Victim Impact Statement

On Wednesday, the 21st of May, the man who raped me was sentenced. Four years, four months and four days after the assault took place. In the end, he did not face charges of rape – the two charges of rape were dropped and the Prosecution accepted a plea deal from the Defense for the accused to plead guilty to one charge of “indecent assault”.

At the plea hearing, I read a Victim Impact Statement to the court. I have posted my statement below.

A Victim Impact Statement is the sole space where the criminal justice system allows the victim of a crime – or the Crown Witness in Victoria’s criminal justice system – to speak of how the crime has affected them. Victims can choose to read their statement to the court themselves or have it read for them by the Prosecutor.

I chose to attend the court and read my statement myself. My family came with me for support and my mum also read a victim impact statement to the court – reflecting on the impacts she had noticed in me and also on the impacts the crime had on our entire family.

It was a distressing experience. Also present in the court were the accused, his legal team, the prosecution, the judge and her staff, journalists and my entire family. To stand up and speak of how my life has been ruined, how I have been crushed, by sexual assault before this group of people was one of the most intimidating and vulnerable things I have ever done. It is not often that we reveal our suffering plainly, explicitly before an audience. To do so publicly, and before the very person who caused that suffering, was distressing and somewhat humiliating.

However, I chose to speak my statement myself because I wanted my words to be my own. I didn’t want them coming out of someone else’s mouth. I didn’t want them spoken by someone who has not lived what I have, who has not been subject to sexual assault, who could not know what I am trying to convey. I wanted to claim this one paltry opportunity provided in the criminal justice system to be heard as a victim and to speak for myself.

It’s hard to know what the value of a Victim Impact Statement is, whether it makes any difference. But when the system has so little time or care for victims this is our one chance and I was grateful for the opportunity it provided, even if I am still reeling from the experience of delivering it.


 

The impacts of sexual assault for me have been devastating, profound and far-reaching. They have impacted every area of my life and every part of my self. 

Almost immediately after the sexual assault, the losses started and to this day I continue to be held back and limited in my life because of the impacts of sexual assault.

First of all I lost my home. Rae Street, my home, was also the place that the sexual assault took place and, to this day, that area remains a place of terror and distress to me. I managed to return to that house only a few times after the assault. Within days of the assault I knew that I would have to move out, leaving my friends, my housemates and an area I loved. My family had to move my belongings from the house because I could not manage even that, the associations were so negative and fearsome.

I lost my career. At first, I took 5 weeks off work. Then I tried to return part time. But it quickly became clear that I was in no state of mind to manage even that. The impacts of trauma were so invasive and so omnipresent that I could no longer carry out my job. As a manager my role entailed responsibility and high-level decision-making. It was a stressful and demanding position, full of challenges. I had thrived on those challenges. But now, trauma prevented me from accomplishing even the most basic tasks. I would jump if the phone rang. I would try to work but flashbacks and intrusive thoughts prevented me from concentrating. As a result, I felt I had no choice but to resign from my position while I sought help to heal my mind and my body.

That was only the beginning of my professional losses, however. About a month before the sexual assault I had applied for a scholarship with the French government for a teaching position in France. A few months after the assault I received notification that I had been awarded a scholarship. A teaching position in Paris. Had I not been assaulted this would have been a dream come true. Something I had long wanted to do. However, I was no longer in a position to take up such an exciting opportunity. I had to turn it down. All because I no longer believed I could be safe. All because, with the traumatised condition I was in, I knew I couldn’t survive without the constant loving support of my family. I needed the familiarity of my childhood home, the security of my family’s unwavering assistance and the relative safety of a country in which my extensive support networks could be constantly about me. There was no longer any way I could move to the other side of the world. Losing this opportunity still devastates me today and will remain a life-long disappointment for me.

To this day – nearly four and a half years since the assault – I have not been able to work full-time. The physical and psychological impacts of the assault continue to interfere in my daily life and prevent me from achieving what used to come so easily. I do not know when I will be in a position to return to full-time work. 

Not being able to work full-time for over four years now has had a significant financial impact – severely restricting my earning capacity and costing me tens of thousands of dollars in lost income. It has meant that at different times during the past four and a half years since the assault I have been dependent on family or on welfare to support me. However, it has also exacted a huge personal cost. Not being able to work full-time is humiliating and distressing. Full-time employment is not just a way to make a living, it is a way to participate in and contribute to the world. 

