Thursday, June 2, 2011

A different kind of prison

The other day the doorbell rang and I actually answered it -- which is not something I always do, it's usually solicitors -- and it was a solicitor. Since she was selling something I was halfway interested in, I invited her in. We got to talking. And talking, and talking. This stranger and I, we ended up sharing our most personal stories. As one does with solicitors.

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.

A week.

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.







32 comments:

  1. What a load of crap. A week compared to a lifetime? What's the point, really?
    My abuser is set to be released from prison in October. Possibly earlier if he wants to, which is bullshit. He was eligible for parole last year and opted to stay inside, for what reason I don't know. But because he made the choice to stay, he can now make the choice to leave whenever he feels like it.
    Knowing he will be out in a matter of months, and knowing the threats he made before he went in scare the shit out of me. I will never sleep soundly at night, I will never feel at ease opening the front door, and I will look over my shoulder for the rest of my life.
    It isn't fair.
    My mother should have killed him when she had the chance.

    x

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ironic how the supposed "real prison term" is never as tough as the sentences imposed on the innocent victims.

    Call me crazy but it sounds like you two were meant to stumble into each other's paths. I hope each of you gleaned some comfort from the hellish ordeals you have been forced to endure

    ReplyDelete
  3. One week? What the hell is the point of that.

    I am sitting here with my hands on my keyboard, not knowing what to write...

    Donna and Kellies comments have covered pretty much what I am thinking.

    ReplyDelete
  4. God Kellie. What can I say? It is bullshit and it is wrong on every level. I hate it and I understand completely. Do you see why I want to move halfway around the world? I want to lift up the collective justice system by their lapels and shake them and make them see some sense.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's crazy how the victims seem to be victimised further through their treatment by the 'justice' system. Still, it could be worse. At least we have a justice system.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Honestly, there are times when an eye for an eye makes perfect sense.

    I always remember the court case of the mother who killed the abuser of her child, the way she stood with her hands cuffed behind her back, the look on her face as the charges were read, and the pure look of love as she turned to her son sitting in the room and mouthed exactly that. "I love you."

    I would do exactly the same as she did for the judicial system is a farce.

    You were meant to cross paths, K. People come into our lives for a reason.

    ReplyDelete
  7. @ Mummydaze - true, we have a system, however imperfect.

    @ Madmother - I get it. I don't know what I would do if anyone harmed my children. All bets off.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This paragraph>"have you ever lived every day in fear" etc etc.
    Yes and yes and yes.
    There was a time when I was unable to voice how I felt because I was afraid of his rage, but one night I was able to say things and after he left, I wrote him a letter.
    We're divorced now and the freedom is wonderful.
    As for you and your solicitor friend, a week or a few years in jail is nothing compared to the lifetime of feelings and fear the victims have to live through.

    ReplyDelete
  9. It really is gut wrenching, the light sentencing, the early releases. If ever there was a person you were supposed to answer the door to, huh? I mean, what are the chances?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thought-provoking post!
    I know how it feels to live in fear in my own house... But the only one that can do something about it, is you!
    You are on the road already of getting out of fear. Just keep on, one day at a time!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Why is it that our governments and our crime / justice systems just don't "get" human rights? they think they do? They think they're being fair and liberal and civilized but they overlook the victim every time. And that's the trouble. It's about society's idea of "justice" when it should be about some kind of recompense - not necessarily monetary - for the victim. There's a subtle but big difference.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love coming here - I leave always thinking, questioning and always agreeing with you xxx

    ReplyDelete
  13. Just today I was talking with my psychologist about the legal system, how it all about THE LAW, not about what is just and fair.

    My ex is able to move on with his life, remarry, move, start a new business, while I can't even move suburbs, let alove leave the country with my children, because he hasn't signed the custody papers.

    And, yes, the emotional prison I've lived in for the last two and a half years, compared to the 4 months he spent in jail, seems ludicrous.

    I am no longer afraid of him. I see now that he is not normal. I am lucky that he is not physically violent. He prides himself on his self-control, that's how he controls his victims. At least this time it's not me.

    Yes, my children will grow up without a father, but it is a better outcome that growing up with a father who is criminally insane.

    I hope, Kristin, that this ends for you soon. I can't imagine how frustrating and scary it must be for you, not knowing who will knock on the door next. Something tells me though, that things will fall into place for you, just when you least expect it... Much love...!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh hun it really is a load of crap!

