Victim Impact Evolution

Tuesday night I was at the Federal Prison (FCI) in Fort Worth as the single speaker for Victim Impact group. I don’t know if they had other speakers on previous nights or if they will have others on following nights, I do know

FCI Fort Worth, Enterance

the Fort Worth program is unique in several ways from other programs I participate in, here is how:

  1. There is always only one speaker per night
  2. Often the participants take the program more than once
  3. Smaller groups

Victim Impact is intended to help offenders gain insight and understanding into the affect their actions have on others. It is a voluntary program for those on the inside. Those of us who speak are also volunteers; we didn’t volunteer to be victims obviously, only to ultimately step outside of our rage and pain to tell our stories where it might do the most good.

I always have mixed emotions heading into the Victim Impact Groups. My mind sprints down well-worn paths, through dark times in preparation, honestly I never know what I will say or what direction I will go. At Fort Worth FCI the entire two hours is mine, it isn’t the panel sessions where there are three to four speakers, this is my time to shock and awe. This time was different; so much has changed in the last year. Some of those changes caused me to retreat inside myself, to live within my own battered emotional landscape this was part of my evolution. Some were normal justice system; the first release of one of my attackers last month and then within 10 days of each other, notification the two others were entering the Parole system. I am having to rethink my position on a great many things, my normal calm was well, not so calm.

FCI Fort Worth Fenceline, perhaps my own as well

I usually like Fort Worth FCI, I like the smaller groups and for some strange reason I like the interaction; it is less formal, less structured than the other panels. Yes, it is still a Federal Prison and yes I still walk through the gates that clang loudly as they shut behind me and through the yard, always a strange journey; yes, I am still facing a group of offenders and delivering ‘my story’ so they might learn something from it. There was a difference this time though, as I drove the hour to my destination I couldn’t put my finger on it but there was a difference. I don’t usually have speakers’ nerves, this time I couldn’t focus my thoughts, something right under the surface kept beating against the door kept locked tightly, my emotional reserve.

The cliff notes version of what we are supposed to say:

  1. Tell the story of what happened, how you became a victim
  2. Tell the impact of the crime
  3. Make it real and make it emotional

Usually when any of us speak the story is the largest part of our time, all the details all the horrifying gruesome details. I don’t know why this is but for some reason this is what we have taught each other to do, to make the violence real. This is especially true for those of us who are first person victims, there aren’t many of us, but for those of us who are willing to stand up we have been coached and so we follow that three part script.

This time I found myself standing in from of thirty men, some of whom I had seen in the program before all staring at me expectantly and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t follow the script. I had all this time to fill and I simply could not do what was expected of me. My voice has changed; my story has changed in the twenty years since the crime I have evolved and in the year since I had last been at FCI things had happened that had caused me to re-think some of my positions.

MAAT Goddess of Truth and Justice, Courtesy of Wikipedia

I told my story, that hasn’t changed the violence and the facts haven’t changed.

I told the impact on my family and friends, that hasn’t changed it is only the truth.

Then I talked about evolution, my own. I talked about how it felt to know the first of my attackers was out and free. Not about my anger, my fear for him not of him, his entire life lost for a stupid childhood choice. I talked about their choices as well, their children as victims just like the three who shot me. I talked about Remorse and the need to hear the words and see acts of contrition, not simply because these words and deeds move an offender towards early release, but because they are true and heartfelt. I talked about Forgiveness and the truth of it, not that it is due or a right, but instead it is a gift they may never receive, not from any of their victims including their families.

I talked for an hour. After that hour I opened the floor and instead of talking at the group I talked with them. The one question that nearly tipped me over the edge:

Had I ever considered ‘they’ were my victims as much as I was their victim?

My answer was of course NO. His explanation was that by demanding justice, by demanding they remain in prison for their full term, by continuing to ask how the state could consider Parole where there was no sign of remorse I was victimizing. That perhaps they did feel remorse but did not know how to express it; he felt remorse for his bad acts but had difficulty. I simply pointed out that he was taking steps to learn by participating in the Victim Impact Program; but never could he equate my demand for justice as a victimization of my attackers. They got time, I got life.

A comment from one of the participants who had been in the program previously:

You are calmer now, not so angry.

