how bad our prison systems are and not enough made about the emotional prisons of the victims of crime around the world who never ever have a release date."
I think that pretty much sums up what I want to say. And there are so many victims of crime. Not just those directly victimized (in the case of child pornography it would be the children exploited through sexually explicit video and photography). But the wives and sons and daughters of the perpetrators whose lives are thrown into chaos and forever changed as a result of the crime.
What of the women who can't sleep at night or who must sit and calm their breathing before walking across an empty parking lot to their car? Or who leave behind an entire life just to erase the memories?
What of the children who grow up believing their only worth is their sexual image?
What of the children who grow up without a father?
Who is tallying the cost of what they have lost?
There are many kinds of prisons in this world. It it my hope that we, as a society, begin to recognize this and offer keys to all the innocent victims of crime so that they, too, may someday claim their freedom.