I see a psychiatrist every month for support with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. The hyper-vigilance, the repetitive and intrusive thoughts, the flashbacks, sleeplessness, insomnia, nightmares, difficulties in concentration, memory problems – all of these are things I struggle with on a daily basis. I continue to rely on psychiatric medications to support me to manage these symptoms. The persistence and invasiveness of post-traumatic stress wears me down and consumes so much of my energy that full-time work is not a possibility. 

However, my career is not the only thing I have lost as a consequence of sexual assault and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. I have also lost my social life. Before the assault I had an active and vibrant social life. Spending time with friends, going out, socialising – these were things I took completely for granted. They were a normal and completely unremarkable part of life. This is no longer the case. Since the assault, I have lost my social life and the inability to socialise freely and regularly has meant that in many ways I have lost my social networks. 

So much of my life revolves around negotiating the impacts of sexual assault, of coping with post-traumatic stress and of trying to keep myself safe and well. All this takes up time and energy – time and energy which, prior to the assault, would have gone to work and to my social life.

But it’s also more complicated than that. Sexual assault has robbed me of my confidence and my self-esteem. My dignity, my autonomy and my self-respect have all been compromised as a result of the crime carried out against me. My faith in myself and my faith in the world have been decimated. 

I struggle to believe I have anything to offer my friends anymore. I am not the person I was before the assault and I will never be the same as a result of what has been done to me. I struggle to remember what life was like when things like safety could be taken for granted. I am afraid I cannot live up to the expectations of those who knew me before. I struggle to connect to people in good faith and to trust them. I constantly wonder if the people around me mean well or mean me harm. I struggle to find the energy, on so many days, to fight through the difficulties sexual assault has created for me and reach out to others. Solitude and isolation too often seem like the safe option, the safest option and so, social isolation has become yet another reality of life for me since the assault. 

It has not all been bleak. I have found ways to cope and I have had the extraordinary good fortune to have a supportive and loving family who have unwaveringly stood by me. I have had excellent professional support, too. However, the impacts of sexual assault continue to affect me, years after the assault, on a daily basis. Not a day goes by when what was done to me does not interfere with my life or limit the life I lead in some way. Sexual assault has cost me profoundly, in many ways, and has set my life on a completely different course from the one it would have taken, had I not been assaulted. I have lost so much and many of those losses cut right to the core of who I am and can never be undone.

 

For information about Victim Impact Statements and services for victims of crime in Victoria you can go here

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29 Responses to Victim Impact Statement

  1. Melinda Tankard Reist says:

    Kate, I am just so sorry to read this. It is very distressing. Thank you for your bravery in sharing.

    May I ask what the sentence was? How appalling that he did not face charges of rape.

    I’m just so sorry.

    Thinking of you.

    Melinda

    MTR-Invoice Logo email footer

    http://www.melindatankardreist.com melinda@tankardreist.com

    • Hi Melinda, He had already been in prison for 868 days when the sentencing took place. The judge sentenced him to one further day in order for the authorities to arrange to extradite him. So, his sentence was 869 days (a little over 2 years) – the maximum is apparently 10 years (so said the Prosecution during the plea hearing).

      Kate

  2. Melinda Tankard Reist says:

    Kate, would it be OK for me to repost this on my blog?

    MTR-Invoice Logo email footer

    http://www.melindatankardreist.com melinda@tankardreist.com

  3. Nell says:

    Hi Kate,

    I contributed an illustration to your book ‘we will not go quietly’ and thought I would check back and see what you have been doing lately. And I found your victim impact statement.
    It’s accurate, straightforward and devastating and I could relate to every bit of it.

    I’m so sorry.
    I also feel frightened and alone far too much. It is beyond unfair.
    I admire you for writing about sexual assault, and writing so well. And for going to court.

    Some scientists now describe PTSD as a brain injury, rather than a psychological disorder, because they are beginning to be able to see the physical damage it causes in the brain.
    This gives me hope that one day survivors of sexual assault will have their suffering better heard- but it doesn’t change the experience of loss and grief and terror we are left with.

    I often think of myself as a broken person. I’m not, I’m a survivor and although I’m not who I could have been, I think one of the best things I can do is, like you, try and express my experience in any way I can.

  4. Steven Sweat says:

    It is high time that we began spreading more awareness of the huge problem that still exists of violence against women in general and sexual assault in particular. Thanks for your courage in sharing your story!

