Registered Sex Offenders and the Church

I have been pretty hesitant about using my voice in this manner. It seems it would be much easier to just let people figure it out on their own. But I know God would not have placed it on my heart or placed me in the center of so many recent discussions about this topic. Please know that I have given much careful thought and prayer about how to present my views in a non-condemning, gracious, and open-minded way. I recognize that it will be difficult and uncomfortable for many to read and think about. But, I believe it is of utmost importance that we talk about sex offenders and the church.

Over the last month, I have found myself in multiple discussions regarding how to respond when a sex offender attends your church. This is not something I had given any thought to prior, primarily because my abuser did not attend church. It will require multiple blog posts to provide a well-informed and multi-faceted view of this topic. Between researching the legal statutes pertaining to registered sex offenders and the church, to studying the range of protocols currently employed by churches, to asking for opinions from individuals with backgrounds in law, law enforcement, higher education, pastors, and from fellow survivors.

I hope that by the end of the series, churches will begin having more conversations about how to protect children, empower survivors, and implement best practices if registered sex offenders are allowed to worship corporately.

In this post, I just want to introduce a few different scenarios that could occur in your church. I’m not going to post my responses to these scenarios today because I hope to hear some of your thoughts first.

***Trigger warning***

 

  1. Mr. S is 65 years old and has multiple aggravated child abuse convictions that span over 20 years and involve multiple victims. He is classified as a Tier 3 recidivist sex offender. He comes to your church and shares his status as a sex offender with the pastor. He also shares how he has come to Christ and it has changed his life and he wants to join a church that will welcome him despite his past. His life has changed.
  2. Mr. T is 28 years old. He was placed on the sex offender registry at the age of 20 after he was found guilty of indecent liberties with a minor. He was 19 year old when he was in a sexual dating relationship with a “consenting” 15 year old. He shares with a church leader his status as a sex offender. He desires to learn more about God and be more involved in church.
  3. Mr. J is 48 years old. He was placed on the sex offender registry for multiple counts of indecent liberties with a minor. He was in his 30’s and the minor was 8 when the crimes occurred. He has completed his probationary requirements. He initially does not share with the pastor or church staff that he is a registered sex offender, but because he lives in a small town several congregants recognized his face from the registry. The congregants went to the pastor concerned.
  4. Ms. R is 30 years old. She was placed on the sex offender registry following multiple arrests for prostitution in her late teens and early 20s. She never abused a child. She grew up in church and wants her kids to have that same upbringing. She is concerned about how people will respond to her status as a registered sex offender, despite prostitution not being her choice. She states she was a victim of sex trafficking. She meets with the pastor to share her concerns.
  5. Ms. M is 45 years old. She was convicted of indecent liberties with a minor and sexual abuse by a teacher. In her late 20’s she was found guilty of having sex with a 17 year old student. She has abided by the requirements of the registry. She hopes to join a local church that will allow her to participate in various aspects of ministry and service. She does not initially disclose her offender status, however, when she began attending regularly she asked the pastor for a meeting.

***These scenarios are fictitious although similar or exact circumstances could arise at your church. These are just a few samples of the many possibilities that could occur. No case is the same.***

Who gets to worship regularly at your church? Who gets to join in membership and/or serve in some capacity? What regulations are in place to protect the children in your church? How will you address the concerns of other church members? Do you know what legal rights both the church and the offender have? Do you know how to access court documents that corroborate the offender’s story? How does the church extend grace as Christ would desire? How do we hold people accountable for their actions? How will this impact survivors of child abuse in your church family?

In my next post, I will share my thoughts on one scenario in which I wholeheartedly believe the registered sex offender should NOT be able to attend at a specific church.

Share your thoughts! I would love to hear them and value any input you are willing to share. Have you had any experiences like this? Leave a comment or connect with me via the “Contact Me” tab.

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This is my home church in NC. It is a place that fostered healing and hope in the most loving community I could imagine. It is my desire that every survivor can have that experience. 

The Second Hand Keeps Ticking

I can’t believe today is the last day of 2016. This year has challenged me, strengthened me, molded me, and made me more brave.

