TRIGGER WARNING - Sexual assault, violence against women
For me, crimes like this come down to one singular word- choice. Due to the choices made by my assailants, my life has been permanently changed. I was not given the choice to not have my life threatened and my body used as a plaything. I was not given the choice to not worry that I was going to wind up dead with no way for my family to find and identify me. I was not allowed to choose whether I wanted these men to penetrate me repeatedly and simultaneously in the back seat of a stolen car for an hour while they attempted to steal my money. I could not choose to not be thrown from a moving car. My choices were taken from me the moment that these men chose to enact this vicious, thoughtless, and demeaning crime upon me.
I am still dealing with the consequences of their choices. I involuntarily have nightmares about my ordeal. Despite my desire to be able to feel the freedom to be out in public with strangers, I often cannot manage simple tasks such as getting gas or groceries on my own without experiencing debilitating panic attacks. The financial burden on my partner and I was certainly not something we would have chosen. Both of us would very much like to have been able to continue work, but that is not what happens when your choices are taken from you. Instead, I spent months not working and am still only working on a part-time basis. My partner has taken time off to help me, as well as deal with the trauma this has caused him, which has caused him to be on the verge of being let go from his job. I spend my time in a constant state of concern and fear. My family and friends spend their time in a constant state of concern. I doubt that anyone would choose to feel this way. My current existence is entirely based on reactions to other peoples’ desires, rather than action towards my own.
Eventually, I will regain my choices. While the defendant’s choices will inform the course of my life forever, I will not let them permanently define the type of life I choose to lead. They chose poorly when they chose to rape me; I refuse to let their choices take away the endless possibilities that stand before me. While the defendant took my feelings of safety, of security, and of home from me, he cannot take my determination to not let his choices limit mine.
With all of that said, your choices have impact that far exceeds my personal struggles. Crimes such as this add to the lack of choices that women everywhere feel. Women are inhibited by the very concept that they do not have the freedom to choose to live their lives however they please without concern of being attacked. Women live in a constant state of vigilance, fueled by tales told to them about violence perpetrated against women. Women are raised to not trust, not walk alone, never go on a date without calling a friend before and after, and never leave a drink alone at a table. Women are taught to live in a world of nots, don’ts, can’ts, and shouldn’ts because of people like the defendant, who feel that their choices supersede the rights of the women they assault. At a time where women are trying desperately to hold on to the progress they have made to choose the course of their own lives, it is unconscionable that young men such as the defendant continue to plague our society with a continued commitment to violence against women. Today, I am the one making the choices. I am choosing to stand here and make my voice and my story heard in the hope that it can be a small step towards making a difference.