This Is What A Victim Impact Statement For A Rape Case Looks Like
Raising awareness for an issue we should discuss more.
**Due to the sensitive nature of the following article, I would like to preface this with a trigger warning: This article may contain details that are confronting to some and potentially triggering for those that have been victims of sexual assault, rape and/or a violent crime, and/or have experienced mental illness.**
A Victim Impact Statement is a statement conveyed by the victim in a trial either in oral or written format. The statement can be taken into consideration when considering penalty for the offender and can help the magistrate better understand the effect the crime has had on the victim’s life, and details the emotional, physical, financial and social impacts of the crime (Victimsofcrime.vic.gov.au, 2020).
I wrote this for a crime that was committed against me when I was 19. I am now 26 years of age and I am still experiencing a great deal of the life effects detailed below.
In an effort to rid myself of the heavy energy of this case, raise much needed awareness and potentially help others experiencing similar situations, I thought I would share it with the world. I’ve left the original statement as raw as I can (I’ve hidden a few personal details), to express as best I can the real impact that crimes like these can have on their victims’ lives.
The Victim Impact Statement from my rape trial:
“Emotionally this crime has torn me to pieces. Never in my life have I ever felt so isolated and alone. Over the last few years, after the assault, I have been on a rollercoaster blindfolded. The trauma has made me feel things that I never thought I would feel. Times when I was sad before this ever happened don’t compare to what I’ve been going through.
There are a thousand different emotional layers to cover here. Initially, I was in complete shock, a type of surreal numbness that I had never felt before. This lasted for months and can resurface from time to time. I was very out of touch with my body and my emotions. I am a strong person and had developed coping mechanisms that I had hoped would work but the impact of the trauma was larger than I could conceive.
In March (2013), I was experiencing disturbing flash backs in my waking life that were also present in my nightmares. I had very high anxiety and I remember not even feeling safe to walk down the street. I was so broken that I even felt uneasy around my own dad and my own stepdad, as well as men in general. I was also experiencing trouble concentrating, which continued for months and months.
I had counselling from day one. I enrolled in kickboxing for self-defence only weeks later in a desperate attempt to regain confidence and a sense of personal security. People in my life would tell me how well I’m dealing and were always surprised that I would share what happened so openly. But the truth was that I was broken.
From March-June (2013) I went to some very dark places inside myself. There were thoughts around suicide, simply because I was so numb and torn down that I felt as though death would be no different. I lost my identity. I had no idea who I was anymore, and I experienced feelings of dissociation and depersonalisation. I had a boyfriend at that point whom I could no longer be present with during intimate times, as I was triggered constantly and felt dirty. Subsequently, this created relationship issues that eventually led to our demise. I had very high stress levels and very low moods along with low motivation and immense difficulty studying.
When I didn’t hear from the police for a while and thought that perhaps my case wasn’t proceeding, it was disappointing, but I definitely noticed that when I didn’t have the constant reminder of what had happened I would travel a little better. I successfully completed a Diploma, I got my licence finally, and my relationship was doing better. But when I got the call with the information about the committal hearing and the whole process continuing, my life begin to crack again and I returned to counselling.
In June (2014) I experienced a panic attack that I found very terrifying. I literally couldn’t get out of my car, my legs wouldn’t work, I felt very anxious and my boyfriend had no idea how to help me. Around this time, I was feeling highly anxious with low self-worth, depressive symptoms and difficulty concentrating.
I would be very easily triggered, even by music. I had to ask my boyfriend to turn off the radio on several occasions, which made me feel very misunderstood and alone. Responding to life in a way that not even my boyfriend, who was meant to be the closet person in the world to me, would understand.
The different stages of trauma never cease to amaze me over the past few years. You have one symptom one week and a total opposite symptom the next.
Throughout the last few years I have noticed that my eating habits have been heavily affected by the trauma and my habits correlate with the court process and revisiting the memory. When I ate a large meal or junk food I would feel as if something dirty was crawling inside me. I had the overwhelming urge to purge the evil feeling out of me, constantly.
