Thursday, December 28, 2017

Be Forewarned: This Post Is About Rape

This discernment thing is already starting to tick me off and I've barely scratched the surface.  Having to talk about my self - my real self - causes me to acknowledge emotions that I keep packed neatly away.  I hate that.  I hate it a lot. 

I'm not an emotionally unhealthy person, but I am a very emotionally controlled person.  Control is one of my favorite vices.  Having to loosen that control even a little bit makes me twitchy.  Last week the Universe seemed intent on inflicting me with flea bites of emotional demand.  It made me itch.

It started on Monday when one of my guys, also a preacher's kid, came to his appointment without any teeth.  He's in his late 30's and normally looks like a skinny, less prosperous version of a surfer boy with pocky skin.  He's got flowing blonde hair, pale blue eyes and a people-pleasing smile.

This time the smile was not much in evidence.  Meth has destroyed most of his teeth, so he wears dentures.  He had car trouble earlier in the week and, while fixing the car on the side of the road, his teeth fell out of his pocket and rolled into traffic where they were promptly shattered by a passing vehicle. 

Regardless, he was still very happy.  The Rural Legal Aid agency agreed to represent him in his custody case.  He told me that he knew 100% that God was going to give him back his children.  He's been living right for a while now and he knows God is going to do this thing for him.  

I sighed.  

And then I began my anti-prosperity gospel/anti-fairy God mother spiel.  It didn't have much effect.  Once again I'm left hoping that when he doesn't get his kids, even though he followed all the steps of the magical spell prescribed to make God do his bidding, he won't give up on living right or give up on God altogether.

This talk makes me tired.  

Right after that, I spoke at length with a man who has worked very hard to clean up his life.  Louie has also found God.    He's found God through separation from his wife and everything he valued while in jail, and prison, and the military, and long-term drug treatment/incarceration.  He's found him through volunteering at a church. He's found God through working alongside other Christian men.  They work hard during the week and worship together on the weekends.  

A few months ago Louie showed me photos of his house.  He's doing a great job of remodeling it a little at a time.  It looks like Magnolia on a budget.  Then he smiled a little shyly and asked to show me the before pictures.  I saw the trash pit it was while he was on meth.  The filth was unimaginable.

"This is the corner [of the living room] where I would take a dump and leave it," Louie said, pointing to one of the pictures.  "Because I didn't care about ANYthing."

This time we spoke at length about some emotional difficulties he's had.  I eventually told him I thought he might have PTSD.  He asked if his wife could come in and talk with us too.  She's been telling him the same thing.  The three of us had a good discussion and I referred him to some services in distant towns that might get him headed towards mental health care and treatment.  

Louie's been in and out of the criminal justice system since he was a teenager.  He's almost 50 now.  He told me "You're the first officer I've ever had who looked me in the eye."

That has stuck with me for over a week.  I cannot imagine living a life where the fact of someone looking me in the eye made a significant impact.  I think that's what I want on my tombstone: "She looked them in the eye."

The next day I had a call from the Judge, bright and early.  When the Judge is hunting you down first thing in the morning, you can be certain you're going to have to do some heavy lifting.  He'd been given a file on Shelly, one of our problem people, because the state finally had a placement for her in a long term treatment facility.  Normally that notification goes through the sheriff to me, but someone had widened the loop and dragged the Judge into it, so we all scrambled to get the woman in jail to await transport to the facility.  

The next morning, while confirming details with the jail, I discovered the state was trying to send her to prison.  Not to treatment.  She's not been sentenced to prison.  I managed to find the Judge (we were all working in different counties this week) and got him to release her from jail.  So far, so good.

Wednesday morning I had an appointment with a woman I cannot stand.  Kendra is approaching 40, personable, and educated.  She has had some good jobs in the past, and she is legendary among her former co-workers for singing praise choruses loudly and badly, all damn day.  I do not like this woman.  

She's smart.  She comes from a good home.  She's had privilege.  But she's squandered it.  

This was my first meeting with Kendra since her release from a prison-based, long-term drug treatment facility and a half-way house.  She did well in the treatment facility.  But when she got to the halfway house, everything changed.  

Kendra's attitude was phenomenally bad.  She is smart enough to know what to say to keep herself out of trouble.  That's the reason I've never liked her - she can talk herself out of the rightful consequences of her choices.  She's smarmy and manipulative.  She acts like I would if I was in her position.  

