Tomorrow, Sunday March 22, 2015, four weeks after the plea hearing, my assailant comes up for parole. He will be released from prison and begin his probation.
It’s amazing the freedom I have found to move forward, since that moment, just four weeks ago, when the gavel fell. I hadn’t realized how much of me was being held back, anchored in the past, constantly steeped in the details of my crime, due to my part in the justice system. I knew, throughout, that the process was draining. Simultaneously, I also knew that I was doing the work every day to fight to move forward, even if moving forward that day simply meant getting out of bed for five minutes. The legal system demanded, however, that I be repeatedly immersed in the details of my crime, the emotions of being a victim, the feelings of powerlessness. For a year and a half, while I worked to move forward, a part of me was bound to the origin of it all. This, I realize now, was perhaps the greatest sacrifice of choosing to report my crime. But, I would do it again. I would do it again because it was the right thing to do, it was truth brought to light. I would do it again, so that another woman need not know the pain and darkness of such torment. And, as difficult as it all was, I would do it again for me. Because, while the legal system took a great deal from me, it also gave me a support network, an opportunity to take a stand against violence, a platform from which to be heard, and validation of my suffering.
Sexual assault leaves in its wake a great deal of unanswered questions, but seeing the legal process through to the end, allowed me to wipe away a few of those haunting thoughts: “What if I had done something?” What if he hurts someone else?” My assailant may be paroled tomorrow, but thanks to my courage, those who supported me, and the grace of God, I can know that I did my part to hold him accountable for his actions, to grant him the opportunity to acknowledge his wrongdoings and turn from them. At a time when I was wrestling with how to merge mercy and justice, a good friend of mine provided me a clarity I have clung to: “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and give unto God what is God’s.” A month ago, with the completion of my court case and the cessation of the need for my testimony, I walked away from that courtroom with the closure that I had truly given unto to Caesar (the state of Pennsylvania) all that I had to offer them. And, tomorrow, on the Lord’s day, when my perpetrator is released from prison, I will give to God what is God’s: his future, his choices, his conversion, and his judgement. I am a free woman. My assailant and what happens to him is no longer my responsibility. Tomorrow, he goes forth in the custody of the State (for his 5 year probation period) and in the custody of God. Tomorrow, I go forth into the new and wonderful life that awaits me, with freedom, joy and life reviving my soul more with each new day.