A little over a year ago, in December 2015, I sat in my local District Attorney’s office at the court house in the center of town. I anxiously watched the second hand move slightly with each tick as I waited for the ADA to call me back. As I reflect on this year, this particular meeting served as a launching point for some of the pivotal events of this past year for me. The meeting led to the creation and publication of my blog, which is now on the verge of 4,000 views. The meeting led to further research of laws governing the sex offender registry and allowed for contact to be made with a NC Senator. The conversation with the Senator placed me in contact with the North Carolina Conference District Attorneys. Nearly a year after my meeting with the local ADA in December 2015, I sat in another waiting room watching the second hand continue ticking. This time I waited for my appointment with the Child Abuse Resource Prosecutor at the NC Conference of District Attorneys office. It was somewhat surreal to meet and discuss further legislative efforts to better serve victims of child sexual abuse, not just through the court proceedings but in the years after when offenders reach the date of being able to petition for removal from the registry. During this meeting, I was given a copy of the publication in which my impact statement was featured. I was overwhelmed with emotion to see not just my statement, but line after line of words contributed by the local ADA I met with a year ago as he detailed the impact of our meeting. I hope to be able to share the publication soon, so stay tuned. I thank God for preparing me, strengthening me, and giving me the courage to sit in that office a year ago, bravely waiting for my name to be called as the seconds kept ticking.

Making my blog public earlier this year was a frightening choice, but I knew in my heart it was the next step God was calling me to take. Clicking publish has opened the door for me to educate others about laws governing the sex offender registry and the impacts of abuse that are not always discussed. It has given me the opportunity to be a safe person for people to share their story. Clicking publish has resulted in being given the honor of speaking at Triad Ladder of Hope’s 3rd Annual Gala Fundraiser on January 28, 2017. If you live in the area, I hope you will pray about attending or supporting this amazing organization. You can find out more information about the event here.

I am incredibly excited for what 2017 may hold. The blog will continue. The fight for strengthened legislation will continue. Thriving and braving this world will continue.

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Riding in the “Big Truck”

Recently, a trigger reminded me of one of the earliest abuse experiences I can recall. I am so thankful that this trigger no longer causes emotional turmoil and strong physiological responses. Instead, I could reflect on the incident and consider how I might provide useful knowledge that may help someone today.

My abuser’s profession when he first entered my life was driving trucks. I have many pleasant memories of traveling down to Wilmington on Friday nights with my immediate family in the “Big Truck” to eat at Western Sizzlin and pick up or drop off a trailer at the port. My siblings and I would ride in the cab on the bunk bed and occasionally we would get the chance to blow the horn. I can remember walking to and from the truck feeling like the coolest kid in the world. Unfortunately, that truck soon became a place I feared to enter.

If you knew me as a child, you may be aware that my favorite word was “go.” I was always excited to travel. One day I was given the opportunity to accompany my abuser to work, riding with him in the big truck to and from his destination for the day. We left the house around 3 or 4 am because the location was about three to four hours away. On the way, I slept in the cab of the truck. We arrived before the warehouse opened where we would deliver the shipment. During the time between our arrival and the opening of the warehouse, my abuser abused me. While I can identify grooming behaviors prior to this time, this incident is the earliest remembrance of being sexual abused.

What stood out to me recently, after being triggered, is the immediate feeling of fear, confusion, and guilt. As a child, I felt like I was thousands of miles away from what I considered my safety net and support system. I thought my abuser was a member of the “safe people” in my life. Yet, this incident caused me to question his status. I was conflicted with feeling like something was bad and wrong with the situation, yet I also believed that adults in my life would always do the right thing. I became confused about whether this was just a normal part of life. The guilt response has resulted in much reflection this last week.

This was the first incident of sexual abuse. All it took was this one incident for life to be forever altered. The entire ride home I felt like I, a 7 or 8 year old child, was going to be in the worst trouble when I got home. I can remember hoping and praying that my abuser would not tell my mom what had happened between us. I could not see this single event as a crime my abuser committed, instead I believed that I had done something wrong. One of the questions I’ve been pondering is how do we equip our children with protection from the response I had (and my others have had) as a result of being abused? I was trying to think about what I could have known or been told as a child so that when my abuser abused me for the first time I would have been able to tell an adult immediately rather than feeling like I would be the one to blame.

