Thursday, July 02, 2009

Victim Impact Statement

It's always interesting to look at what keywords or phrases bring people to this site. One search this week was "Actual Victim Impact Statements".

The sadly ironic thing is, I did that exact search before I started writing mine. What do you say? How can you encapsulate years of pain and betrayal into one piece of paper? All of the stuff I found online ended up being like the piece of paper I got from the judicial system, a series of questions that made me feel victimized all over again.

Because, as all people who have gone through this can attest to, we are ALL THE SAME. OUR STORIES ARE IDENTICAL AND THUS WE MUST FIT OUR EXPERIENCES INTO THE EXACT SAME SET OF QUESTIONS.

If you're here, doing a search for victim impact statements, all I can offer is the text of what I said in court.

And we are NOT all the same. We do NOT have the same experiences. And NEVER let ANYONE, including that niggling voice in the back of your own brain, tell you that you shouldn't write your own statement.

Don't feel like a failure if you can't read your own statement. You can have someone else do that for you.

The content of my impact statement is as follows:

I’m here as ______’s mother and for 17 years, the wife of Tracy Shaddox. I’m supposed to somehow verbalize the devastation that this man has brought down upon our family.

The only way I know to preface my statement is to say that I know what it’s like to be the survivor of sexual abuse because I am one.

Tracy has been very articulate during the omnibus hearing in letting us know that he has become enlightened during his therapy regarding his own victimization as a youth and how it led to what he is today.

But what does that say for _____? What does that say for me, the parent that now bears the sole responsibility for holding the safety net beneath her as she goes out into the world? She’ll be more likely to drink or take drugs to dull the emotional pain that her father has caused her. She’ll be more likely, and I can fully attest to this, enter into abusive or unhealthy relationships. She’ll be more likely to engage in self mutilation or attempt suicide. All because of the choice her father made when she was 9 years old.

And no matter how he frames his story, it all comes down to one thing: choice.

We can’t control what other people do to us but we can control how we react to it. Tracy knew I was a survivor of sexual abuse. All he would have had to do was open his mouth and tell me that he needed help. There is no stronger ally that a victim of sexual abuse has than another victim. But he didn’t ask for help. He perpetuated the cycle.

How will _____ understand what it is like to be in a normal relationship when her first sexual experience was with her father? How will she ever learn that there are good and decent men in this world when the most important man in her life did this to her? I live in fear that ____ will fall into the trap that I fell into. She won’t think she is worthy to be treated well. She’ll do the same thing that I did and suffer through years of a miserable marriage because she won’t think she deserves better.

But being _____’s safety net is only half of my battle. Every waking moment of my life since I found this out has been me, asking myself, how come I failed my daughter? The only job I ever cared about with every fiber of my being was my job as a mother. I told my kids when they were little that there were bad people in the world. I told them not to accept candy from strangers. I told them not to get into strange cars. But I never thought I would have to warn them about their own father.

Tracy isn’t the only one going through therapy. Both ____ and I have been seeing counselors. And I have fought so hard for so many days, sometimes minute to minute, fighting the urge to just give up because of the maternal guilt that I feel.

Back when _____ was a toddler, she woke up from her nap early and came into our bedroom where her father and I were having sex. I remember trying to grab my robe and escort her out of the room and Tracy tried to stop me by saying “Let’s just keep doing it in front of her. It’ll be funny.” And being the survivor of sexual abuse, I totally freaked out and got her out of the room and it haunted me for days. But instead of confronting him, I took the easy way out. I said nothing.

I also live with the fact that, as I do the math and figure out when he was abusing ____, he asked me once, during sex, to call him “daddy”. I can recall it like yesterday because it instantly made me want to throw up. I now live with the fact that he was fantasizing about having sex with our daughter when he was having sex with me.

There are days that I can’t even stand to live in my own skin.

I stand here a failure. I failed to protect my daughter from the only man that I ever trusted.

I don’t care how much progress Tracy says he has made in therapy. I know him now as an adulterer and a pedophile. He has been a master manipulator and liar for our entire marriage.

