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What to know and expect before coming forward - from personal experience

I lied to my family about where I was - the truth is I was alone at the police station at 17 years old.

By Breanna BottenPublished 2 months ago 13 min read
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What to know and expect before coming forward - from personal experience
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Hi. My name is Breanna and I am a 19 year old girl who came forward about sexual assault at 17 years old, and I thrive by advocating for all other victims out there too. I've had three different people take advantage of me, all at different times of my life, and two of them being family members. At the end of 2021 I came forward TO my family about the two family members, and I ended up getting myself and my mother kicked out of our tiny basement, so that my assaulter could move into there because by coming forward, I ruined his life.

How tragic.

What’s actually tragic is that this event led me to be (almost) homeless for the second time in my life. At the start of 2022 my boyfriend’s mom heard about my situation as I fell down her stairs and started to ball my eyes out (because I just got told all this information before I arrived, and that I'd spend the rest of 2022 bunking with whatever family members would take me in - again). As soon as she heard about my situation she simply said “Nope Nope. No. You'll just live here. No. No problem. Don’t worry.” and gave me a hug (as I was balling my eyes out on her couch in her at-home office). It's been almost a year and I have been so happy living with my new family.

When I was 12 years old, I didn't have anywhere to call home for 6 months. My mom and I shared a tub full of our essential belongings, and each a backpack as we would bunk with whoever was willing to spare some space (all unrelated to the assaults).

Anyways, take it from me, I know a thing or two about “coming forward”. Of course every single person will have a different situation, but it can be nice to know that you aren’t alone, some of the fancy terminology law people use, and what to possibly expect / different kinds of possible outcomes, ‘N that's what I'm here for (insert wink).

With all that being said, here are some things that could be useful to know before coming forward with your own experiences - based on my experience!

1. It will be slow - like very slow. Unfortunately but fortunately the court systems nowadays like to be slow and take their time. If you ask anyone in law or the police force why it’s so slow they will tell you it’s because of two reasons: They take their time to be able to fully dissect each crime to make sure things are not poorly overlooked like in the 80s and 90s, and, that there's a lot of crime. Like a lot. Now more than EVER we have more and more people coming forward, sharing their voice, and reporting crimes. It's awesome, since a lot of this is a result of the Metoo movement. These results mean change is finally happening in a really important aspect of life. But, unfortunately this means that all these crimes are piling up in our systems, and there’s only so many lawyers, police officers and judges in the world - especially fair ones.

If you choose to go this legal route it’s important to remember that what IS important is the fact you finally came forward - no matter what age you are it is a huge step and it’s one to be INCREDIBLY proud of. It takes a lot of courage to come forward. It’s not easy and it's not for everyone. We all heal and cope in different ways and that is 100% okay.

2. It can be hard emotionally, and that’s okay.

You have to keep an open mind and be prepared for everything. The police do a good job of this as from the minute you walk in they tell you that there's an endless possibility of outcomes for every situation. Unfortunately, sometimes people come across a judge, counsellor or lawyer that you may not see eye to eye with or potentially get along with. Again, it can be draining but it can also be normal. The important thing to remember is that these are all temporary people. These are temporary moments that are leading up to the greater and bigger picture. The police will tell you hundreds of times that no matter what happens, at the end of the day your voice is out there. It's on record. That's a huge accomplishment and it’s also a big deal. EVEN IF you don't get the outcomes you had hoped for in court, they will remind you that if this person reoffends again, your voice will be there lingering in the system, making sure that this person FOR SURE doesnt get away the next time. I promise you by speaking your truth, and by always speaking your truth, it will never come back to bite you in the butt.

3 weeks before my trial date (that I had been waiting 2 years for) I met with my crown counsel lawyer with my victim’s worker. He handed me my statement to “refresh my brain” and prepare for trial. After I read my statement we sat in a boardroom and he asked me a few clarifying questions about my statement (my statement that wasn't even properly typed up, so he made me LISTEN to half of my original statement. I had to not only read my statement but I had to listen to it too). My lawyer then decided to tell me that he has no need for me to show up to court. As I looked down disappointingly and explained how I felt when he said that, my victim's worker even asked him why I shouldn’t show up and asked if there was something wrong with my statement. He responded by telling me he didn’t really want to go into further detail. Well, the details were fucking nuts.

He finished up the meeting and he left the room. I sat there for about an hour balling my eyes out, thinking about all the friends and family I was letting down. I was thinking about what I was gonna tell all those girls and friends that were waiting to hear how my trial went. Everyone knew how badly I wanted this day to finally happen and be over with. Everyone knew how long I had waited for trial as it was supposed to happen in March of 2022, it got postponed to November 2022. Three weeks before trial and this guy couldn’t even tell me why he didn't want me to show up to court and share my story?! Well as it turns out, the defence lawyer wanted to put an application in to separate me and the two other victims. There were three of us girls. Our trial was booked for 5 days, and each one of us had a specific day we were supposed to show up for. Well my lawyer wanted to cut me out of the photo because the judge would probably agree with the defense lawyer and say yes lets split these girls up and look at them microscopically (the system loves being slow!). So, by cutting me out of the picture they figured the judge would look at this application and think 2 people are no biggy. And 2 people is better than 1. And three different 1v1s isn't as strong as a 2v1. But at this point a 3v1 (the original trial plans) was looking unlikely. This was their solution. To silence me. A few weeks before trial. I had a really hard time that week. It was so much to process. I was so mad at the world. I didn’t know who specifically I was mad at but I was just filled with rage and sadness. Why should I be there in the audience watching the trial go ahead knowing damn well I'm a victim? I did my best to cope and forget about it. I realised there was literally nothing I could do. A week agoes by and we’re now a week exactly before trial and the defence plead guilty. It was a fucking MIRACLE. This is the most egotistical person in the whole world, I didn’t think for a second that there was a chance this person would ever plead guilty. But they did. Technically, what ended up happening was they plead guilty to the most “severe” girl’s case, and in exchange for pleading guilty and saving everyone's time, they dropped mine and one other girl’s charges. The judge will still see all three of us victims on the paperwork, but they will only be dissecting one. Honestly, we all took this as a win. It was a weird scenario from the beginning, since there was more than one victim coming forward, and so for us to hear they plead guilty was a shock to anyone and everyone involved in our case. But of course, this two year process was a ROLLERCOASTER of emotions, and that’s okay. In the end, everything was for the greater good.

