On My Knees

I haven’t forgiven this doesn’t mean I want them dead it just means I don’t forgive their violence. It also means I think sometimes, those days when crawling out of bed are so hard, I want them to hurt like I hurt. Some days, those days when I think I will breakdown and call the doctor begging for something stronger than Ibuprofen 800 for pain management I think Damn them to hell forever, I don’t want to live my life this way and my fury rises up and I weep. I cannot help the way I feel I am not a saint, my halo has not been granted.

For about eight years, I have been an activist in the criminal justice system. I speak in a program called Victim Impact inside of the Prison system of Texas. I speak to offenders in Federal, State and Juvenile lock-up and to the Parole groups ordered into the program. I do not speak out of hate or revenge; I don’t speak to hammer a captive audience with anger. I speak because I hope each time to touch one heart; just one would be enough for me. One heart that will leave the room with a different perspective on the relationship between themselves and their acts, their victims that includes their own families, their children and of course, the person they directly harmed.

I have spent eight years telling my story. There are some days when I walk into the rooms and look out at the faces I am decimated by their youth. I ask how many have children, they all raise their hands and I consider the lives of my three offenders, just children themselves twenty years ago at the time our lives intersected, each with at least one parent behind bars at the time they kidnapped and shot me three times. Their histories are the genesis of my activism, the framework of my thinking about how we each create the ever-expanding ripples through our judgment, acts, remorse and yes-even forgiveness.

Over the years, I have evolved, I thought. I believe each of us has the ability to reform our life, that with few exceptions each of us has the capacity to change our lives. If I didn’t believe this, I could not walk through the gates of prisons, stand before violent offenders, and say I believe they have the capability to make positive change. If I didn’t believe compassion and empathy existed, even in the most hardened of humans, I could not stand before them and say to them…

“You have the ability to change the life of your children. You have the ability to change your own life by tapping into your empathy.”

Now I have to ask myself is all I do and all I say simply a panacea for my ego or perhaps simply a pragmatic intellectual exercise that I haven’t truly absorbed into my heart and spirit. Perhaps, it is something else altogether. Perhaps what I say only applies to everyone else, offenders and victims together but not to me and not to my offenders. I have run into a brick wall, the wall of my intellect fighting my heart. My heart is winning today. My heart won last Wednesday and has won every day since Wednesday since I opened the letter from the Texas State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

“This is to inform you Your Offender has been granted Parole”

Charge: 2 Counts Attempted Capital Murder w/Deadly

Sentence: 35 years, 20 years

Sentence Date: April 13, 1993

Release Date: March 9, 2027

Parole Granted: October 4, 2012

When I opened that letter I was sitting at my desk, on the phone with my heart sister Red I think I went silent, the tears started, my heart stopped. I am not a Saint. I am barely human. My heart sister didn’t know, I slipped from my chair to my knees and had I not been on the phone with her my primal scream would have shook the walls. Instead all I could do is ask her to stop, stop talking please give me a minute, please let me read to her what I had just silently read to myself. The tears continued as I sobbed, I had already memorized the words though I didn’t have to read them. My life, dammit My Life.

My letters to the Parole Board obviously did not matter. My discussion with the head of the Parole board at Powledge Unit, none of that mattered. Clearly, I could have simply ignored all of that and the outcome would have been the same. My life, all the days I can’t move without wanting to fall to the floor that is worth twenty years. There is something far worse though, something that is causing me to want to crawl into my closet and stay there, re-examine myself closely.

I am not a saint, not that I have ever proposed I was. But I thought I was better than this. Better than demanding my pound of flesh. Better than demanding revenge. I did not realize I had not reconciled my pragmatic intellectual self, the part that believes remorse, rehabilitation and re-entry is not only possible but the hoped for outcome. I did not know this about myself, did not understand I had not brought my heart and mind together that I meant it, but not about MY OFFENDERS. I did not know this would cause me such fury.

I didn’t know I lacked compassion I think this devastates me more than I can even begin to measure.

I didn’t know I was false a sham. This also devastates me.

I am Mute Today

I have been quiet the past few days, in trying to process the horrible news out of Colorado and my own reactions I have been quiet. No, not entirely quite but more quiet than is my norm. Some people who know me well have asked when I was going to jump into my normal forums with both feet and all ten fingers, others have asked why my Facebook page isn’t full of condemnation (there are a few comments). Instead, I have stayed mostly quiet.