Eventually from September-November (2014) all I could stomach was one meal a day. Then a few months later food would be my refuge, my comfort. Eating by myself watching mindless TV was safe. So, I ate. And then a month later the cycle would start again, and I’d feel the need to purge because of a real deep sick feeling.
This affects me even today; I have realised through counselling that I can no longer savour bite per bite of a meal. I must shovel it down in order to not feel filthy and disgusting. This is because I have issues regarding oral sensations, which for obvious reasons are directly related to the trauma memory. Not being able to enjoy food properly and slowly without the memory of his disgusting tongue causes me intense pain.
As a result, in the past I had adapted restricting eating as a control method and when I got too hungry, I would have to binge so that I didn’t have to feel the food in my mouth for too long. This has resulted in weight issues; at times I lose weight and very quickly gain it all back, and then some. As a young woman this has wreaked havoc on my self-esteem, or what little I have left now.
My understanding from talking to my counsellor is that I slip into different phases since the assault, sometimes it’s a more depressive phase and other times it’s more anxious. When I am in my depressive phase I oversleep.
From July-September (2014) I found it difficult to even open my eyes, especially when I had to go to work. But when I’m asleep it’s not a lovely rejuvenating experience, it’s filled with confusing nightmares with evil sexual undertones. Some are truly terrifying and disturbing to my very core. It was not uncommon to have to have my boyfriend at the time wake me up and tell me it was all a dream. But I think the most disgusting thing, is that it wasn’t “just a dream”.
My career path has been one of the largest affected areas of my life from the assault. Due to the distraction the trauma had caused in my life, I could no longer focus on study. It was extremely frustrating. I have felt like a failure for the last few years because my attention span just would not last long enough.
Anytime I truly focused on something it was extremely painful and bought up all the memories. The only thing I was able to do for a very long time was lay in bed and watch TV shows and movies mindlessly, and still struggle with the strong need to do this in order to just cope day by day.
I would keep thinking to myself that I’m wasting my life, but it was all I was capable of doing and no one in my household or my life would understand why, except for my counsellor. To everyone else I just looked like a lazy lump, they just wouldn’t understand why that was a response to the situation.
Sometimes I would go a whole fortnight feeling so alone and misunderstood, then I’d have a counselling session and it would all be explained that the symptoms I was experiencing were a response to trauma. Only then would I feel like I wasn’t an alien.
The assault and the aftermath of it all has created a massive mental block when it comes to my career and that causes me such heartache. All I’ve ever wanted in life is to have a career that I am passionate about and have it not feel like work when I leave in the morning. I haven’t had any time to discover that because I’ve only had turmoil to dwell on.
I’ve had a few part time jobs since the assault and I’ve been able to hold down my two current jobs, one for over a year and the other for nearly a year. I’m so blessed that they are so caring and understanding but I can’t help but think that they are that way because of their casual nature.
The thought of part-time work or full-time work scares me now. This is because some of the time I’ve been so depressed or anxious that going to work is an insurmountable event, this is why I’ve only been able to manage minimal hours per week.
I also feel as though I can’t be my authentic self at work because I’m too emotional if I’m being genuine, so I have to put on a different ‘happy’ personality, and it can be really hard ignoring emotions that are screaming for attention inside of you. Because of this I have only been able to work very few hours during the week, as that’s all I can handle. As a result, I haven’t been able to save money the way I would like, since I only work enough to just get by.
One word that I would use to describe how the crime has left me feeling, because it is rather difficult both intellectually and emotionally to put it into words, is powerless. He made me feel like a piece of meat. Like a helpless little lamb caught in barbed wire. It makes me extremely angry that someone made me feel that way. No one messes with Molly [last name]. I’m usually so strong and have always thought that in a dangerous situation my response would be to fight. Of the flight/flight/freeze instinctual responses I believed I would fight. And I didn’t. I froze. That affects me every day.