  5. Lisa Marie says:

    I have a blog that deals with PTSD and God if you are interested stop by! http://healingtakesalifetime.blogspot.com/

  6. anonymous says:

    I’m sorry this happened to you but I would also like to say thank you for sharing your story. I am 16 now but I was 15 at the time of my sexual assault. I am now having to write my victim impact statement. I was so clueless as to how to even put it all in to words. So I did an Internet search and I came across this. I just want to ask thank you because you helped me figure out how to put it into words. Thank you so much.

    • Thank you for your comment. It means more that you could know to hear that sharing my story has helped others. I’m very sorry also that this happened to you. I hope that going through the process of a victim impact statement is in some way helpful for you. I know that in some small ways it was for me. I’m glad that sharing my story has been of some assistance to others. My best wishes to you, Kate

  7. Amy says:

    Thank you for sharing both your story and your statement. I’m very sorry this happened to you.

    I came upon you blog post as I am currently writing a victim impact statement against my ex-fiance, who abused me for nearly three years – including sexual assault. Please know that you sharing your story is helping others.

    • Thank you for your comment. It means a lot to me to know that sharing my story helps others. I’m very sorry also that this happened to you. I hope that preparing a victim impact statement is a helpful process. I know that in some small ways it was for me. I’m glad that sharing my story has been of some assistance to others. Thanks for reaching out to let me know. My best wishes to you, Kate

  8. D says:

    Dear Kate,

    Hearing your statement ( memory loss, loss of social skills, self worth, career depletion, social isolation) helped me know I am not alone. Thank you.

    D

  9. Kim says:

    There are no words to describe your strength and, not knowing you, you are one of my heroes. I’m sorry the jerk did not get what he deserved, but your voice in that court room gave a voice to every woman out there that has experienced this.

    I am 32 years old and I was sexually assaulted when I was 15, by an old basketball teammate of my older brother; someone who I have known for most of my life. It actually happened in my high school. I told my best friend about it and she told me that he has forced himself on other girls. My friend was three years older than me; the same age as my brother and this guy. My friend told the Dean of the school, who then by law had to call the police, and I had to tell my parents and talk to the cops.

    In my town, my family is very involved and works in the law system, with my uncle being the captain of the police force, my other uncle being a sheriff, and my aunt being a prosecutor.

    In my 15-year-old brain, I wanted to pretend this never happened and just go on with my life. Kids in my high school were already being mean, saying things to me, etc. I was an all state soccer player, straight A student, had a boyfriend, many close friends, etc. But that didn’t matter anymore.

    I chose the cop that I was most comfortable speaking to and told him what happened, but I stopped the story at a certain point. I refused to press charges, but I had to get it on paper that there was a criminal report. I went about the next two years in high school like nothing happened and when I graduated, I never went back. The guy was suspended from school and was ordered to stay away from me and if he saw me in the hallways, to walk in the other direction.

    I became a pro at wearing a mask; pretending that nothing was wrong or maybe convincing myself that nothing was wrong. Hindsight is 20/20; I am a “relationship girl” but I always broke up with the guy at about the two-year mark. I was engaged at one point and I broke that off too (I dodged a bullet and have no regrets doing that). I have had a very difficult time/impossible time to make meaningful connections with anyone, my co workers, my friends, my family, etc.

    In December 2014, I found a psychiatrist that specialized in PTSD as well as traumatic brain injury, which I suffered one in 2009. It has taken me 12 years to tell the whole story, full story, to a professional and I feel like I’m dealing with this all over again.

    My older brother became a state trooper, a detective. I found out that this guy has been in jail twice for the same thing to other women. Last week, I found out that he was out of jail because he found my LinkedIn account, and was looking at my profile and trying to “connect with me.” I didn’t accept, obviously and I blocked him. But now I know he is home and I had to move back in with my parents a few years ago, so there is always a chance of “running into him” at a store or something.

    I have a boyfriend that knows the whole story, and has stuck by even though I tried to push him away, try to get him to break up with me, on several occasions. Now that I have started processing what happened and have not kept pushing it under the rug, it is having an effect on my relationship, especially when it comes to our intimacy. He goes to the psychiatrist with me sometimes, to educate himself, but I feel like he misses “the girl he met.” He is very understanding, but he feels rejected every time he tries to initiate intimacy, and I “turn him down.” He says that he loves me, I am the love of his life, and he is on this roller coaster ride with me. But I feel like, “why should anyone be on this roller coaster ride with me? Why am I putting someone that I trust and love with all of my heart, through this? Am I better off dealing with this alone, without bringing my BF down with me?”