Why you might ask, it is a good question. I am not the quiet type; in fact, I am a bit of a firebrand most days. I admit to being quite outspoken on some issues. There are issues in the public domain that chap my ass, cause me great anger and some sleepless nights. Truthfully, there are many such issues these days.

I don’t want to talk about politics though, not today. I don’t want to talk about the public domain at all. I want to tell you why I have been mostly quiet, not even visiting your blogs for the last few days.

I just couldn’t.

I was paralyzed by my own personal sorrow, fear and memories.

All I could think about is how terrified those victims in Aurora must have been. All I could think about was how terrified their families must have felt while waiting for news, was it their mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife or child. All I could think about is my family when I was shot and left for dead by strangers. All I could think about was how I felt laying on the side of a road with three bullets in me, put there by strangers who were not crazy, were not insane and did not have any reason to hate me. 

I was paralyzed and my voice silenced by fear and memories. Each time I tried to write, each time I tried to comment my hands would shake and my eyes would fill with tears the screen would blur, coherency lost to muteness. It has been 7,367 days since I was shot; that is a lot of days. Some days I think it is behind me, some days I don’t even think about it in the sense of bullets flying. Other days I have no choice, the repercussions of that day are with me from the moment I wake up to the moment I lay down to sleep, sometimes beyond that moment.  

Aurora tied my tongue, made me mute in the face of great tragedy. More than this, I could not watch the news without my tears pooling in my eyes and streaming down my cheeks, their salt leaving a trail of bitterness in their wake. This morning I realized part of my sorrow is rooted in the great tragedy that is our national personality. That we are unable to come together even now and talk to each other without rancor, ideology and the drums of political animosity getting in the way of human decency. I saw this in my few forays on social media since Friday, each side standing their ground firmly refusing to step down from their positions even briefly to mourn the great loss of life. I backed down from the fight rather than continue.

I don’t have the heart for it not this day, not now.

Avoidance, Confusion, Consequence of Choice, Manipulation

I am heartbroken, partly because I was rendered mute. I didn’t know my memories were still so close to the surface. I didn’t know they could so easily shake me. I don’t know why this affected me more than other equally horrific acts of terrible violence. What I do know, we are a people that seem to ignore compassion and empathy as valued trait. I know many people on both sides of the argument who individually are wonderful human beings, who have compassion for those they know as individuals and don’t realize their words fall like hammers or fly like bullets, leaving gaping wounds. This is what demanded my silence, that I not stand my own ground even for what I believed was so desperately true, even for what was so personal.

Yes, we come together during times of tragedy, but then we turn our backs returning to our ideology and our rage with equal fervor, thus making certain the next heartbreak will occur and likely with more frequency and greater loss.

I didn’t have the heart for it today, tomorrow I will because I have to!

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: https://valentinelogar.com/2011/12/11/231/

Inside Domestic Abuse

The 112th Congress has refused to reauthorize the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, significant in the original passage it opened the door to what had previously been viewed as private family matters and provided both education and funding to help victims and law enforcement. Never, since its original passage has it been the subject of a partisan fight on the floor of either house of Congress, yet this year it is. The overall tone of the Right, women are of no particular value unless they are in the kitchen, pregnant and silent. The objection to the Bill, is the expansion of services, the boogie man of ‘other’; Gay, Transgender, Native Tribes and Immigrant Women are included in this years re-authorization, we all know none of us are part of humanity and should be served, right?

I wrote this several years ago. At the time, it was wrenching to write. Today it remains wrenching for me to read. To answer the question, I know first hand what it is to be a survivor of Domestic Abuse. I also know how very important this Bill is to all those Women and Men who are now and will be in the future Victims. I ran from an extremely volatile, horribly violent relationship after having been hospitalized multiple times with multiple broken bones, I knew I would not see my eighteenth birthday if I stayed. I had nowhere to go, no money and no support structure; still I ran as far and as fast as I could go.

I survived.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Why we stay, pitiful in our bruised bodies and our excuses, our fear palatable yet even before we are healed we return to the hell that is home. Why do we stay? The question is asked repeatedly, often with a tone of derision. Our answer, sometimes that we love him, sometimes worse that he doesn’t mean to hurt us he loves us. The truth though is harder for us to admit to you when you ask and ourselves; this is all we deserve and we have nowhere else to go.