Honestly, I am not totally sure what the answer is to this question. I know my responses were normal for a child experiencing abuse, especially with an abuser that is a master manipulator and expert groomer. However, I want something different for other children. I want them to know that acts of abuse are never their fault. I want them to know (and I want to know) that a trusted adult is going to hear them when they speak up and believe them without hesitation and take action to provide them with safety quickly. When I was a child I was able to connect wrongdoings with consequences, generally some form of punishment. If I hit one of my siblings, I was going to be sent to my room for timeout. If I got in trouble at school, I would lose some of my extracurricular activities for a period of time. I had a feeling the abuse was a wrongdoing, but I was not able to perceive it as something my abuser was doing wrong.

I believe one of the important lessons to teach children at an early age is what to do if someone does something wrong to them. It will accompany educating our children about good touch/bad touch and ensuring they know who to turn to for help. I think we need to specifically state the abuse is never the fault of the child. If a person engages in bad touch- whether the abuser touches the child or the child is forced to touch the abuser- it is not the child’s fault (there are a multitude of other crimes against children that can be listed). The child is never to blame and they need to know they will never be in trouble for telling an adult about such incidents. If children fear adult’s responses, their opportunities to speak up about abuse are limited. An environment that fosters safe, open, and loving communication is absolutely necessary for children to acquire the courage to speak.

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Sexual Abuse in the Presence of Others

As Thanksgiving and Christmas are quickly approaching, I felt like I needed to share how abuse can happen despite being in the presence of other people. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network reports that “approximately three quarters of reported cases of child sexual abuse are committed by family members or other individuals who are considered part of the victim’s ‘circle of trust.” I know it is hard to imagine anyone in your family or extended circle of trust harming your child, but it has happened too many times to too many people and we can’t ignore this any longer.

I believe many people have the misconception that sexual abuse can only occur behind closed doors or when the abuser is alone with their victim. It’s interesting that I started this post the other night and today while scrolling through twitter, I saw a very similar post. We sometimes have the thought “well no one will try to do anything with so many people around watching.” Unfortunately, this is not the case. Abuse can happen in your presence and abusers are so powerful in their manipulation skills that no one will be wiser. 

There were many times my abuser was brazen enough to abuse me in the presence of others. Some evenings when I was a child, we would sit around and watch television together in the living room. It became expected of me to grab a quilt and sit in my abuser’s lap during what should have been a safe and innocent bonding time. He was bold enough to do this because he knew how much he had manipulated me. I was so fearful in those moments that I would sit and act as normal as possible while he abused me rather than pushing the quilt away and screaming. Sexual abuse occurred in the presence of others.

If you have children, I hope you will take the time to talk about body rights and healthy touch. Empower them. Give them the choice of whether or not to hug a family member. Maybe a handshake or high five is more comfortable for your child. If your child appears fearful or nervous around certain people, do not brush it off as shyness- ask questions. Fight through the discomfort this type of conversation may bring and have these necessary conversations now.

My intention is not to make you paranoid about every person your child comes into contact with, but to make you aware that abuse does happen in the presence of other people. It is not always isolated incidents.  And just because it is a holiday does not mean an abuser will abstain from abusing.

 

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Children deserve to know their body rights at any age. There are age appropriate ways to have these conversations. It is never too early to empower children.

 

 

 

Your Response. It matters.

Sexual abuse is not a single-victim crime. It impacts families and communities worldwide. Most people know someone who has experienced sexual abuse. How will you respond when you learn someone you love and care for has been hurt so deeply by this heinous crime? In the years following my disclosure and people learning about my experiences, the reactions have varied across the spectrum from outright rage to assuming I was lying. Each response impacted me- some were extremely comforting and healing, while others caused added distress in my life (unintentionally and intentionally). I hope that through sharing my encounters more people will be aware of how important their responses are to learning of abuse. In this post, I am going to discuss the reaction of wanting to inflict significant injury to an abuser.