    I admire your strength and courage for what you did, and gave a voice to people like me, who just did not want to deal with it and I didn’t have a voice at that time of my assault. I found the strength to deal with and process my feelings, 12 years later, so I guess that is a step in the right direction for me.

    Thank you Kate, for being my voice, and I am sure, a lot of other girls’/women’s’ voices.

  10. kelli says:

    Thank you for sharing. I am going to share this with my daughter who is currently trying to formulate a victims impact statment. I am also writing one of my own, before the sentencing of her attacker. This is a very difficult.

  11. voicesofhope2015 says:

    I just wanted to say, thank you for sharing your story. Your sharing is a huge inspiration and gives those who can’t speak the ability to have voice. I was raped 11 years ago, and looking back on it now, I wish I would have gone to trial but I couldn’t bring myself to see him again. I just couldn’t. You are so courageous for doing! God bless and I know you will continue to fight forward!

  12. kate says:

    I’m going to face the same thing in just a week. I am desperate because i know i’m going to see him again. Please any thing that helped you through out the process?

    • What helped me the most was having plenty of support people with me. My whole family attended with me and having them in the room provided me with a kind of ‘buffer’. I didn’t stay in the room for the whole of the sentencing either but came and went. I stayed to give my victim impact statement and then left and came back for the reading of the sentencing judgment. I had some family who came out with me when I left the room and some that stayed in there to represent me. I think this really helped me and I would really recommend having support people with you – as many as you want! It was quite satisfying and comforting to see that the court room was full of people who were there for me and that balance made me feel safer. Do whatever it is that you need on the day and speak with all your support people about how they can help you. Do you have the support of victim assistance services? If so, they can also help you to work out how best to stay safe and in control on the day. It’s awful to have to be in such close proximity to the person responsible for raping you so do whatever you can to make it manageable. I wish you all the best for the day and hope you get through it with the least distress possible.

  13. Shan says:

    I am so sorry to hear of this trauma you have been through. You are so strong for telling your story and being able to speak up. I am 16 years old and i was raped in May of this year by someone i thought was my friend. It has affected me in a way that words cannot begin to explain. I am reading my victims impact statement to him at the sentencing hearing and reading this that you wrote gave me the chills. you are so strong and i hope that you continue to fight the pain and stay strong.

    • Kirstie says:

      Hi Shan,
      I also was raped in May by my ex-husband and only too well know there are no words to explain how you actually feel. My case goes to trial next month … I have sat starring at the same blank piece of paper not knowing what to write for my “personal witness statement” as I just can’t put it into words how the whole ordeal has affected me … how he has ruined my life, the same man who is the father to my two beautiful boys.
      I’m so sorry for your ordeal especially at such a young age but we have to hold our heads high and remain strong and for every one of us that stands in that box in court we are representing each and every woman that has gone through the same.
      Stay strong Shan xx

  14. chelsea says:

    Hi kate my court is next month (4 years after the assult took place) i was 12 years old when it happened to my my my uncle in law I am now 16 i wanna thank you because i hadnt got a clue how to do this my head is all over the place and reading yours has helped me in may ways your not alone and i know its hard but thank you so much i hope one day you will make it where you want to in life x

  15. Melanie says:

    Dear everyone, especially Kate,

    Thank you for your comments on rape. I also have been raped when I was 25. It occurred in 2001. It was terrifying and I thought I was going to die, be dumped along a roadside and killed. For four years I blocked the rapes out of my mind. Then in 2005 I suffered a depressive episode. Got well and have suffered from PTSD ever since. Worked hard on working part-time, seeing a psychologist, taking an antidepressant, staying well and achieving goals. Even though its 2016 the flashbacks, sensations and nightmares make it seem so real again. I reported the rapes to the police and he denied it ever occurred. I knew that if it went to trial, he would get a lawyer and he would ‘get off’. I have been well for the last 9 years but are now in a depressive episode due to taking on too much …PTSD needs to be managed very carefully. I do feel at a loss right now. But I am determined to carry on with my life. Perhaps PTSD medication is needed now, a low-stress lifestyle. One thing is fore sure, never let the perpetrator/attacker WIN. Keep fighting, keep going out in the dark even if its scary, face those fears (I have many!) take PTSD medication, talk to others, change your lifestyle, alter your path in life, do what you need to do to keep pushing on. Press IN and PRESS ON. You are not here on EARTH BY ACCIDENT. YOU MATTER.