How did we get here?

Is it because we seek what we believe that we deserve? Do we have a neon sign swinging over our head that says “I am here and vulnerable”; I will take it, whatever you dish out. I will take it and even be grateful to you for staying one more day, one more month, one more year.

Have we been so convinced by our mothers, our fathers, or society that we must conform, not speak out; not fight back that we will take the slaps, the closed fists, the kicks and on our knees begging for it to end still be thinking that he loves us and if only we do better it will not happen again?

Why is it that we stay? 

Why do we make excuses, transparent excuses for the broken teeth, the black eyes, the bruised arms? Why do others believe our excuses? Do they really think that we are so incapable of walking from our beds to our baths that we run into doors once a month or once a week? Is it easier to believe that we are so clumsy that we cannot walk up or down a flight of stairs? Do those who claim to care for us find it easier to ignore the truth than acknowledge that we are in danger?

Why is it that we allow ourselves to be so brutalized? What happens to us that our flight or fight instinct is entirely broken? We find no comfort, realizing even those to whom we reach out for help find us incomprehensible in our pain. Even if we finally find it in our spirits to run, to escape we are broken by the prison of our shame. Our defeat is what we carry with us; our inability to explain our willingness to take what our abuser gave; his love in closed fists, slaps, kicks, hate filled words that tore down the walls of our humanity and convinced us that we had no value in our homes or in the world.

Run, with Nothing but You

The telephone, our greatest enemy each time it rings we jump through our skin; we know it might be him. We know we are still weak and frail; that we have no defenses against his apologies and his protestations of his own weakness. Even through our nightmares; those screaming, cold sweat nightmares; we know that if we hear his sugar coated voice telling us that it will never happen again; we might believe him because we need. Who else will love us now? He has destroyed all that was ever lovable in us. We know that in our heart and soul; in whatever humanity we have left we know that we might listen and might return. It will be good for a while; as good as it was in the beginning. Then it will start again, we know that too; even knowing these absolute truths; we are weak and fearful and lonely.

Our frailty during our initial freedom, so tenuous, unreal to us because there is no one to confirm our existence and we don’t know where to begin. The slightest sound behind us is no longer the precursor to pain. The footsteps on the stairs, not a reason to fear but maybe a friend come to call instead. Bumps in the night no longer herald a rape by the person who promised to love and care for us. Still all those sounds send us into a paroxysm of fear, self-doubt and finally anger that our lives will never be without our abuser because he is inside of us; he has replaced everything  that was good with his vileness. We may have escaped him physically but we will never escape him fully, we think this now and in our hearts know this as a truth. We have lost ourselves to his definition of us, weak and of no value.

Nightmares

Our minds work in miraculous ways. If we can stay gone long enough we begin to heal and rebuild. We can begin to take the abuse he called love and place it in appropriate boxes sealing them tightly and marking them as our hated history. When the boxes are full of our past we can stack them in a room within our mind padlock the door; knowing that some day we might return to examine them to try to understand what led us there; but not today. Today just stack the boxes tightly, shut the door and turn the key. Face each day knowing that the door exists and all the boxes exist waiting for us to be strong and come back to learn; but not today. That we might revisit them in our nightmares and run screaming down the corridors of our sleeping mind; waking in cold sweats and shaking in fear; this we can escape. This will happen for some of us it will happen forever, when we least expect it sometimes at the end of what we thought was a great day. In our nightmares the maniacal horrors of our past will sneak through the cracks of that door we locked to terrorize us; to remind us of what was or what might have been.

Future Glory

Our history does not have to hold us hostage; we can shape our future we can redefine ourselves. We were somebody before they arrived to tear us down. Somewhere else in our mind we have a room with a locked door that contains the “us” before them, before the abuse. We have the key to that door also, even if it is lost in the trash that our abuser has piled on us. We have the ability to unlock that door and find the “me” that was before them. Perhaps we will find there were reasons we let them in, the neon sign that was lifted above our heads inviting them in; we can fix this. Possibly we will only find ourselves in the here and now that we are stronger now, more able to face today because of our past. Perhaps we will only find only that we can let go, say no more and look forward without fear.

