At the beginning of September, I watched my abuser get sentenced to 15 years in prison. The maximum sentence of her plea deal.
I don't know what I was expecting to feel after seeing her for the first time in over a decade. Although the statute of limitations expired by three months (meaning my case would not be prosecuted) I naively hoped watching her get led away in handcuffs and hearing her sentence would fill me with a sense of closure. Of peace.
But instead, it sent me into a fog.
Leading up to the sentencing I was fluctuating between panic and completely ignoring the calendar. About a week out, the weight of what was about to be happening hit me and life became... a lot.
That was the week I stopped writing. Thankfully, the leaders of my team at Odyssey were extremely understanding and gave me the time I needed. Every time I went to write I came up blank. I would open up the writing screen and just stare at it, eventually getting fed up at the writer's block, and slam my laptop shut. This week I told myself and my Editor that I would start writing again. But our Wednesday at 5 PM deadline was approaching and I still had nothing. I messaged my Editor to express how I was feeling: that I didn't want to stop writing but I just couldn't bring myself to write. She asked me if I thought I could do it if I had an extension until the next night, I said I would try.
Sharing my story was necessary for my healing. The love and support I received from friends, familiy, and strangers meant so much.
But in a way, it was easier to share what happened to me, and how it made me feel when she hadn't been sentenced and everything was still open. Now there's this closure that I've been waiting for and had put so much stock in, and it didn't give me the relief I had been yearning for.
I had to come to terms with the fact that there's no quick fix to my healing. That the effects of her abuse will continue to be a battle I will have to fight.
And thankfully, I won't have to fight that battle alone.
Leaning on God has been crucial as I navigate this life as a Survivor. He gives me strength, He shows me mercy, and in turn, allows me to extend mercy and provide strength to others.
My online support group Survivorinos has been a lifesaver for me. Our community has flourished into such a diverse and open group of almost 600 people and I truly don't know how I would be if I didn't have them. I'm thankful for my moderators who have picked up the slack I left while I was navigating through the aftermath of the emotions the sentencing left me with. I don't think I can ever articulately convey my thankfulness for each and every member.
I had the strangest dreams in the early morning before the sentencing. We were running late, it was happening in my middle school gym, I was wearing sloppy clothes that were too tight and stained, and I was angry at everyone. It was an odd way to start the day.
My husband and I met my parents at the courthouse. My Mom had made handwritten signs alluding to my abuse and calling for an end to the statute of limitations. She put them on her car and parked it right in front of where my abuser would be escorted out of the building. My abuser pulled into the parking lot right when my husband and I were walking to my parents. My stomach leapt into my throat and my heart dropped.
When she arrived, my husband and I turned to walk up the steps to the courthouse, my Mom approached her car with one of the signs she made. My abuser read the sign, looked my Mom in the face, and said: "no, I never."
I can't say that I was surprised she denied it, but the sting of her denial cut me to the core.
We waited outside the courtroom, and within a few minutes, she came walking up. Seeing her face sent me into the beginning of a panic attack, I cleared my throat, turned around and my husband stood in front of me, shielding me from her view and moving in front of me when she walked passed. I can't describe to you how I felt, or even how I feel right now typing all of this out. The only word to describe it is, sick. I felt sick to my stomach. I feel sick to my stomach.
The moments before we were let into the courtroom were the most awkward minutes of my life. We had to be so close to her, we had to walk by her, she had to walk by us, it was incredibly uncomfortable.
When we finally were able to go into the courtroom, my eyes immediately went to the row of people behind the prosecution: a young man, a young woman, a man, and two women. I knew instantly that this was the victim who came forward and his family. My Mom had already introduced herself to the young man in the parking lot, and when she did he immediately wrapped his arms around her and thanked her for coming. My family and I sat down in the back row, and I walked over to introduce myself.
When I said my name, the young man stood up and hugged me so tight. He thanked me for my strength, and for being there. I wanted to meet him from the moment I recovered the memories, so meeting him carried so many emotions. Knowing I wasn't the only one she abused has given me an immense amount of comfort.
I sat back down with my family, and within moments his Mom came over, embraced me, and invited us to sit with them. The compassion and inclusion he and his family showed me and mine that day and afterward will always be the shining light of that dark day.
His victim impact statement was extremely powerful. There wasn't a dry eye in that courtroom, as he talked about the plight of male victims and the double standard our society and justice system has when it comes to female abusers to male victims.
I spent the rest of the day, and the next few days after feeling anxious and depressed. Sleep evaded me but all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball in bed and be asleep.
After a few days, I did eventually come out of the fog.
In the three weeks and one day since I watched her, handcuffed, and put into the back of a Sheriff's car, life has been a series of ups and downs.
Some days, I'm positive. I can see a bright future and the path I will be traveling. Other days, I don't want to leave my bed.
But no matter how I'm feeling, I'm a Survivor. There's no textbook or timeline that details how I should feel or when I should feel what.
All I can do is take one day at a time.