Finally one of the questions that I thought was interesting and generated some discussion:

How do you not hate?

I am going to leave this one open to anyone who wants to answer it. I might come back and answer later, it is funny but I have never hated my attackers.

My plate has been full lately and I am trying hard to find my normal balance, my normal pragmatism hasn’t been in operational mode. It is the season of Victim Impact, I am wondering if I should sit this year out, try to shake what holding me hostage the fence line holding me back.

Original Story:


  1. Reblogged this on onlinedatingjournal and commented:
    Let me introduce you to a wonderful and inspiring blogger. Her writing and stories is very inspirational. I was even honored to meet her in person.

  2. I love “They got time, I got life.”

    • It is something I say regularly when I speak, it is the truth. What we do with the changes to our body and our outlook is entirely up to us, but it doesn’t change that for me my health and my body were forever changed. I am glad you are reading.

  3. I applaud what you are doing. It’s not easy for some of us to tell our stories, even once.

    • That is so true. This path, this evolution has taken me to a very strange place. I continue to learn and to grow from the experience. It isn’t always welcome, believe me.


  4. I wouldn’t even know how to answer the last question.
    I think it’s great that you can continue to bring your experience to light, to work through it and to hopefully have it work through others. So many times, people hide or bury such events, but they never go away. You seem to be dealing with it head on, letting out it’s steam and refusing to let it get the best of you.

    • I always answer this one the same way Lorre, what is the opposite of Hate? Usually the answer in these groups is Love. It generates a great deal of discussion, that is never my answer.

      So if that isn’t my answer I always ask ‘what is the opposite of Love’?

      The answer is indifference.

      Evolution is funny. I am working through this. I hope against hope that what I say touches some of them. I have never spoken in a panel where at lest 2/3 of them didn’t have children on the outside, these are the greatest victims of all, children left alone.

  5. All I can say is that I genuinely admire your courage.

  6. AirportsMadeSimple says:

    Hi Valentine! I, too, was a victim of a terrible crime. I chose not to press charges because I wasn’t mentally up for the task (and a little afraid of them – there were three). The Universe has a way of evening things out. In this case, I moved on. Then, one day, my paths crossed with one of them. He turned pale, then gave me an apology and said he’d “lived in a high state of fear since that day that the police would knock on his door and take him away.” A very valid fear, I might add. However, he asked for my forgiveness and said the prior years had been one disaster after another. Everything in his life had failed. I said I forgave him (I don’t forget). Not sure what the state of any of their lives are today. But I don’t think I’d have the courage to go through the system the way you’re doing.

    • I think you must mean you didn’t report the crime, it is a mistake so many of us make. In my case there was no choice, the report was out of my hands. Citizens do not have a choice about pressing charges it is always the “state” versus the “offender” especially in violent crime. The victim becomes nothing more than evidence of the crime itself. It is a very strange thing indeed that our humanity is reduced to evidence and our voice silenced until sentencing and even then it means little than emotional consideration for a judge and jury.

      There are only two crimes in where we, the victims have an option not to report; Rape and Domestic Abuse. I understand these terrible issues. Some day I will write about both the issue and the system. I understand also the choice not to report in both cases, the system can be a terrible thing; for the offender and the victims especially. Forgiveness is something we can grant but isn’t owed. It is my mantra, when I speak it is the one thing so many don’t understand and are often offended terribly by. That you gave this gift shows great strength.

      • AirportsMadeSimple says:

        Yes, agree with your points. I understand now. I only had to forgive because I wanted what was best for me. Dwelling on something I couldn’t change seemed pointless at the time, and I was young: 18. I would react differently today, but my reasons at the time were to preserve family reputation (it was rape). Small town, etc…I was very sheltered as a young girl, so it really didn’t dawn on me because no one had explained how these things could happen. Thankfully, today, women are more educated.

        • I am so sorry. There are so many of us in this nation, so many rape survivors who never report and never see justice. So many who retreat and believe that somehow it is in someway our fault. That by not reporting we preserve our and our family reputation. I have touched on this already in previous blogs though not the full extent of the pain. Again, I am so sorry. I am happy you feel you are whole and recovered, at least I hope you feel as if you are. Again, your forgiveness to even one of your attackers is a great gift.