Whatever we find we will ultimately know that we are precious, worth more than the blows, the slaps, the kicks, the venom that dripped from the lips of our abuser. We will know no amount of pain masked as love is the truth and abuse is not the reality that we deserve in our lives. We will roar our anger and our frustration at the waste of our days in agony rather than joy. We will cry out our pain. We will whisper our validations of self and finally scream our truths in the wind if no one else will hear us.

We will most certainly stand free of what was told to us as the truth knowing finally it was a lie.   

What Do You See

What do you see when you look at me? Through the years, I have worn many hats, played many roles and had many titles. But when you look at me what do you see?

I have participated in a program in Texas called Victim Impact for several years now. This program is intended to bring together ‘offenders’ and crime victims in an effort to build understanding and hopefully empathy in the offenders. While in some cases the program does bring face-to-face victims and their real offender, this isn’t the part of the program I volunteer in. The program I participate in is part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, sponsored by the State Attorney General. The Victim Impact Panels are conducted inside of Federal and State Prisons, County and State Juvenile Centers and for Paroled Adults and Teens. The intent and mission of the program is the development of empathy and compassion, something that is usually missing in offender’s make-up.

I often ask this question as part of my speaking portion of Victim Impact.

What do you see when you look at me?

  • Woman
  • White Woman
  • Blonde, Red Head, Brunette (depends on my choices it changes)
  • Beautiful Woman (I forgive them this many have been for a long time)
  • Mean Woman (lots of kids in the juvenile centers give this answer)
  • Victim (well they know this so they would see this)
  • Well-dressed woman (I usually dress in work clothes)
  • Rich Woman (I get this one often and always find it interesting, we aren’t allowed jewelry)
  • Tall Woman (I wear 5-inch heels but usually my pants conceal this)

The above are just some of the answers. Notice anything missing from this list? How about the following:

  • Mother
  • Sister
  • Daugher
  • Wife
  • Girlfriend
  • Grandmother

These are all the things necessary to see to humanize me, to make me real. What about the rest of us, how do we look out into the world at others, through the prism of our expectations and experiences? What do we see when we meet others, whether formally, informally or simply through media exposure.

Over the years, I have been brought face-to-face with men who have spent their entire adult lives in prison. When I first started this journey I will admit, my heart was hard and my mind closed, I was there for me I wanted them to feel my pain, my hurt and how my life crashed and burned. But then something changed in me and my heart started to shift. Perhaps it was the first program I did with juvenile offenders, thirty young men in a room; CorrectionsReport.comeach one had to stand and say how old they were, why they were there and for how long. Perhaps it was the first time I met young girls, some as young as thirteen in for prostitution, being punished for nothing less than being exploited, sold mainly by adults and to adults their youth laid to waste. While the young always leave me with holes in my heart and my soul crying for a justice that seems to be sadly missing in their young lives, I think this isn’t the one.

There is always a question and answer period after we speak our truths. There are usually at least three of us speaking on any panel. Sometimes questions are directed at one of us specifically other times someone will just speak to all of us, this was one of those occasions.

At one of the State Penitentiary’s a man stood up and thanked us he was about my age. He proceeded to tell us he had spent most of his adult life in prison. He had three children he had not been there for. One son was in prison, serving 20 years. His daughter would not visit him, hadn’t done so in years, wouldn’t return his letters either. Now his youngest son was facing capital murder and the DA had filed for the Death Penalty, this man would likely never see his child again, as he told his story tears rolled down his face.

What did I see when I looked at him?

  • Father

I had always talked about the need for these men to reach out to their families, who were their victims as much as we were. I had never seen them though, not really. I had pragmatically understood the rules of the game, they couldn’t get into the program without a recommendation from a Chaplin or the program coordinator, it wasn’t a gimmee. They didn’t get a gold star in their jacket for participating; they had to want to be there. But I didn’t see them, not really not till that day.

JungleMagazine.comSo what do we see when first meet another person? Do we define them by their outward appearance? Do we exclude them if they don’t live up to our standards? Do we judge them harshly or simply see through them.

What do we see when we look at another person?

Trayvon and Me

There’s no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.

