Crime victims harbor a sense of shame, as if they did something wrong. And that’s not right. Talk to others about your experiences.
Learn to say “Never again.” I did.
And here’s how it all happened.
More than half a lifetime ago and far away, back in a supposedly wholesome small town in Iowa, I was a victim of a home invasion and assorted acts which resulted in Class B felony charges against the perpetrator. It’s not worth going into great detail here today about what happened, but somewhere past the fear of thinking I was going to die, which is probably a logical consequence of hearing “Bitch, you’re going to die” more than a few times while someone twice your size is shoving you across the room before slamming and pinning you on the floor, and then wondering what a mess your blood’s going to make on the carpet, I clicked into gear, telling assailant that he had a way out. We could keep this between ourselves, no police called, no charges pressed, the decision was his. I kept repeating “The decision is yours” over and over again. He froze and stared at me incredulously, released his hands from my neck and then picked himself up and walked out the door. I scrambled to lock the door and called the sheriff’s office.
They picked up the criminal less than a half hour later a few miles down the county black top.
My family doctor had me meet him at his home across the street from the hospital, where he patched me up in his kitchen.
The next day, the local newspaper called to tell me that they were going to politely leave my name off the front page story. I told the reporter that my name was going to appear in that story, because I didn’t do anything wrong. News travels too fast in a small town anyway, and there was no reason to leave matters to conjecture.
Two days later, court service day rolled around, the morning allotted to motions, short hearings, criminal arraignments, pleas and sentencings at the county courthouse. Black and blue handprints stained my neck, bruises making a bracelet around my wrist, and my hands were still shaking. One cocky bastard of a lawyer asked me if I’d refused to put out. I picked up his stack of files and threw them across the room. A few minutes later, I’m standing at the bench with another criminal client, a beastly and gross thug, the kind you wouldn’t want to face in a dark alley even in broad daylight, the kind of guy other inmates wouldn’t like to come across in a prison yard, who would find himself sentenced to another round of life on the installment plan. What he told me while we waited for the judge was something that stunned me: “I heard about what happened to you, and I’m real sorry.” Of course, he’d heard, he’d been in the same county jail as the assailant.
The defendant would ultimately plead guilty and do time. And he would go on, during his first week in a halfway house years later to commit the same Class B felony once again. I looked up the court file and wrote to the victim, just to tell her she wasn’t alone.
It took me a long time to really recover from the ordeal. But what took me more aback was the reaction of others. They didn’t want to hear about what happened. It’s too scary, they’d say. So, I didn’t really say much—until now.
And that’s part of the reason that I feel far safer in the wilds of Michoacán than I ever did in southwest Iowa.