    • victim2016 says:

      Hi Melanie,
      I so wish I’d read your victim statement before today cause it most definitely would have helped me write mine a couple of weeks ago. I was raped 9 months ago by the man I once called my husband (we divorced 4 years ago) and who my children called “daddy”….
      I face trial this Monday (8th Feb) .. At the minute I eat,sleep and breathe the trial and even when I’m asleep I’m dreaming about it…. I’m dreading every second of it but know it’s something I have to go through not only for me but for my children too. I know his defence are going to wipe the floor with me and make me out to be this n that but hope my defence also wipe the floor with him as he recorded his sick act on his mobile phone…..
      I can relate to every word written in your statement… Every body is of the opinion once the trial has been and gone it’s over I can move on but it’s not over for me it’ll never be over… The constant looking over my shoulder, being scared just out walking the dog…scared of the Unknown of what’s going to happen next…. We will never forget what’s happened to us we will only learn to live with it and try to move on…. Stay strong xxx

  16. C says:

    Hi Kate,
    I am also in Canada, and I’m working on a victim impact statement. My statement is a bit different, as it isn’t for the three men who assaulted me, but rather as part of a labour case, as my former boss immediately fired me because of the assault, as being assaulted showed him that I lacked strength and stamina. I wanted you to know how incredible it was to read your words–at times what you wrote echoed so closely what I have struggled to describe and put into words. Reading your words was also very hard, but I know it has been helpful. I don’t think people understand just how draining and difficult it is to write down your deepest pain and then read it out to a group of people, knowing that those responsible for your pain will also be able to read it, and that it will sit on record forever. The way you put it–‘humiliating’ –is exactly right. I have felt such an excruciating humiliation at every step of the process, it has felt like old wounds ripped open over and over again. I hope very much that after this finished, I see from your post it was two years ago, that you have been able to gain some small distance and your wounds have begun to heal. I hope desperately that I will make it to that stage too, and I’m holding on as hard as I can, until the process is mercifully finished. I’m not sure if you’re still reading comments, but in case you are, my thanks. -C

  17. Lori says:

    I am a parent helping my foster daughter start the process of writing her impact statement. Thank you for sharing your story. I will share it with her to help her write hers. Reading all the comments saddens me, knowing I cannot help. But I can help my child whom I love and my family loves. She suffers daily from PTSD and has years of struggle ahead. Bless you and everyone who shares their story.

  18. Sarah says:

    Hi I’m going through this at the moment. I really want to do the impact statement but really struggling as I’m suffering with depression and anxiety really badly so my feelings are never the same. How do you cope because the not knowing why my ex raped me is killing me on top of the fact he did it, I feel like I’m going out of my mind sometimes

    • Hi, I think communicating how your feelings change and are never the same, how you’re suffering from anxiety and depression, how not knowing and being able to understand how someone who professed to love and care for you could hurt you so badly is torturing you and preventing you from healing would be a very powerful thing to do. I felt I could understand how the man who raped me did it; in the attack I felt the force of his anger and hatred and contempt of me. I could feel his complete lack of respect for me – to tgeextent that he could joke about what he was doing and find it funny. To understand that was shocking and devastating and has permanently changed the way I feel – I will never feel truly safe in the world again.

      I don’t know if me sharing this helps. I don’t always know how I cope. But finding ways to increase your feelings of safety, ways to feel loved and supported and ways to feel powerful and in control, even if only momentarily, have helped.

      Know you are not alone. I was on antidepressants for 2 years after the rape. I will continue to struggle with anxiety. Your feelings of anxiety and depression are such normal reactions to a traumatic and abnormal event. Do whatever you can to look after yourself.

  19. Jane says:

    Hi Kate,
    First off, I am so sorry this has happened to you.
    I commend you and thank you for your bravery and for sharing your personal story and impact statement. I can relate to every single word you wrote here.
    I am currently struggling with writing an impact statement of my own.
    Would you mind if I reworded a paragraph that you used in your impact statement for my own? You put into words what I have experienced and felt but could never write down on paper.

    • Thanks for your kind words. Absolutely, you are very welcome to reword a paragraph of this for your own statement. Please take whatever is useful. Good luck with writing your statement, it is not easy to do. Sending you strength and support as you go through this process, Kate

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