President Dwight Eisenhower

 

I have struggled with how to write this for weeks now. The escalation of emotions across the nation at the senseless and violent death of a boy on the brink of manhood is something none of us can quite fathom, quite accept and so we seek reasons for why it happened. What is it in our national psyche that causes us to seek justifications for what is inexplicable?

Each time I have approached writing this epistle my heart cracks. I am reminded of the feelings my family felt; the hurts and anger they experienced when they thought they might have lost me to random violence. When I have tried to write, I am brought to my knees, my mind explodes with questions but the most important is why.

Trayvon and Me

26-Feb-2012: Trayvon Martin a Black youth is found shot dead in Stanford, Florida. Trayvon is 17 years old, just a child, his entire life ahead of him.

7-Feb-1992: Valentine Logar a White woman is found shot three times in Fort Worth, Texas. Valentine is 34 years old, a mother of two young sons (read story here The Complete Story).

What do the two crimes; twenty years apart have in common you ask, certainly on the surface they don’t seem to be linked in any way. There is no direct relationship between Trayvon and me, the relationship is one created by my broken heart over the lives lost in our nation, not just Trayvon’ s, but those of the three young boys, not yet men who lost their lives the night they tried to take mine.

My purpose is to draw some parallels, in part because on 13-March-2012 the first of the three who shot me that fateful night was released from prison after serving his entire twenty-year sentence. He was born on 14-December-1975, he was just 17 years old when he was sentenced; he will be 37 years old this year. He has spent more time in prison than free.

Courtesty of News National Post.com

Trayvon died in his confrontation with George Zimmerman. There is a great deal of speculation that race played a part in Trayvon’s death, George Zimmerman determined Trayvon was a ‘suspicious’ character who did not belong and escalated a confrontation which ended in the death of Trayvon. Speculation aside, we know George Zimmerman stole this child’s life, we know this because George Zimmerman confessed to killing Trayvon. We currently have George Zimmerman’s side of the story; we have 911 calls and we have what many believe are questionable police procedures. We know one other thing right now, George Zimmerman is not sitting in jail, he is not out on bond either; George Zimmerman is a free man who after taking the life of a child is walking free in the community.

Why do I draw parallels, why am I so bothered by this story?

I keep wondering what would have happened if the roles would have been reversed, if the color of my skin had been Black and the color of my attackers had been White. Would the outcome been different?

I have read the confessions of my attackers. I wasn’t the only victim; I was the lucky one though. One thing it is important to know bigotry and racial hate runs deep and runs all ways. It isn’t just White on Black, it can be Black on White or any other combination; the difference is we just don’t hear about it as often. In their confessions, one of the key statements was their desire to “Kill White People”; this was their sole purpose.

Three young boys, not even out of their teens lost their lives the night they tried to take mine. Recent history says if our racial make-up had been reversed, the outcome would have very likely been different. I am appalled by this, heartsick in fact.

I do not have survivor’s guilt. My position hasn’t changed on forgiveness, remorse and reconciliation. Nor has my position changed on Justice, we all deserve it.

This means Trayvon deserves Justice.

Courtesy Washington Post

The Martins deserve justice for Trayvon.

This nation deserves justice for Trayvon but more than this, our children deserve better from us.

For our children who are losing their lives and futures before they have the opportunity to reach for it, we have to stand up and demand better. Our young boys and girls who are languishing in failing schools and communities without work for their fathers and mothers, they deserve more from us than our inattention or failure to engage. Our children deserve more than to be cannon fodder for the political warfare we are waging. Our children deserve more than another generation of sharing the yard, we already have three generations behind bars; are we willing to make it four?

My heart is broken, not just for Trayvon and his family but surprisingly for the three young men who tried to take my life. I don’t forgive them their actions, but today I think I hurt for them.

Crime, Punishment and Victims

Senseless Death

I find myself once again dumbfounded, furious and dismayed; a bundle of independent emotions yet completely related to each other. Once again we have a child dead in the street, shot for no apparent reason other than he was young, Black and didn’t appear to belong.

www.bet.com

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin, 17 was nothing more than young and black, that was his ‘crime’. According to the 911 tape, on which his assailant George Zimmerman says ‘These assholes always get away’. Trayvon’s crime? Walking while black in a neighborhood that George Zimmerman had decided he did not belong.  Trayvon apparently carried the cultural weight of suspicion on his young and narrow shoulders.

