The Mighty Logo

What It Was Like to Finally Give My Victim Statement at My Rapist’s Sentencing

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, so here is a part of my story of my experience being a survivor of sexual assault.

I was raped and abused by someone who was my boyfriend at the time. Finally, on April 20th, 2020, after years of fighting and months in the judicial system, I was able to read my victim impact statement in court at the sentencing. Here is what my experience was like.

• What is PTSD?

My family and I were brought back into a private room so we did not have to sit outside where my perpetrator was. I got there early to go over what I should expect, and the order of which things were about to happen. My prosecutor made copies of my statement for themselves, the defense, the judge, for the court reporter and stenographer. The defense followed along when I was reading, or my perpetrator and I made eye-contact, which I wanted, but if you do not want them to look at you then you can ask your prosecutor to make sure that they do not.

Next, we waited; court started about 30 minutes after it was set to happen, which is very fast and I am so lucky it was such a short wait.

As I entered, my family and I were sat first in the furthest back row. Whomever my perpetrator brought with them were sat in front of us as my perpetrator sat with their defense attorney.

A few things were explained about the actual case, and after my perpetrator pled guilty, we moved directly on to sentencing.

I was the first to speak. I sat next to my prosecutor, which was slightly less than directly across from the defense. The room was silent; they were all listening to me. When my emotions made it hard to speak, my prosecutor cheered me on by whispering encouraging things. I was able to address not only the court directly but also the defendant. I was able to use as much detail as I liked, and take my time: 10 pages of time. After I had finished reading, it was almost like applause went out. I looked around and saw so many people in the courtroom, all of them employees, smiling back at me. I felt complete. My heart was not pounding out of my chest; it felt like I had finally done what I had set out to do years ago.

I was extremely lucky to have the judge I had. She had taken notes of what I had said and commented on my resilience. She brought up a few things that angered her when she heard about my experience, like my police and church failing me. I was finally heard — my judge had made sure of that. I never felt like I was the one on trial during this day in court. I was never blamed for what happened to me; my judge even apologized for those who did blame me and for the actions of my perpetrator. She was even visibly angry when I described to her the way many institutions failed me.

I am extremely lucky that this day went the way it did because this is not the way many victims or survivors get treated in court. Reading my statement in court, and having the judge react in such a way she did, for me, made this whole process worth it.

I hope this experience gives a little hope to survivors out there who may be going through the judicial system. Reporting is a survivor’s choice and this is not to sway anyone into choosing; it is just my experience. It was never easy, but for me, in the end, it was worth it. I hope, whatever you choose, it is for you too.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Originally published: April 22, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home