It’s been twenty years and I can still feel his hands on me. My skin burns – I am a patchwork quilt of scalding handprints. My arms. My neck. My legs. My face. Places you aren’t supposed to mention in polite company – but how could I ever be considered good or polite now? I am sure that at any moment, I will fly apart into a thousand tiny pieces of ash. I can still feel his hands on me.
Growing up, I thought that I should feel lucky. When I spoke up, someone listened. The police were called, charges were filed, and a sentence imposed. Twenty six years – a triple departure from the ‘standard’ ninety-six months due to the severity of the abuse. Justice was served. But I know the truth now – there is no justice for the victim.
The memories are overwhelming and thankfully broken – skipping around like an episode of TV on the DVR. When they surface so does a ringing in my ears. I cannot move. I cannot breathe. I am numb and raw simultaneously.
I am assured that given enough time and therapy that the panic attacks will subside. I will be able to remember without reliving – but how can that be enough? He is still there. In the back of my mind. Touching everything that I’ve fought so hard to make my own: my body, my mind, my sexuality, my consent. There will always be questions that I can’t ignore and can’t answer.
Do I love my husband’s curly hair because it is a part of the man I love, or because I was conditioned to? Do I enjoy that intimate act for the pleasure it brings my partner or because He taught me (at the age of four) how? Will I ever be able to pleasure myself without feeling guilty? I will never be free of this. I will never be free of him.
But today he will be released for a second time. When he came up for parole last year, I was unconcerned. Surely they wouldn’t see ‘good behavior’ in a man who while maintaining he had done nothing wrong blamed a child for being “too seductive”. Surely they wouldn’t ignore the fact that in his four appeals of his conviction and sentencing he argued that the type of abuse that he inflicted was “typical enough” to not warrant the triple departure. Or that the State of Minnesota lacked the subject jurisdiction. Or that he tried to sue the Attorney General for USING HIS NAME IN COURT DOCUMENTS. But they didn’t. They released him.
In February I got the phone call that I knew would eventually come. He had been arrested for violating his parole. He was found with two laptops full of child pornography and a further forensic sweep revealed conversations with underage girls he was trying to meet up with. Could I please write a victim impact statement to help with proper sentencing?
Two days of torturous reflection and stress eating later, I sent my letter. I had been conflicted about writing – with the parole violations and the newly acquired child pornography would they even need my letter? Was it worth the pain of facing these still smoldering wounds? His case worker promised to call me as soon as sentencing was over and when he did I wanted to crawl into the ground and die.
They gave him 90 days. They didn’t even make him finish his original sentence. There have been no new charges filed.
He will be free.
I will never be.
It’s been twenty years and I can still feel his hands on my skin. I wonder who he will burn next.