date of testimony: January 19th 2018
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
Thank you for providing me with an opportunity to speak today. When I decided to write an impact statement, I truly didn’t know where to begin. Words can hardly describe the turmoil that results from a situation such as this. However, I was reminded of something that I wrote a little over a month ago after being struck by a friend’s poem regarding sexual assault. Instead of writing a new statement, I decided to bring what I had written in response to her words.
Growing up sexual assault was a vague and distant topic. Young girls are taught to believe that it’s easily recognizable. It is the rough man yelling profanities. It is the crestfallen, dejected girl lying huddled in the corner of a dark room. At least that’s what it’s like in movies, t.v. shows, the news. It’s never the celebrity of a doctor that you’ve been going to for years. It’s never the man you trust and, frankly, pity. It’s never a revolutionary new medical procedure that might feel funny. At least that’s not what we’ve been taught to believe.
You never see a 13 year old girl lying on an examination table, her mother seated in a chair beside her. You never see that same young girl telling lies through clenched teeth insisting that the technique worked. You never see the girl who knew it wasn’t right but didn’t necessarily know if it was wrong.
It’s never a girl crying in the passenger seat of the car, her mother insisting that it was just an awkward procedure. It’s over now. But in reality, it never is. It’s an unidentifiable weight on your chest, a phrase that is rattling in its cage but never escaping. It doesn’t escape, not for four years. Accusations in the news is the key to the lock but the hinges still stiff with incognizance.
It’s distant, until it’s not. It’s distant until you realize that each girl in the news is a broken mirror and you’re left staring into each and every one puzzling together the fragments of your own familiar face. Then suddenly it’s there. It’s the door of that rattling cage blown up and a million tiny creatures of the phrase clawing at your shell. It is sexual assault. It’s sitting in the school library missing out on memories of your last year of high school just so you can check in on your mother who blames herself for not recognizing the truth. It’s losing touch with friends, interests, and hobbies, a slowly loosening grip on things that had once been so reliable.
Every story was a new layer of reality. A mess of truth scrawled in dark in on pages of a story that I had previously viewed with innocence oblivion. It was manipulation, a scheme, a plot to gain trust, and it worked. It worked on me and it worked on countless others.
Now this man will sit in prison with the ghost of these girls’ innocence walking through the walls of his cell. He’s taking us with him, our childhood, our lives, our abilities to trust, and with him they’ll stay.
We don’t need these aspects of ourselves anymore. Let them live their miserable lives with this man. What we need is change. We need understanding. We need compassion, not for ourselves but for our daughters, for our daughters’ daughters, because even if I never trust again, maybe they will.
THE COURT: That’s outstanding, ma’am, what you’ve done. You are the voice of change but not just for the future. Now. Now. Now things are going to change because of your courage, Megan’s courage, and everybody’s courage, and, of course, Rachael being that first one to ring the bell, you all have now rung the bell. The bells will not stop ringing for change. Your voices loud and strong in this courtroom are going to ring for a very long time.
You are not broken. You are strong.
I see a whole mirror with a whole person, a whole body, and intelligent mind. I hope that you have now in this courtroom let go of that heavy weight on your chest, that you’ll leave it here with defendant. That both of you can walk here light-footed — walk out of this courtroom light-footed and do great things in the world, because I know that’s where you’re headed.
Defendant started on the path to do great things, ended doing harmful things, and he will be placed behind bars for the rest of his life.
I’ll make my decision at sentencing but I appreciate your input in my decision, both of you. I’m very honored that both of you stand here together in front of me. I’m proud of each of you. Thank you.