In the 11 years I have served as the Domestic Violence Investigator for Sagadahoc County, my job has morphed considerably over time. The theme of what I do hasn’t changed as I am a Detective first and foremost. Specific tasks I perform and have inherited have evolved over the years, all with making my position more useful, efficient with the intent of better serving victims of domestic abuse.
One such task that has slowly drifted in my direction is serving as the court advocate to victims of domestic offenses occurring in Sagadahoc County. Given the level of contact I have with victims and the familiarity I develop over time, it made sense for me to serve in this capacity throughout the life of the case in our criminal justice system. This role is not to be confused with the duties of the community advocates who work with victims of domestic violence crimes long after the case is resolved. My role is to be the conduit of information between the Prosecutor and the victim, particularly regarding the status of the criminal case and potential outcomes.
Once a case is resolved, I work with victims in providing what we refer to as a victim impact statement. Under Maine law, victims of crimes have the right to be heard at the time of sentencing. This is the opportunity for victims to share in open court just how the offense has impacted them physically, emotionally, financially and for any other ways it could have. The victim can stand up in front of the Judge and speak from the heart or read from prepared text.
When I contact victims at the time of sentencing, many choose not to take advantage of this opportunity. Some want to just move on and put this behind them, some are genuinely afraid of the abuser while others are intimidated by the environment. Another alternative is for the victim to write out a statement that will be presented to the court and placed in the court’s file. It is the duty of the presiding Judge to read the statement prior to sentencing.
It should be noted that many cases are settled through plea agreements ahead of this date with the victim’s statement having little bearing on the agreed to sentence. Despite this, I believe the opportunity to provide the court with a victim impact statement is healthy and in some case therapeutic.
The reason for this article came about as a result of a written impact statement provided me by a victim of a recent domestic case in Sagadahoc County. As I read this young woman’s statement, I was moved by her grasp of the seriousness of the situation to not only her but her children as well. As I read her statement, I could see this woman growing internally and emotionally with each passing line. After finishing her statement I was so moved I immediately jumped on my computer and typed this article in hopes her words might resonate with other woman similarly situated. With her consent I am sharing the impact statement with you.
I’d just like to take a moment to express the impact this has had over my life. Despite some very difficult circumstances brought upon me in my life, my heart is as big as they come. I always give all I am at every chance and encourage goodness in this world. I have two beautiful children who I raise on my own, I coach their sports teams and give back volunteering to the youth in this community. My kids are my whole world! Any mother could tell you that she always wants what’s right for their children, their safety and wellbeing is absolutely of utmost importance, even before her own. But a mother is only as good for her kids as she is to herself. A broken mother can’t be the strength her children need when they’re looking for strength to draw upon. The past events that took my attention away from my kids have created a turmoil in my baby’s hearts. I’ve blocked them from the truths of what I’ve gone through for their protection, but it has not fooled them from knowing “Mom’s upset, hurting, sad and scared”. No man ever has the right to make a woman feel powerless. No man has the right to make a woman feel that she deserves pain and sadness because she’ll never be good enough to someone else. Whether substance abuse or not, it’s NOT OK! Fearing for myself and my children is not a place any mother should be brought to and I pray all women will find strength to get help and get away from such damage. Today, I will stand taller, grow stronger, hug tighter and love my kids wholly. Lord willing, we will get through this and come out smiling together as we’ve always done so naturally. Thanks for your time.
Her words have the ring of an anthem of victims of abuse at any level. In every case I handle, I too pray the perpetrators and victims see the residual impact these cases have on those around them, particularly the children exposed to this loathsome behavior. Domestic abuse has many adjectives but one rarely mentioned is selfishness. Far too frequently the most vulnerable among us are forgotten in the chaos. Let her words ring out to all those victimized; it is not OK.