We will never know what really happened the night of 26-Feb-2012, when George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin had their fatal encounter. We will never know because only one of them remains breathing and in this world to tell us, George Zimmerman and he isn’t telling anything that doesn’t serve his own interest. All we are left with is the context of a senseless killing of a young man and a ‘defense’ based on laws that create vigilante ‘justice’ by self-designated citizen police. What we know or can at least extract from pictures and listening to 911 calls is this:

  • George was following Trayvon in his car. George made a 911 call describing Trayvon as suspicious in part because he was young and black.
  • George got out of his car, though he was told not to follow or confront Trayvon.
  • Trayvon ran and George chased him, despite being told not to by the 911 operator.
  • There was a confrontation between the man and the boy. The man shot the boy, killing him. The man has claimed self-defense and is using the “Stand Your Ground” law as the basis of his defense.

What is the likelihood the last statement makes any real sense? That a 17 year-old would confront a man, ten years older and nearly 100 lbs. heavier? Even the bravest, the boldest of young men might be cowed by this skirmish. We hear on the last 911 recordings the calls for help, these calls don’t sound as if they come from a grown man, do they? So what are we left with, what do we have?

www.thedailybeast.com

The Parents of Trayvon Martin

We have a family devastated by the death of their son and without answers to their basic question, “Why?” All we have is a local police that seem to have not done their job, are afraid even to have done the basic job we would expect in investigating the death of a young man, a 17 year old child doing nothing more than walking on the sidewalk in a neighborhood he in fact belonged in. All we have is a state Justice Department, refusing to do their job and turning over their responsibility to the Federal Department of Justice, is this fear or simple incompetence?

What we really have is another senseless death and another family shattered. Another mother laying her child in the cold ground, another father burying his son, another brother growing up without his big brother to guide and mentor him. What do we have? Trayvon Martin walked to the store to buy candy and a drink, upon his return he was met by suspicion and ultimately by lethal force for no reason other than he appeared to not belong. Why? Because he was young and black and George Zimmerman in his self-assigned role of neighborhood watch and apparently enforcement of standards believed he didn’t belong, for this and no other reason Trayvon Martin is dead.

Trayvon Martin is dead before he could vote. Trayvon Martin is dead before his high school graduation. Trayvon Martin is dead before he could make the choices in life most of us take for granted; what we will be when we achieve adulthood, according to his father he wanted to be an airplane engine mechanic. Trayvon Martin is dead before he could marry and have children. Trayvon Martin is dead at 17. What can we do?

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Trayvon Martin
Is this what George Zimmerman saw?

We can demand justice for Trayvon and his family. We can demand the police; the Justice Department at all levels do their job to uncover the entire truth. We can demand those who failed to do their jobs pay the consequence of their inaction. We can refuse a platform to the family of George Zimmerman, the police or the Media that begins to shift the perception of who the victim of this encounter is. George Zimmerman is not the victim, whether he is a cold blooded murder is yet to be determined, nevertheless he is not the victim.

What can we do? We can remember Trayvon Martin, dead at 17, an incomprehensible tragedy.

Free Bird

Twenty years, that was the entire sentence of Anthony, the youngest of my offenders. Twenty years it seems like yesterday, it isn’t though; it is approximately 7,200 days, 172,800 hours, 10,368,000 minutes.

During this same twenty years, most of us would have worked approximately 4,800 days and 40,000 hours.

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I bring this up because it is important, Anthony will be released without supervision on March 13, 2012. Without supervision, means he has served his sentence, paid his debt to society, done his time, thus owes nothing to anyone else and can walk out of the Texas prison system a free man. I ponder this and can honestly say I disagree with the States assessment. He still owes me and mine!

I wish I could feel differently, well maybe I don’t really wish for this. Here is the truth of the matter, Anthony was fifteen when he followed his cousin and a friend into carjacking and attempted murder. By all accounts prior to this act, he wasn’t a bad kid, unfortunately, he was wrapped up into bad acts that nearly cost me my life and certainly cost him. He will be thirty-seven years old, a man grown but with no social skills and by all accounts no education, no work skills; fully institutionalized by the twenty years he has spent in the Texas prison system. He didn’t have to choose this, he was given options that would have seen him out in five years, this was his choice.