3. Even if you show up to the police station alone and think you are alone, I promise you that you are NOT alone.

I cannot tell you how many times I've either called places or physically been to intakes regarding counselling and mental support, and I get ghosted. When you come forward to the police you get given a victims worker, and you get prioritized on the waiting list for counselling - specifically for victims. All free. This was like music to my ears. I get as many sessions as I want for one year. I got to try a few different counsellors before I found one I like, AND I got invited to join a 2 month long support group with about 7 other girls aged 14-18 who are also victims of assault. Even though it was during covid it was a really nice distraction. They give very nice welcome and goodbye gifts filled with lots of goodies. Like the good shit. They had socks and journals from chapters, david tea packets, fidget toys, a mug, it was all so cute and it's the little moments like that that make coming forward worth it. Even though I showed up to the police completely alone when I had just turned 17, in the end I wasn’t alone. From the support group with the girls I actually ended up making a few friends as we all exchanged information at the end.

4. You’re going to meet a lot of temporary people - and you may not like them all (and that’s okay).

As per the story I referenced earlier, the meeting with my crown counsel lawyer, you’re not going to like everyone you meet. I wasn't a fan of this person as they didn’t exhibit proper “victim” handling. The answers and empathy I got was miniscule. My mother met this person for literally 45 seconds and even felt something off. She has been working with criminal lawyers for over 25 years, and so she is quite familiar with proper etiquette and professionalism. She is also very un-opinionated person because of this. She’s a very professional and neutral person, and yet even she wasn’t fond of her own interaction with this crown. It felt like a waste of space to send me - a chronically ill girl all the way downtown to meet with this crown when they could have spared me the gas and energy and told me the information over the phone. At the end of the day this was just one little moment and day of my life. It was temporary. It wasn’t gonna be this annoying person that mattered at the end of the day; it was gonna be my justice, and I was hopeful of getting it one way or another.

5. There’s gonna be a lot of fancy law people lingo - and it can get confusing or overwhelming sometimes.

Keep in mind I am still and was a kid when this stuff all started for me. There was a lot I didn't understand. By having a victims support worker, she basically broke down every process and all terminology for me. She was a life saver. She is so kind, so patient, and so brilliant. Everyone I know benefits greatly by choosing to have a victims support worker by their side. 10/10 recommend.

In Canada, what happens is you go and give a statement. The police then further investigate. They gather all details, all evidence, they talk to the perpetrator, let them know what's happening, and give them a chance to tell their side of the story. They are allowed to refuse to say anything. Then, all of this information and evidence is passed forward to crown counsel to be reviewed. If they review it and say yes we believe a crime has taken place here, then we all move forward. They then see whether the perpetrator pleads guilty or not guilty. If they say guilty then it's straight to sentencing. If they plead not guilty, then you have to wait for a trial date where you show up and fight this shit out. Most of the time defense lawyers will use a tactic where they encourage their clients to plead not guilty in hopes of dragging on the case and the trial dates, and to get the victims to chicken out. DON'T FALL FOR IT. They are doing this because they know they ain’t got shit on you. I find a lot of younger men try to go around claiming that the accusations against them are lies during all the waiting periods (especially near the beginning). I find they like to play mind games on us girls, and it's awful. As long as you push through and speak your truth, it’ll be worth it. Trial will come around and next thing they know, they are a labeled sex offender. You never ever know what's going to happen if you don’t try. I even felt so discouraged a week before my trial, and we got the most shocking end results because we stood together and we didn’t back down. Also, the moment you come forward and give your statement, the perp is told they are not allowed to have any contact with you, your home, your place of religious practice, etc. They give you your file number and a number to call in case you find yourself ever near this person again, which can be quite comforting.

At the end of the day we're all different people with different experiences. but if there's one thing we have in common, its the injustice that has been put onto us. I know people who have only started to address their assaults against them that happened at age 18 when they were in their 40s. I know girls who came forward at 13 and then again at 14. I know some people who never come forward. we all heal so differently and that is OKAY. What's not okay is blaming yourself, victimizing yourself, or thinking you are alone. I am here today to remind you that you are NOT alone, no matter what stage youre at with your own healing, I am here. I am here to listen, and I am here to speak up not only for myself, but for all of those who think they don't have a voice; I promise you, you do.

If you have read this far just know my heart is full and you are greatly appreciated. I send love to all of those who are going through their own battles, and to anyone who reads or shares my story. You are loved.

Any tips or donations would be used for medications, food, and rent, and will be put to good use<3.

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About the Creator

Breanna Botten

Hi! I am a 19 yr old chronically ill girl (POTS), & I am a survivor. I have been through a LOT, so it takes a lot to phase me! Feel free to join me, as I discover my voice. Any reads, tips, feedback, or shares are appreciated. Much love, B

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