          • AirportsMadeSimple says:

            I do feel fine today (much therapy, a little wine) 🙂 Thank you. I’m not going to waste another second of my life doing 1) what others think I should do and 2) give too much attention to the someones who were but a brief moment in time. My husband deserves more! – Ha – Also, same to you. You are very strong.

  7. What an amazing person you are. I read you blog because it forces me to open my mind and to think about things that might sometimes be out of my sphere of experience. This is one of those things…
    However I think the journey you’ve traveled since this first happened is a marvel and credit to your spirit and fortitude …. Sincerest thanks for sharing a small part of this with us all….

    • Carol, hi

      I am glad you take something new from it. I am also learning from putting it down and opening it up. Those who read and comment help me to see my journey in new light so I welcome the comments. Thank you.


  8. Each time I see one of your posts in my inbox I want to wait until I have plenty of time to read, think, read again. You always have such a complex story to share.

    Each time I see one of your posts I am amazed at your, and at humanity’s skills: to hurt and to heal. The Yin and Yang as it were.

    Today I am thinking about the man who asked if you were victimizing your attackers. At first I was astonished, shocked. Until I read on. No, I don’t think that you are victimizing them in any way shape or form. But our society’s neglect of entire segments of itself leaves us with a whole bunch of people who can’t feel and who can’t feel and/or express remorse.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • Elyse, though my initial response was fury at his use of the word, because well because it holds such single mindedness and I was nearly brought to my knees with pain. Then I listened, because he was still young and he was also damned near illiterate also, victim was likely the only word he had. What he said was he felt remorse for his actions, he was sorry for what he had done and he didn’t have the words or the power to express his remorse; maybe my offenders felt as he did and they also felt powerless, maybe they also did not have the words.

      I had to let go of the fury, that red hot flash that went through me at his words so I could hear what he was trying to ask me. It was hard to do. It didn’t change what I had to say back to him. That no my life was forever changed by their actions, I was worth more than the laughter they left as they walked away from my prone and bleeding body in the street. I had the right to the justice and the remorse I asked for.

      They could never be my victims, but indeed as a society our War on Drugs has created younger and younger children who are remorseless, without parents, without hope and thus all of our victims for not caring for the destruction we leave in our wake.

      I am learning Elyse, learning my secrets cannot harm me except by keeping them so tightly held. I am glad and thankful you read.

  9. Running from Hell with El says:

    This is a beautiful post. My friend, The Monster in Your Closet, sent me here. I do think that both victims and criminals should and can evolve. This does not change the crime. It just indicates that we have changed and grown.

    • She is my muse so many days, I find just the words I need to shake loose something caught in my brain. I will need to remember to thank her, again!

      If I didn’t believe evolution was possible, I would never be able to stand in front of a room full of offenders and tell my story, ever. I use to say if I touched just one person each time it was enough. I suppose I still believe that, but now I want more. I want change, I want evolution of our system to be part of the solution. When I ask how many have children and every man in the room raises his hand I weep inside, those children are victims too.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.


      • Running from Hell with El says:

        I agree, re wanting more . . . and am fighting right there with you. xo.

  10. I am glad we talked about this. I think there is more to the evolution than you have credited yourself. The journey is never through, but the path is in an ascent. It is a healing of a different nature. We shall speak more of this, and I may well use this later.
    Love you for all you are,

    • My sister I think you know I credit myself with little lately, it is just my way through. The trees have fallen across the path and my arms are tired with swinging my axe, perhaps I need one of those new-fangled chainsaws. My anger, never far from the surface is calmer now, less red hot, less quick to ignite; still there though especially as I stare at the letters from Texas State Board of Parole telling me I must yet again respond, yet again react.

      Love you also – Val

  11. Wow, I just read your posts about what happened to you. I am truly amazed at your ability to persevere and to actually reach out to help people like the men who hurt you. How admirable and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Thanks for reading. It wasn’t a great day, but we either learn and evolve or we stop on the worst day of our life and never go forward. I cannot imagine stopping and there are now three generations sharing prisons yards, it is a travesty of justice and this nations should be ashamed.

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