At no time during his sentence has he taken advantage of the education options open to him. At no time has he ever gone to the prison Chaplin or the Victim Impact counselor and asked to contact me to apologize for his acts. He will walk free, clearly not remorseful. He will walk free, without skills or support. He will walk free after twenty years inside the walls, fully institutionalized, undoubtedly angry and blaming society rather than himself for the conditions of his life.

Image Tradenewswire.net

How do I know these things? I ask, every single time he comes up for parole I ask the same questions in my letters to the Parole Board, I ask. My conditions for parole are the same; my questions are always the same. How can you consider parole for an unrepentant, unprepared offender? How can you consider parole for an offender who has spent his time doing nothing but blame the victim and society? What will his actions be once within society again?

Though I was prepared for this letter, knew it was coming still my heart beat faster and my eyes blurred with unshed tears. Only twenty years, that is all for my life? Every time I think, I am beyond my original fury, beyond asking that single question, why; I find myself directly back in the path of red hot rage. In fact there are times I am barely able to put

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coherent thought to my feelings, they simply exist in that part of my brain that is not fully civilized.

Twenty years for my life, is this a fair trade? Anthony has spent his youth and grown to manhood in the Texas prison system. He has never touched a woman. He hasn’t married nor had children. He has never held a job, earned a living. He hasn’t owned a car or bought a home. Because of one stupid decision on his part all of the things most of us take for granted, he has forgone every choice he might have had about his life. Anthony is one year older than my eldest son, who has all of those things. Anthony is one year younger, nearly to the day, than my husband; who also has had all of these things.

Twenty years, for my life, I wonder if Anthony thinks this has been a fair trade.

When Lightening Strikes

If you haven’t the strength to impose your own terms upon life, you must accept the terms it offers you. T.S Eliot

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I found that quote years ago while sitting in yet another doctor’s waiting room. It stuck with me. It had been eighteen months since the shooting and I was waiting to find out if I could stop wearing the hard brace. This was my third and hopefully last time with this piece of ugly that wrapped itself around my neck digging into my collarbone and leaving permanent bruises on my shoulders. There were days I felt like  one of the Giraffe Women of Burma.

Still Mad at the World

Up to this point, I had seen more doctors than I could remember. I had already had eight surgeries including the removal of the bullet in my

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forearm which was a very public event attended by two police officers who took the intact bullet as evidence, that was a treat. I had seen the useless psychologist who specialized in victims of violent crime, his contribution to my recovery was an hours’ worth of, repeat after me, “you have a right to feel that way.” Well hell, I knew that when I got here fool, which unfortunately slipped out of my mouth before I could stop it, my bad. He suggested he might not be the best person to help me, really you think.

Now here I was, sitting in my Neurosurgeons office thumbing through a magazine and there it was my epiphany.

Wow, just Wow

What was I going to do with my new circumstances? I couldn’t change them; there wasn’t a single thing I could do that was going to undo what happened. The real questions I had to ask were these  –

Are you going to be a Victim?

Are you going to be a Survivor?

Or are you going to be something more, are you going to be Victorious?

The answer was clear, getting there not so clear. The path wasn’t at all obvious or straight,

My Road Image My.Opera

not then and truthfully not ever. In fact, even now, nearly twenty years later, I find myself on roads filled with potholes, switchbacks and what feel like insurmountable steep climbs.There are days I want to pull over to the side of the road of my life, curl up and give up. It isn’t fair I think in the back of my mind, that small voice whispers to me, ‘just lay down, someone will come along shortly’.  The truth is, though I have many wonderful people in my life, always have had, the only one that will come along is me. The only person that can force that next step is me, even when it hurts like hell it is still me.

From Victim to Survivor to Victorious

There is no life without bumps in the road, I accept that my life is no different from others. My bumps might be different they are still just bumps. I have been fortunate in my journey of discovery and recovery to meet some amazing people with similar bumps as mine, they taught me about getting up in the morning, breathing through pain, letting go of survivor guilt and most importantly getting too happy.