    I agree with Mrs woog you always get me thinking when i read your posts

    And i would agree you and the other lovely were destined to meet that is something beautiful you can take away from this
    xx

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh hun it really is a load of crap!

    I agree with Mrs woog you always get me thinking when i read your posts

    And i would agree you and the other lovely were destined to meet that is something beautiful you can take away from this
    xx

    ReplyDelete
  16. It is more than wrong that your life - any woman's life has to be put in hold - because of a man's criminal actions. Love how you keep us thinking xx

    ReplyDelete
  17. Oh that is terrible. I am just catching up with you (sorry!) and can not believe what you have been through.

    And to the solicitor that stopped by- a week? Seriously? What a joke. It makes me want to cry.

    You have made me think- the world is a scary place. We have to take each day as it comes and offer help where we can- you have a lot of support and love, as can be seen here. You will get through this and I can tell that you will help many others through difficult situations in the future because you seem that kind of person.

    Big hugs & I truly hope you can move on with your life soon in the direction that you want to go in.

    ReplyDelete
  18. It sickens me to hear the way that victims are treated, and yet there seems to be so many who stand up for the prisoners if someone lifts a finger against them in custody.

    I also don't know why you and your children have to be trapped when you are not under investigation. Seems wrong to me in every way.

    Keep strong, I think you are becoming a voice for many victims.

    ReplyDelete
  19. When I was at University we studied a text - The Spanish Tragedy - which had at its heart, the nature of justice. It asked is justice the fair distribution of revenge? I'll never forget that text as each day I encounter stories such as yours that seem to highlight an empirical failure in the legal system, where offenders get 'off' and victims get lifetimes of suffering. I feel for you Kristin, but oh how I wish I could offer some practical help, more than empathy. Much love Vix x

    ReplyDelete
  20. It's the way victims go on to be punished, and punished and punished that makes these short sentences such a damn slap in the face

    ReplyDelete
  21. @ Steve - the justice system is focused on the offender - providing justice for him or her. What is the appropriate punishment for a crime? How can we ensure a fair trial for the offender? It does not take into consideration the victims, IMO. The oversight is huge. The focus is completely misplaced.

    ReplyDelete
  22. It's sad to me that so many who have commented here can empathize and have known the feeling of living in fear. This topic really gets me fired up.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I am reading every entry. I am here. And though I am without words at this moment, know that you are in my constant prayers.

    ReplyDelete
  24. @ heartpath - thank you. That means a lot to me. xx

    ReplyDelete
  25. It's kind of like serendipity that you and that woman met. You don't normally answer the doorbell, but you did. The two of you hit it off and confide in each other. You have similar stories to share. Is it a coincidence that she showed up at your door? I don't think so. I think only someone who has truly experienced something of what you did can relate to you. Maybe the two of you will be fast friends.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Yes, I know what it's like and it's not fair. And yet, I keep getting told that he deserves one more chances; that he must be given time to do courses and get counselling and improve himself before I get to keep the kids safe. And it all costs money, all money which was frozen by him even though it was mine, and which is just another way for him to bully me and prevent me for paying for us to stay safe.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I feel like I'm always reading about criminals who get off with the lightest sentences while the victims they hurt are carrying it around for the rest of their lives. It's such bull crap. I hope you and the woman at the door are able to find some peace in all of this upheaval and torment.

    ReplyDelete
  28. My daughter phoned me the other day. Quite upset. Needed her mother to calm her down - lift her spirits. She was in the supermarket and her partner left her at the fruit and vegs while he quickly popped over to the dairy. Panic Attack. After nearly three years - just as she thinks things are a little better - a panic attack for being in an unfamiliar supermarket. She will survive but can never be compensated in any way shape or form for the absolute turn around in her life and all of the youth she missed out on - all of the education she missed out on - all of the dreams she has had to change to fit into this new life. So much to say.

    ReplyDelete
  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Justice should be urgent.If it is delayed then it is denied

    ReplyDelete
  31. Well said Manny Minds. And so, so true.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Oh, my dear, that anyone should have to live that way. Every time I read something like this, I wonder why women, who make up half the world's population, are so undervalued and underprotected. A man's world can be a terrible place for a woman to be. You are in my prayers.

    ReplyDelete

Mmmm, comments - nom, nom, nom, nom!

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails