Transcending
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Transcending

Reflections Of Crime Victims

Howard Zehr

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eBook - ePub

Transcending

Reflections Of Crime Victims

Howard Zehr

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About This Book

Are victims of crime destined to have the rest of their lives shaped by the crimes they've experienced? ("What happened to the road map for living the rest of my life?" asks a woman whose mother was murdered.) Will victims of crime always be bystanders in the justice system? ("We're having a problem forgiving the judge and the system, " says the father of a young man killed in prison.) Is it possible for anyone to transcend such a comprehensively destructive, identity altering occurrence? ("I thought, I'm going to run until I'm not angry anymore, " expresses a woman who was assaulted.) Howard Zehr presents the portraits and the courageous stories of 39 victims of violent crime in Transcending: Reflections of Crime Victims. Many of these people were twice-wounded: once at the hands of an assailant; the second time by the courts, where there is no legal provision for a victim's participation. "My hope, " says Zehr, "is that this book might hand down a rope to others who have experienced such tragedies and traumas, and that it might allow all who read it to live on the healing edge."

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Information

Publisher
Good Books
Year
2001
ISBN
9781680992755
Part I
Stories and Reflections of Crime Victims
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All the rungs on a ladder are removed.
My ex-husband Tom had chosen not to see Jennifer and David at all from January to September, 1994. Then in September, out of the blue, he started wanting to be part of their lives. Something changed, and I thought it was positive. Christmas Eve day he picked them up, and he was probably in the best mood I had ever seen him be in. The next morning we found that he had stabbed Jen and Dave, then killed himself.
Little did I know, until after it all happened, that he had an actual checklist of everything he needed to do. The last item was to kill Jennifer and David. He thought David was the devil and Jennifer was an angel. We found out later that he thought he was God and that he was doing some kind of wonderful thing by saving them from this life.
The only constant I had after that was my job. I didn’t have Jen and Dave. I couldn’t bear to stay over or sleep in my home, so I lost my house. Friends that I thought I had weren’t friends. It was like starting at zero.
I had constant panic attacks and I really struggled with suicide. I replayed things—my ritual was to get in the tub every night and play everything over and over again. I put myself in Jennifer’s position. I put myself in David’s. Jennifer was killed first and didn’t know what happened. The hardest thing was what David was feeling at that moment; how could any father do something like that? The what-ifs were just endless for me. The visions and memories overwhelmed me because nothing made sense.
People didn’t know what to do so they avoided me. People thought that if they’d bring up the subject, they’d hurt me, so our relationships just faded. I needed people who were associated with Jen and Dave. But as time goes on, sometimes I feel that that group of friends expects me to stay sad; they don’t want me to move on. I think I’m disconnecting with them.
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LYNN SHINER
I can’t reorder anything because if I did, I would just pick up the scrambled pieces and put them back in order. It’s more like all the rungs on a ladder are removed. I’m at the bottom and have to start all over. You build, you create a new life. I have a couple of pieces from my old life that I have fit in.
I enjoy company with my friend Carol and others who never knew Jen and Dave. It helps that she has victim experience, and she just takes me for who I am. I can just be me, and it’s okay that I want to enjoy life. When I see Carol, there’s no association with Jen and Dave. Now I don’t need somebody to generate memories because they are inside me—Jen and Dave are here right now. They are constantly with me.
Now I don’t need to dwell on what happened. No matter how many what-ifs, I can’t bring them back. In my mind I have a china cabinet with glass doors and there’s a key to it. Fairly often I open my china cabinet, and I take out Jen and Dave. I go through what happened to Jen and Dave, but in order to be okay I put them back in. I put them away and close the door, but I’m only closing the door on that tiny part, the murder. I have such good memories and I have a presence of them here. They are here, they’re with me, and they leave me signs all the time.
In the beginning, I felt I had no right to be happy. That was a major struggle. How can I be happy when I don’t have Jen and David? Now I can say that I’m happy, although I’m not as happy as I could be. I know I go down a lot, but not as often. When I go down, sometimes I can’t explain it and sometimes it’s because of a trigger. At Christmas I go down severely. I don’t celebrate Christmas at all.
I don’t think I’d be here without my present husband Paul. Anytime I had thoughts of suicide, he always wanted me to tell him. Instead of being angry at me he’d say, “Just talk about it.” Sometimes talking and putting those thoughts out there made me feel better. He was a real pillar. And staying busy was important. I started running with my husband and we trained for a marathon. By the end of the day, I’d be completely wiped out. I think I took a lot of frustration and anger out that way. I read a lot, too; it helped me to know that I was not crazy. And I never had a pet before, but this guy—this cat—made a huge difference in the grieving process. Animals know when you don’t feel well and just come up and cuddle on your chest.
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In my dreams I’ve killed Tom a good two dozen times in some of the grossest, most gruesome ways you can imagine. I’ve tortured him to no end. Then I’d wake up very upset. You don’t think you’re capable of killing, but in those dreams, the trigger clicks so easily! I know they’re just dreams. That’s not me. I don’t think I would hurt anybody, but how do you know until you go through it?
I’m not totally in control yet, but I decided that I didn’t want to just exist. I value life, and for Jen and Dave to be so shortchanged in life, I’m going to make up for them. It’s like the three of us are in the routine together. They’re with me, and it would be wrong for me not to value life. What would they think of me if I didn’t value my own life? I need to make up for what they would have offered. I’m not going to fix or change the world, but, while I’m here, I’m going to make a difference. They’re with me, and they’re proud of me!
Do you know some of the things I’ve done? The first was to start a golf tournament in memory of Jen and Dave, and now we also have a silent auction. This year we expect to raise $50,000, and all the proceeds go to domestic violence programs.
After Tom killed Jen and Dave, I learned he had been stalking a disc jockey in Lancaster. She had called the police and written two letters saying that she was afraid for his children, and that the mother should be contacted. My first question was, “Why wasn’t I ever notified?” That’s how the Jen and Dave Law came about. The law is passed now and says that if two people are in a custody situation, each has the right to find out about the other person’s criminal activity. I was appointed by the governor to the Victim Service Advisory Committee, and I now manage the Compensation Division.
Redbook did an article and asked me why I do these things. My response back then was because I’m selfish. If it benefits other people, fine, but that’s an extra. Now, as time goes by, I’m starting to feel differently. It’s not just for me anymore.
I’m different now. I feel that I have an advantage over my old self. When I said “Don’t sweat the small stuff” before, I was just saying it. Now I have it in my heart. So many things don’t mean anything to me anymore. I have lots to keep me busy, but I’m not in a real hurry anymore. And I have people skills that just came out of somewhere. I don’t know if they were always there, but now I don’t just deal with the task, I deal with the person.
I joke with a friend of mine that I know I need to forgive, so when I’m on my deathbed and there’s only five second left, then I’ll forgive him. There’s surely no need now. What’s the purpose? God tells you that you need to forgive, so I’ll just sneak that in right at the end.
Eighteenmonths later: Through recent experiences, I’ve come to realize the darkness and anger that are still in my head, and the amount of energy they take from me. He has ruined my past. I’m beginning to toy with the idea of forgiveness so that I don’t allow him to destroy my future as well.
— Lynn Shiner
For so many years, nobody believed me.
When I was 11 years old, I said to my grandmother, “Why does life hurt so much?” She said, “I don’t know, baby, but remember this: all of us are here for a reason. Some of us have to hurt before we find our reason.” Since my faceto-face meeting with my stepfather, my abuser, I’ve come to believe that one reason I was abused, the reason I was called a mouthy little bitch, was so that I would know what pain is like. I think my purpose now is to stop others from going through it. If I’m still a mouthy bitch, so be it. But I’m going to let people know abuse can happen in your own backyard.
Mental and physical abuse is what I grew up with from the day I was born. My father was alcoholic and brutally violent. My aunt remembers one time when she had to go get the police because he had a gun to my head and was threatening to blow my head off. Eventually my mother left him and became an alcoholic, and I became in charge of my sister and me. Then my mother met my stepdad. He made her stop beating us but then the sexual abuse started. It carried on until I got married at 19 and left home.
Then my first husband was also alcoholic and abused me; he raped me with a broken beer bottle in the middle of the night. My mother and my sister refused to speak to me for two years when I left my first husband because they didn’t believe what I told them about him.
For so many years, no one believed me about the sexual abuse because my stepfather told everyone I was a lying little bitch, that I was the one causing trouble. Even Social Services didn’t do anything, and the police said, “There is nothing we can do since your mother refuses to press charges and you are under age.” That’s when I gave up on the justice system. It was like a slap in the face. Later, my second husband encouraged me to press charges and I did, but my biggest regret in life was going to trial. I lost too much; it wasn’t worth it.
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janet bakke
Everyone talks about steps to healing, steps to closure. For me it’s more like chapters. This chapter is over—it’s time to move on to the next one.
When I was young, I almost turned to prostitution because it was a way of not having to go home. But something inside me just said, No. I never did drugs, I never drank, I never did prostitution. I always tried to stay on the good side, because deep inside I knew that one day the people that hurt me were going to pay. I wanted to make sure that when I made them pay, I could stand up and defend myself with a clear conscience. I didn’t want to give them the excuse that, “Oh, she doesn’t remember because she was on drugs.” In a way, they all have paid, although not enough. Grandma said that in the end, those who do wrong will pay, and those who do right will not. I know that when they meet their maker, they are not going to meet the same maker as I am!
There were no high points in my life before my son was born in 1986. He was my first accomplishment, in my books. Another high point for me was meeting Dave and Sandy from the victim offender mediation program. They believed in me. They didn’t pity me but they understood, and they never said it didn’t happen. That was what I had been searching for—somebody just to believe me, because nobody would.
Then they gave me something I had wanted all my life: a chance to sit down with my stepfather and question him without him being able to get up and run away. To hear him actually admit the truth was one of the highest points of my life. It was the first time he actually admitted that he had done those things. It was the first time he didn’t call me a lying little bitch.
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It was a healing stage because I needed to tell him how he destroyed my life. I was able to face him, and I wasn’t afraid of him anymore. I got to hold him accountable to me—not to the justice system, not to his case management officer. He had to sit there and look me in the eye and be accountable to me. He had control over me all those years; now I took control.
You know what? It was a better feeling than if you handed me a check for a million dollars. And when he said, “You didn’t put me here; I put myself here,” it was the most powerful thing he could have said, because he finally admitted it. I don’t believe he fully believed those words—they were out of a book—but it was helpful because I had witnesses when he said, “I did this to you.”
I’m not angry with him anymore. I told him at the face-to-face that I forgave him because I know deep in my heart that he didn’t do it to hurt me. He did it because that was the only thing he knew. Also, my relationship with him wasn’t all bad either. He taught me a lot of good. But he’s not ready to be in society. I put him in jail so he could learn appropriate behavior, but he’s not learning it. He’s going to do it again. What a waste of time!
The meeting with my stepfather in prison was the end of a chapter, the end of my being angry with him. The next chapter was grief. I had to come to terms with the fact that I had lost my stepfather forever and that he’s not going to change.
Ten years ago I hated the world and thought the world owed me. I hated my mother, my sister, my father. I don’t hate any of them anymore. Sometimes I’m angry with them and I feel sorry for them, but I don’t hate them like I used to. I know, too, that I’m never going to get what I want out of the world. I can only get what I want from me. I’m the one who will change things. Nobody else can do it for me.
The dove has become my own little symbol because of my search for peace, but also because it is a sign of freedom. As a child, I thought I was searching for freedom, but it wasn’t freedom. It was peace. I confused it with freedom because my stepdad and mom had such control over me. I realized about six months ago that I had to make peace with myself and forgive myself before I could expect others to make peace with me. My life has been a big storm and now it’s calm.
— Janet Bakke
I have to live with the fact that I made that decision.
My son had been incarcerated in the county jail on a drug charge. One day my assistan...

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