The Original Story

Crime, Punishment and Victims

Charge

Birth Date

Sentence Date

Release Date

First Parole Eligibility

Att Cap Murder w/ Deadly 12/14/1975 8/12/1992 3/13/2012 3/13/1997
2 Counts Att Cap Murder w/ Deadly 06/18/1976 4/13/93 3/09/2027 07/12/2000
2 Counts Att Cap Murder w/ DeadlyAgg Robbery w/Deadly 03/05/1976 3/08/93 3/05/2027 3/12/2000

The above is not random information designed to entice. This morning my friend and fellow Blogger Red called to ask permission to use information she knows about me as part of her on-going discussion (Reds Crime & Punishment). Of course, I am always happy to contribute, but thought in the interest of disclosure I would provide some of the facts.

Nearly Deadly Night

A night like any other really, the story, in a nutshell, I stopped for cigarettes and gas on my way home from work, it was February 7, 1992,  Benbrook, Texas a suburb of Ft. Worth. From there my nightmares begin, you can read the entire story at the link above, suffice to say my life was changed forever by three teenagers. Carjacked at gunpoint, held for over two hours I knew my life might end and I wasn’t ready. Ultimately, I was shot three times, twice through the neck and once a defensive wound in my forearm.

Funny the things you think about when you believe you might die. After the smoke had cleared and the tail-lights were down the road as I lay curled around myself first thinking how much bullets really hurt when they enter your body, I thought ……they took my brand new pack of cigarettes and just how unfair that was.

1992 UTWatch_ Texas Prison Overcrowding

Giving me Pause

The three young men involved were caught because they made stupid mistakes first in their choice of victims, we survived. Their stupidest mistake though was in committing their crimes in the first place, destroying their lives before they ever started. In all three cases, each of them had one parent serving time; in the case of one both parents were behind bars. This would make them the second generation to share the yard. One of their grandmothers said to the DA, please don’t send him away he is a good boy he thought they were only going to steal cars.

Huh?

In fact, he ended up turning evidence against the other two, he had a good school record, had never been in trouble before this; it is likely he didn’t know what was to come of that night. He tried to stop them but couldn’t and in the end had to back down, how is that for the ultimate peer pressure. This young man ended up with a twenty-year sentence because he thought he was going joy riding.

They Got Time but I Got Life

I will not go into the details here of either the short or long-term damage to my body

Huntsville State Prison – Wikipedia

or soul from this incident. The three offenders will someday walk free, I will never be free and it is extremely likely my life will be shortened by up to twenty years because of their actions and choices. This sentence provides a very different perspective.

I am often asked if I forgive them, the short answer is NO.

Victim Impact

Since I have been back in Texas, I have been privileged to volunteer with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in a program called Victim Impact. I wish they would call it something different, but I understand the meaning behind it and my involvement has provided me both insight and opportunity to truly think about the criminal justice system we have today. I have met some amazing people, other Victims also Volunteers, staff members and even on occasion some of the program participants . Heard some heart wrenching stories that make me want to weep, even when hearing them for the tenth time.

The program takes us, the victims inside of State and Federal prisons, State jails, juvenile facilities and parole groups to talk to offenders about what crime does to us how it affects us. The offenders in the prison and jail programs are volunteers who must be approved, they want to be there and it isn’t an easy program. They don’t get a gold star on their jacket for finishing it.

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How I see it

I am not easy and some who hear me speak are offended by my lack of forgiveness. My only response is there will never be forgiveness until there is remorse and reconciliation it isn’t a right and cannot be demanded. My offenders have been up for Parole more than once each, I have been there each time fighting to keep them exactly where they are, through letter writing campaigns and petitions. Their crimes against me and against my family as the extended victims were brutal. I want every day, every hour, every minute the state promised me in the sentence handed down.

Crime and punishment are abstract until they are real. I believe strongly we have a system  that doesn’t serve us properly. We have spent far too long warehousing the non-violent

Garden of Angles dedicated to murder victims

and returning the violent to a society that is not ready for their enhanced skills. We have grown prison populations that include generations, it should be a national shame rather than a source of revenue and pride. Nevertheless, as a victim of a senseless violent crime I am thankful I can participate in the processes that ensure fair sentences meted out and completed when appropriate.

Some think me hard, others think I am vindictive demanding my pound of flesh. The truth of it is I don’t believe in forgiveness as a right and I don’t believe those that do me and mine harm should be able to demand their freedom. They caused immeasurable and have never said those simple words “I am sorry”. So why should I ever lift my demands they serve their sentences.

I will continue this some other time. There is far more to discuss on this subject.

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