 In the days following social services’ intervention and the separation from my abuser, some of the people closest to my family, including extended family, were informed about what had happened. Anger, rage, and the desire to hurt my abuser were very frequent and common reactions. These emotions are absolutely justified and warranted. They are normal reactions and it is okay to experience and express these emotions (not actions)- just not to the person who experienced the abuse. (Just a reminder that these are clearly my opinions and do not apply to everyone). I found myself pleading with people not to “kill” my abuser for what he did. Thus, I experienced further emotional turmoil because I found myself “protecting” my abuser, but also feeling thankful that someone did want to make him pay for what he did to me. I recall thinking “if you kill him, then I’m going to lose you too!” What I could not articulate at the time is the fact that even if someone had inflicted pain on my abuser, it would not have changed what he did to me or erased the impacts of being abused. I was going to have to work through those things despite the condition of my abuser. So, for someone to go and cause him pain, it would only have further negative impacts on me.

“What I could not articulate at the time is the fact that even if someone had inflicted pain on my abuser, it would not have changed what he did to me or erased the impacts of being abused.”

 I do not want to discourage people from expressing their understandable and normal emotions of fury, anger, and rage after learning someone you love has been abused; however, it is more beneficial to the person you love if you can find healthy ways of coping with those emotions. It is also best to avoid expressing these emotions directly to the victim and rather than worrying about the abuser, turn your focus to the needs of the people impacted by the crimes. What are some healthy coping mechanisms to consider when you learn someone you love has been abused and you become consumed with anger?

·       Find a trusted person to talk with about your emotions and reactions

·       Exercise to release some of the intense feelings of anger

·       Focus on the person who was abused and seek to bring them comfort

·       Pray for the strength to not act on your emotions

·       Find a way to turn that anger into pro-active action such as raising awareness about childhood sexual abuse, fighting for stricter penalties for child abusers, etc.

·       Journal – write a letter to the abuser to express the anger you feel, then shred it (probably not a good idea to mail it)

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 Due to the staggering statistics regarding childhood sexual abuse, it is unfortunately likely that at some point in your life you will have to choose how you will reach in this situation. What are your thoughts?

Telling the Secret: What I’ve Learned About Disclosure

If you have been keeping up with my blog, you may have noticed that I have not spent much time discussing my personal disclosure of abuse or what I think on the topic in general. I have purposefully not shared my disclosure experiences because I just did not feel ready. However, I have come to the conclusion that I want this blog to continue to be a place that people can learn from successes and failures in my story. There are many mixed views about the appropriate responses when a child discloses abuse and I appreciate the respectful dialogue that can occur through differing opinions. This post consists of my ideas about disclosure based on personal experience and the beliefs that I have come to adopt through the healing process.

It was not until last year that I realized just how difficult the issue of disclosure can be and the many emotions it fuels. When a friend was accused of committing sex crimes with a minor I did not want to believe it. It is hard to believe that someone you love and care about- whether it’s a friend, spouse, family member, teacher, pastor, coach, etc- could commit such atrocious crimes. Honestly, the default in us may be to say “no way, that’s not possible.” We want to see the good in people. There is good in people. I believe that. But, I also know the amount of courage it takes to mutter the words “I am being abused” (or however it comes out). I also know the immeasurable fear that ensues as soon as those words are muttered. There is also the knowledge that you have broken the rule and the legitimate possibility your abuser will follow through with their threats. Disclosing abuse involves a person making the decision that they are willing to risk their abuser’s threats becoming promises in hopes of the opportunity for freedom from the pain.

My first disclosure took place about a year or two after the ongoing abuse began. I wrote a letter after a bad fight with my abuser. I did not exhibit any of the typical signs or symptoms of being actively sexually abused and therefore no significant safeguards were put in place to end the abuse. After my first disclosure, I vowed I would never tell anyone what happened to me. Thankfully, my eighth grade year of school I was able to identify a teacher that I trusted. I took that chance once again and as mandated reporters, my abuse was taken seriously, investigated, and ultimately resulted in my abuser being charged.