What I care about is what he did to his daughter for three years of her young life. For three years, Tracy kept her in a prison of his own devising. This is a prison that she remains in to this day.

After her father stopped molesting _____, his attention wavered between totally ignoring her and, as I’ve recently learned, flying into fits of rage at her when they were home alone together. He would scream at her, physically shove her into the wall, and send her running up to her room, trying to get away from him. He would then stand on the other side of her bedroom door and try to bribe her, telling her that he would buy her things so long as she didn’t tell mom.

This has been _____’s life for seven year, living in an emotional prison because of the choices that her father made. Tracy is asking to serve his time locally. In other words, jail, not prison. He’s asking you for mercy.

I ask you now, what about mercy for _____? I can’t conceive of a world that would see a child put through what _____ has been through and then give her perpetrator “mercy”.

I also refute the argument that Tracy is pleading guilty because of his emotional revelations made in therapy. When I confronted him with what I had discovered, he confessed. That is why he pled guilty to you, because he already pled guilty to me. As much as I have learned how much I didn’t know about Tracy Curtis Shaddox, one thing remains true. Tracy knows me. As soon as he confessed, he knew this is exactly where we would end up. Now, he’s trying once again to manipulate the court and make the best out of a bad situation.

In that same respect, if Tracy has learned so much about what is good for his daughter’s mental health during his therapy, I ask why he showed up in court on June 8th in order to block our family from changing our last names from Shaddox. This was a specific request from _____, to separate herself as much as possible from her father. Her father obviously saw it as yet one more attempt to hurt the family that he has nearly utterly destroyed. Once again, he wanted to get his way at the expense of everyone else involved.

I may have failed my daughter when she was nine years old. I can’t fail her now.

Thank you.

*Whatever help you may have been looking for in writing a victim impact statement, I hope this was what you needed.

Good luck.


Friend in Folsom said...

I am so so very sorry for all your daughter, son and yourself have gone through. I desperately wish there was a magic wand to make it all go away. But I too know, from personal experience the pain of rape (molestation just sounds a bit to soft and cuddly to me) that the pain may subside but the repercussions last a lifetime for the victims. The victimizer never really gets what he/she has done is wrong and makes them morally bankrupt. A lot of times the victimizer also claims they too were a victim at one time of the same crime, but curiously enough that doesn't bear out in the long run. Peace and blessings to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

What an extremely well written statement. You are truly gifted as a writer. Hopefully your statement will help someone else.

I hope you are able to relax and enjoy the long holiday weekend.


Anonymous said...

Your voice is so clear I feel like you could be at the kitchen table with me and my mom, swapping stories into the wee hours.

My mom, my brothers and I have all been sexually, verbally and physically assaulted. She carries the same maternal guilt that you do... It breaks my heart as much to hear this as I know it breaks hers to bear responsibility for having "let" anything happen to us at all when her only goal was to protect us from the life she grew up with.

Many years ago she told me that I would get to the point when I saw her role in what had happened in our lives and be very angry with her. BAH! How could I??

Although I did eventually become quite angry with her it was not because I held her responsible for the abuse. I was angry because she made me accept his apology when I was 10, angry that she thought this mangy, pathetic, coerced apology would fix what was broken.

As we came to reconcile I understood that she, like anyone, made the best possible choices that she could with the resources and faculties she possessed at the time. My respect and loyalty has ever been with my mom. Nothing tops taking responsibility and learning from your experiences.

Oddly enough, it was just a year and a half ago, as we discussed the possibility that my older brother was perpetuating the cycle of abuse that she finally shared her story with me. I didn't realize how much I needed to hear it.

I'm not sure if you're much of a reader or if its even relevant but Dorothy Allison has some seriously powerful stuff to say on this topic, yesterday I read this: Two or three things I know for sure and one of them is that telling the story all the way through is an act of love. And Audre Lorde who said, You who see, tell the others.

You do service to yourself, your family and the community by calling this for what it is. Abuse, violence and rape. And healing.

I respectfully acknowledge your story and thank you for being so open in the telling of it.