Thursday, July 19, 2012

From the personal blog of Julie Lawson, President & CEO of Crime Victim Advocacy Center
Victims are paying a heavy price for economic instability as several states reduce sentences to relieve overspent government budgets. Much of this happens on paper, unnoticed but to a few who are the victims or those who advocate for them. I am one such person.

I feel lucky to have my offender in prison. Many victims don’t have the opportunity to see their perpetrator apprehended or sentenced and live the rest of their lives with an unbalanced sense of justice. My perpetrator is not even in prison because of me…it is because of an even more horrendous crime he committed.  Nonetheless, I’ve been enjoying a cloak of imagined safety for several years.

For reasons I can’t fully explain, victims create timelines around their offenders' sentences. As though our lives are now intrinsically linked to the perpetuation of justice. I’ve heard victims make life plans in context to the length of their offenders’ term. Three years ago I was describing this phenomenon to a group of correction officers for the State of Missouri in hope that they would be more sensitive to victims’ needs upon offender release. A small voice from the back of the room said, “I get it. I have 10 years, 3 months and 14 days left to live.” I smiled and said, “I have 13 years, 6 months and a handful of days.” That’s just how it goes.

I was wrong. My offender gets out in a few days, a casualty of a defunct economy. And I am angry and scared.  He doesn’t know my name, where I live, maybe even what I look like today. For that I am luckier than most victims. But it doesn’t help me sleep easier. These are the setbacks we warn victims of, and I’m struggling to allow myself the same space to heal.

I am a proponent of sentencing reform. I have been rallying the Dept. of Corrections to provide alternative programming for nonviolent offenders so that there is space available in prison for men like my offender who beat and rape women. I am able to do this because I have the honor of serving as the President & CEO of the Crime Victim Advocacy Center. I have the opportunity to give a voice to victims who are not heard. And to make sense of my own story in the meantime. For that I am most fortunate. 

You can help, too. Talk about victimization. Give it a voice. Let it not be the dirty word in the room. 

The louder we are, the quieter the violence is.