So here is what I’ve learned about disclosure and my thoughts:

  1. The first words, despite the likely feelings of shock, need to be “you did the right thing by telling, this is not your fault, I believe you, and I am here for you.” The child, or adult, likely feels some sense of trust and safety if they are disclosing to you in the first place.
  2. Never use the word “IF.” If implies disbelief such as “if this happened…”
  3. Do not make promises you cannot keep. You may not be able to ensure the person’s complete safety from the perpetrator. If you can make that promise, it is really comforting, but only make promises you know you can keep.
  4. Let the appropriate parties do the investigating. This may depend on your role, but if it is not your responsibility, don’t begin the investigative questioning. Safety is the most important element immediately following disclosure.
  5. Do your absolute best to maintain a calm and comforting composure. I am certain it is much easier said than done, but a child needs to see a strong adult. This doesn’t mean you have to be hardened and stoic. Be real, but don’t become an emotionally distraught in front of the child.
  6. Continue to support the child or adult in whatever ways you can. If a person discloses their abuse to you, know that they did not just pick you randomly. There is likely a reason they felt safe with you and you have the power to be a influential force in the child’s life. Again, this will look different depending on your role.

Too many times disclosure does not occur until years or even decades after the abuse first occurs. This is not okay. If children can know that they will be believed and someone will act on their behalf and in their best interest, maybe, just maybe, disclosure will occur sooner. Unfortunately, right now, too many disclosures are overlooked. When a child witnesses another person’s disclosure being dismissed that decreases the likelihood they will ever gain the courage and trust to tell their experiences.

Again, these are just my views and I know the many alternatives. Although I don’t necessarily agree with them, I can see where people come from in forming their beliefs.

What are your thoughts on disclosure? Can you think of any other helpful tips in handling a child’s disclosure of sexual abuse?

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Healing is possible. True joy returns. ❤ my siblings

A Plea for Justice, Impact Statement Pt. 3

In the final part of my victim impact statement I decided to begin with the day I was freed from my abuser. While I was so thankful to have someone believe me and take action against my abuser, it was also one of the scariest days of my life. Things did not get better on that day and at the time it felt like life became immensely more difficult. I want the judge to see that my abuser’s actions did not just effect me, but they also significantly impacted my family.

What I call my “Freedom Day,” came on November 10, 2004. I was a little over a month shy of turning 14. While I was freed in a physical sense from the hands of my abuser, I am still learning today that healing is life-long. Over 250 counseling sessions, a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnosis, antidepressants, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, shame, low self-worth- these are just some of the things I’ve dealt with in the last ten years. When physical freedom from the abuse happened, my entire world was turned upside down even more. My siblings, mom, and I were forced to leave a house we dearly loved, our belongings ended up ruined in storage, our precious pets were left in the care of my abuser, and we moved into a single bedroom in my grandparent’s house. And that was only the beginning.

Next I wanted to convey to the judge my concerns regarding the potential of my abuser harming another child. I want the judge to see that my abuser was very skilled in manipulative tactics. It provides me with some peace of mind that my abuser is listed on a public sex offender registry. I also want the judge to look at the picture below and see what I looked like a year after the abuse began. I want the judge to see that I was just a child.

I could spend a really long time detailing the last ten years of my life. There have been highs and lows but I’ve made it through them all, just like I survived the years of abuse. But that is not why we are here today. For nearly two years I have been anxious about this day. It absolutely terrifies me that there is a chance my abuser can be removed from the sex offender registry. There are hardly words to describe the peace of mind I have knowing that law enforcement knows where my abuser lives and that people who have children around him can know that he is a predator. It brings comfort to me to know that the likelihood of another child being abused by him is at least decreased some by him being on the sex offender registry. I am not his only victim. He also assaulted my XXXXXXX. The abuse was not a one-time incident. I can look back at when I was an eight year old child and see just how manipulated and controlled I was by my abuser. He was brazen enough to abuse me not only in his bedroom, but also in the living room, in the swimming pool, and in the cab of his truck. The fact that he abused me despite the rest of my family being one room away shows just how capable he is of grooming another child and abusing them without anyone knowing- for years.

In conclusion, my abuser added me to a list that I never wanted to be on. If I ever go before the judge, my plea will be that my abuser remain on the sex offender registry for the duration of his life.

