It was not Punky Brewster standing at that trial table ten years ago today. Self-righteous denials by the perp coupled with sustained, calculated and frankly immoral neglect from their mutual university had left my baby older and wiser. And yet it played out as expected. Scrubbed for the occasion, the suit-wearing, tie-bearing, sober-staring toxin had just uttered “GUILTY”.

She had seen it, heard it, and lived it. So as the prosecuting attorney methodically recited the facts,  as defense counsel assented “…for purposes of the plea, your Honor….”, it was no surprise.

“Does the victim wish to speak?” asked the judge.

Bravely she rose–nervous but not unnerved – elegant and honest. No longer the teen kicked away by her school, she was twenty-two, tried and true to her being.  Purposefully she spoke, not just for herself, but for the far too many woman like her. Not just of the defendant, but of the far too many men like him.

“He is guilty,” she said. “He is,” she asserted, “A cancer that has struck not only me but others….”

“The law limits what you can do but the facts demand you do everything you can,” she urged the Court.

“Your Honor” she continued, “If you don’t want to do it just for me, do it for the girl who testified before you about three weeks ago about her own identical victimization which also occurred in Franklin County, also perpetrated by _____; if not for her, do it for the four females who made statements regarding _____’s verbal and physical sexual harassment which also occurred in Franklin county; if not for them, do it for his ex-girlfriend whose testimony you have been exposed to from a previous transcript — she described the detrimental effect that _____ has had on her health and safety also; if not for her, do it for the female who was documented to have been punched in the face by _____ and resulting in (sic) much needed dental work — this too occurred in Franklin County — or, God forbid, the innocent person that _____ has not yet had the opportunity to spread his cancer upon….”

This she said in open court, moments after the defendant had pleaded guilty to negotiated justice, with no hint of remorse.

This she said before listening to a defense attorney ask that his client be allowed to get on with his life and “… put this bad experience behind him…”.

This she said before the defendant too was asked if he had “anything” to say. His refusal spoke volumes.

I sat in the courtroom that October 4, 2004. On a day previously known as my father’s birthday, I knew well he’d be proud of her. And my mind ran … ‘cross the canvas of our child’s last thirty months: her tears…her trials … her triumph.

I sensed then that it was not so much the end of a process but a renewed beginning to her life.

My prayers…our prayers…were answered.

Ten years on defense counsel’s dead. Some time now.  Ten years on the prosecutor steadfastly supports the Rooney’s of the world with skill, compassion, understanding and zeal. God bless him.  Ten years on the victimized freshman resides in Chicago. An empowered citizen, wife, mother, friend, daughter, aunt— she thrives.

OH, and ten years on, the defendant is not readily found—not even on Facebook. He’s out there somewhere– mired in his dragnet of truth.

And YES, the silence he spoke in that courtroom — ten years ago today — still speaks volumes.

2 Responses to “COLLATERAL DAMAGE”

  1. bob snyder says:

    A brave young lady. I know you are proud of her as well you should be. I must also say good parenting played a part and for that you should be proud as well.

  2. Stacy says:

    So true. When I think of my survival, I think of my parents.

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