There are no words for the emotions that accompany standing so close to the person who assaulted you, reading aloud before a courtroom filled with inmates, defendants from other cases, lawyers, police officers, etc. your Victim Impact Statement which includes the details of how the crime has specifically effected you in each part of your life. As my assailant is not currently a US citizen, the greatest delay has been finding a plea that would allow him at least the opportunity to stay in the country. Thus, the State decided, with my approval, to plead him out to a much lesser sentence than that with which he was originally charged. After a full eight hour day, back and forth before the judge, the court reluctantly accepted his plea of guilty to the lesser charges.
I knew from the beginning that the justice system was not my means to healing. I knew that no matter what happened, the end result would not bring me peace. No sentence could have equalled the crime. I do, however, believe that good was done through this long arduous process. He will see the inside of a jail, which may provide another opportunity for conversion, he will be under the court’s supervision for five years after his incarceration doing community service, perpetrator counseling, etc., and he will now have a record, so that, heaven forbid, if he ever commits another crime, he will not be a first time offender and therefore not be treated with the same kid gloves he was treated with this time. It also means that aside from the time I need to process all of this, I am no longer at the whim of the legal system. My life is now entirely mine to move forward with. These are good things.
It’s tempting as a victim to believe that the purpose of the legal system can coincide with our own efforts to heal and move forward from the crime committed against us, but this is rarely the case. We can want to believe that when the gavel falls and our assailant is convicted, that our loss and pain will be vindicated, but, again, this is rarely the case. Instead, something that has been important to me, from the beginning, has been to remind myself to separate the judicial process from my own healing. To know that what I would gain from the criminal justice system was the peace that I had done my part to prevent future assaults. But that only through counseling, perseverance, prayer, and support would I gain the wholeness and healing I so desperately sought, and continue to seek.
Understanding this separation, is what gives me confidence and peace in the decision made Monday.