When a friend says, “Oh, if I was in that situation, I would have punched him in the face”, it leaves me feeling like a failure. I didn’t have the response that in my logical mind I would’ve wanted. This is probably something I’ll have to forgive myself for somewhere down the line, as I also know logically, you never really know how you’re going to respond until you’re actually in that situation.
It had made me feel unsafe in my own street for years. Before I had a car whenever I used to walk to the bus stop, I would look around to see if he was lurking somewhere. Or whenever there was a taxi in my street to pick up a neighbour, I would be clenching my keys in defence. My doors in my house are always locked when I am home alone; I literally have to check them twice or sometimes thrice.
I don’t like not feeling safe in my own street, my own home. Him knowing where I live has made me feel sick for years and since it was night at the time and I wasn’t paying too much attention to his appearance, not knowing what he looks like has made me very squeamish of darker men, everywhere.”
“Although I did not obtain any physical injuries from the assault, I have most definitely been physically impacted. The emotional and mental distress has all manifested itself in my physical body in different ways. If this had not happened, I would never dream of sticking my finger down my throat to throw up because of how unsettled and disgusting my stomach felt, but sometimes that’s what I had to do to feel relaxed again.”
“Due to this assault having such a profound effect on me, especially psychologically, I have definitely not been able to work to my full potential. I was/am in the prime of my life for working hard and earning important savings to build an independent life, but I have only been able to work a few times per week and studying a 6-month course was all I could handle.
I tried to push myself though. I have tried to study at university multiple times since the assault and every time it coincides with a difficult point in my trauma where I could not focus, barely concentrate and in some circumstances, I was so out of my body I was almost completely numb. In turn I have accumulated a hefty [student debt].”
“Socially the trauma from the crime has left me feeling like an alien over the last few years. I have never felt such intense isolation. Sexual crimes are not a widely discussed topic and therefore many people in my life are clueless to the impacts that it might have on all aspects of someone’s life. I have always been straightforward and open about it and tried to explain it to people, even to my manager at work, but unfortunately it does not make me feel less alone.
I have had some scary phases where I purposefully seek solitude to recharge, if life is becoming overwhelming. Then I wind up feeling intensely isolated and being alone with my thoughts at those times was not a positive thing.
I have made it an aim that these circumstances don’t change how safe I feel out in public settings and that they don’t affect my social life. There have been instances where I have purposefully put myself in potentially dangerous social situations because I just wanted to prove to myself, and to the world, that I would respond differently if something similar was ever to happen again.
I would not just freeze and be powerless again. Thankfully, nothing bad happened in those situations, but putting myself in those situations in the first place speaks volumes of how much this assault has impacted me, and the horrible mental space I was in in those times.
As I have mentioned previously my boyfriend and I had many issues that arose from my responses to the trauma, and therefore we have decided to end it. It breaks my heart that our relationship had to be so deeply impacted by these circumstances in my life. I don’t even blame him for wanting to leave, as it is a very heavy and an overwhelming issue to deal with in your early twenties. But I have to deal with it. And I will continue to have to.
Dating is difficult now as I feel very fragile and am concerned it’ll be assumed the I’m too serious and not enough ‘fun’ the way I am now. So, I have stopped any romantic anything until after this is all over. It has really not left a bit of my life untouched.
Despite my efforts to feel safe in public, I still don’t.”
I really hope that this has helped shed some light on the behind the scenes of a rape case. I don’t think that this is discussed enough in our society and honestly, had I known the impact of dredging all of this up for strangers in suits making important decisions, I probably wouldn’t have pressed charges. I would like to say to anyone that has experienced anything similar to what I have detailed in this article: you’re amazing. You are not alone; I see you and well done for standing up for yourself and helping create a safer society.
Victimsofcrime.vic.gov.au. (2020). Victim Impact Statements | Victims of Crime Victoria. [online] Available at: https://www.victimsofcrime.vic.gov.au/going-to-court/victim-impact-statements [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].