Not only does a denial to my abuser’s petition for removal from the registry protect other kids from the potential of being abused by him, but it also serves as continued justice for the crimes he committed against me. That August night when I was just eight years old, hoping to watch a television show and bond with my XXXXXXX, I was forever added to a list I didn’t choose- child sexual abuse victim. My XXXXXX chose to put my name on that list. I will forever live with all that list brings. Just as I will always deal with the effects, I believe that my abuser should have to live with the ramifications of his actions, which landed him on a list. Even if my abuser is one of the very few predators that never abuses another child, it would be an injustice for him to no longer have to face the consequences of his choices that forever altered my life.  

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Not My Shame, Impact Statement Part 2

***Trigger Warning***

I am going to be authentic at this moment and tell you that it is scary posting the second part of my victim impact statement. I am definitely experiencing some anxiety just thinking about pressing “publish.” That feeling of shame resurfaced as I read back over the words I typed months ago. I choose to overcome and rise above because today I know it is not my shame.  

This part of my impact statement focuses on what I want the judge to know regarding my abuser’s actions. I did not want the judge to simply look back at the charges and see three counts of indecent liberty with a minor. The title of that charge does not convey, in my opinion, what really happened. If I ever stand before a judge to read my statement, I want the judge to hear what my life was really like during the years of abuse. I want the judge to know, it didn’t happen just three times. What I did not want to do though is recount every detail of the abuse. Because, I am so much more than what happened to me. I don’t want the judge to see me as a victim. When I go before that judge, I want him/her to hear the reasons my abuser should not be removed from the sex offender registry and I want him/her to see how strong I am today and how I am thriving. There is hope. Always.

So here is the first part of my statement, if you missed that post, and part two follows it:

Today, when I entered this court room, I did not come in as a victim like I did ten years ago. Today, I am standing here as a survivor. However, being a survivor does not mean that I am freed from the effects of long term sexual abuse at the hands of Jeffrey, my former step-father, my abuser. Rather, being a survivor means that through the flashbacks, depression, anxiety, guilt, and shame, I will choose to keep living, thriving, and healing. Ten years ago, as a victim, I did not have the courage to stand before the court and speak about the heinous acts that were committed against me. Today, as a survivor, I have a voice that is ready to be heard. And it begins with that August night I watched “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” with my then step-father which forever changed my life.

What should have been an innocent bonding time turned into a nightmare that I lived every time the show aired and my abuser was home- sometimes five nights a week. While that August night is when the ongoing sexual abuse began, the intentional grooming process began long before that. When I was just six, seven, and eight years old, my abuser was preparing me for that night I would come lay in bed beside him to watch a television show- but leave a victim, terrified by his threat and feeling completely ashamed and broken. That August night I could have been covered from head to toe in manure and still I would have felt cleaner than I did as I washed my abuser’s semen off of me, at eight years old.

During the years of abuse, I would go to school every day and come home knowing what my abuser would expect of me that night. The threat and fear he instilled in me on that August night, and the years of grooming broke me down to the point that my abuser never once had to tell me to come back to the bedroom and perform sexual acts. I reached the point of believing that this was my duty and my abuser reinforced this belief by telling me that he knew “how curious little girls are” and that he was just “helping me out.” My abuser was never drunk, high, or under the influence of any mind-altering substance when the abuse occurred. Those things would not have excused the crimes, rather I say it to clarify that my abuser consciously chose to abuse me hundreds of times.

It is still hard to see the words I have typed and to know that is a chapter in my book of life. But I find hope in the many chapters that follow. My chapter of accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and the journey of faith that follows. My chapters of graduating high school and college. My chapter of becoming a missionary through the North American Mission Board. My chapter of starting graduate school. My chapters of playing sports competitively. There are so many chapters in each person’s life. We can’t just look at one chapter and decide that’s what defines a person. We are more. 

In the coming days, or weeks (cue graduate school chapter of life), I will post the final part of my impact statement. 

Check out this song by Natalie Grant called “Clean

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Impact Statement Part 1

Today I am sharing the first paragraph of my victim impact statement. I wrote it about 7 months ago prior to the date my abuser would be eligible to petition for removal from the sex offender registry. I struggled the most with settling on the first sentence.

Here are a few of the questions I had in regards to writing my statement:

Am I allowed to use my abuser’s name and his relation to me?

Am I allowed to say what he did to me? Or is that too much detail?

Will the judge think I’m lying if I say that I am “thriving” now?

Do I address the judge professionally by starting my statement with “your honor”?

There were so many impacts of the abuse; how many do I list?

These may seem like trivial questions, but my concern with writing the statement “correctly,” was overwhelming.

When I began writing my statement, it helped me to imagine that I was bravely standing in the court room facing my abuser and pleading to the judge my cause. I found several helpful websites where some of my questions were answered. However, I have to give a huge shout-out to the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys for their assistance and compassion in answering my many questions. Two of their employees read proofs of my statement and gave me pointers. They answered questions and encouraged me along the way. They took the time to explain what the petitioning process would be like if my abuser filed and a court date was scheduled.

Here is how my statement begins:

Today, when I entered this court room, I did not come in as a victim like I did ten years ago. Today, I am standing here as a survivor. However, being a survivor does not mean that I am freed from the effects of long term sexual abuse at the hands of XXXX, my former XXXXXX, my abuser. Rather, being a survivor means that through the flashbacks, depression, anxiety, guilt, and shame, I will choose to keep living, thriving, and healing. That August night I watched “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” with my then XXXXXX forever changed my life.

Below you will find a list of websites that helped me as I was seeking guidance in writing my statement. These websites are guides for writing initial statements that would be heard in the court prior to the resolution of a case. The statement that I have prepared is somewhat different because my case has been closed. My statement will be heard if my abuser decides to petition for removal from the sex offender registry which would be a new court “case.”

http://www.victimsinfo.govt.nz/assets/Victim-Impact-Statements-2/Final-adult-jurisdiction-Nov-2014.pdf

https://victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/victim-impact-statements

https://law.lclark.edu/live/files/17711-sample-victim-impact-statements1pdf

If you are writing your impact statement and feel stuck, do not be afraid to reach out for assistance. You do not have to do this alone.writing-1209121

Finding the Words

“You will have the opportunity to make a victim statement if you would like,” the Assistant District Attorney informed me. After my abuser was read the terms of his plea bargain, the judge asked if there was anything else the prosecutor’s side wanted to say. The ADA turned to me to confirm before responding to the judge, “there’s nothing else.”

A year and a half had passed since my disclosure that resulted in being freed from my abuser. At 15 years old, I had absolutely no idea what a victim impact statement involved. I knew what the impacts of my abuser’s crimes were at that time- my world had been turned upside down; but where would I even begin to find the words to adequately say what I wanted to say. What do you say when you are a scared teen, in a court room in front of the judge, and sitting across a narrow aisle from your abuser for the first time in over a year? It did not feel like there were any words I could say that would make a difference.

Walking out of that court room, watching my abuser walk out of the same court room with his family, I immediately wished I had said something when the judge asked. I still didn’t know what I would have said, but I realized the “case” was finished. In my mind it seemed that maybe if I had just told the judge the details of what my abuser did, he would have responded with a harsher punishment. Instead, I was leaving the court house knowing my abuser would go spend 48 hours at the local jail.

Over the years, this regret was something I grappled with continually. I could not find peace in the outcome of the case or my silence in the court room. 10 years later, I recognized a truth I had known all my life- God’s timing is perfect. 10 years after registering as a sex offender, my abuser became eligible to petition for removal from the sex offender registry. As you read in my earlier posts, this was a tough reality to accept. However, it provided me an opportunity to find that voice that sat silent in the court room.

While speaking with the Assistant District Attorney that would handle the case if my abuser filed for petition, I was informed that I would have the opportunity to make a victim impact statement before the judge if I chose. Over the next few weeks, I am going to share the statement I have prepared if the day comes that my abuser files a petition. It was a rollercoaster to write.  I was googling examples of statements, contacting people in the District Attorney’s office, trying to figure out what comprises a victim impact statement. When I finally sat down and began to write, the words flowed freely and effortlessly. I have no way of knowing whether or not my statement will ever be heard in front of a judge and my abuser. However, simply writing the statement allowed me to find that voice that felt silenced in the court room over 10 years ago.

If you are at a place in life where you are considering writing a statement, even if you are the only person who will see it- I would encourage you to take that step. You will know when you are ready. If you aren’t sure where to start, stay tuned to see what steps I found helpful and the types of people I reached out to for assistance.