But this time she was rude and uncooperative.  She wouldn't follow the rules of the facility.  We had multiple conference calls between she, I and her counselors.  She wouldn't get a job.  She was disruptive in group meetings.  She acted out sexually with the male residents.  She was verbally aggressive with everyone she encountered.  

On the day of our final conference call, the call that normally would set her release date and plans for returning to the community, the counselors phoned me ahead of time.  They explained Kendra's behavior had deteriorated further and they were done with her.  They wanted to discharge her from the halfway house, unsuccessfully, that day.

I was in complete agreement. 

We had the conference call.  I told Kendra she'd peed her chili, basically, and we were done.  She had one hour to leave the facility.  She raged and cursed.  I cursed and snarked.  She wanted to know how the hell she was supposed to leave since she didn't have any transportation and the halfway house was in the middle of effin' no where.  I suggested she try Uber.  Maybe they've gone rural.

I was a bitch about it.

The next day I had a warrant out for her arrest.  These types of warrants do not allow a defendant to bond out of jail.  You get picked up and you sit in jail until the Judge decides to hear your case.  

Her court date rolled around a couple of months later.  Her court-appointed attorney is one of my favorite people and my least favorite opponents.  He holds my feet to the fire and makes me justify my decisions like no one else.  He's good people. I sort of hate him.  

Before the hearing, he and I met up in the DA's office to discuss the case.  The attorney asked the DA and I what we'd heard about the sexual assault.

"What sexual assault??"

It turns out Kendra did have a job for the first week or so that she'd been at the halfway house.  The boss was a bit of a pain, but she didn't think much about it.  Then one day, right after lunch, he followed her into the restroom, locked the door behind her, and tried to rape her.  She escaped only because she had  a screw-driver in her pocket.  She used it to jab him in the side and get him off of her long enough for her to get the door unlocked and break free.  

No one had ever mentioned this.  Not the defendant and certainly not the counselors at the half-way house.  Over the next few days, the counselors ditched a subpoena server and avoided calls from the my office and the DA's office.  When I finally got one of them on the phone, the only response they could muster was that this incident had happened outside their facility, so they had no responsibility to report it. 

This woman had come within inches of going to jail for seven years - at my request and recommendation - because she was sexually assaulted.  Seven damn years.

We dismissed all pending court action against Kendra and released her from jail.  This was my first meeting with her since her release. 

It was ok.

I still don't like her.  She's still going to end up in prison one of these days, most likely.  But I did get to tell her that no one deserves to be treated like she was.  No one.  I told her I understand now why she was so disruptive and uncooperative in the halfway house.  She'd been assaulted and no one had done anything about it.  We talked about speaking up, even if she thinks no one will believe her.  She has a right to her story, at the very least. 

I told her none of us wanted to put her in prison for getting sexually assaulted, and that I'm glad she told her attorney the truth.  She got lucky. The luck of the draw gave her a lawyer who believed her and who fought for her.  The system works, but it doesn't always work well.  And I'm very glad to not be responsible for putting her in prison because she was the victim of sexual assault.  I'm glad her attorney believed her.   And that he made me believe her.   

That wasn't an easy meeting.  I was a bit drained. Then I got a phone call. 

The woman who'd gone to jail on a paperwork mix-up earlier in the week called me.  Shelly was in tears.  And a little drunk.  

While in the process of getting her out of jail, I'd learned that she was living with one of my former defendants who is pretty much a complete waste of skin.  He's a white man, from a privileged local family.  The younger generations of this family have been decimated by addiction.  It's like a family plague.  An epidemic.  And this guy is loathsome even without the rampaging alcoholism.

I was surprised that Shelly was hooked up with him.  I knew it was something we'd have to address, but it could wait until after her treatment was sorted out.  And now she was on the phone, wanting to talk to me.

"I need you to know why I'm here with him," she said.  I could hear the guy, Tom, in the background.  He murmured something and she hissed at him to leave her alone for a minute.

"I don't have anywhere to go," she said.  "I need a place to sleep.  And I need food and a place to take a bath."

I asked about the home where she'd been living; why wasn't she going back there?  It had been her parents house and they left it to her when they died.  She told me it was being condemned.  There were no utilities, the roof was caving in.  It was cold and unsafe.  She couldn't stay there any longer.  Her former boyfriend had kicked her out of his house.  Now her only option was Tom.  

She talked for a long time.  I listened.  There wasn't much I could say and nothing I could do.  She talked about her children, long ago given up for adoption.  She wants the chance to see them one time before she dies.  Her liver is failing.  She almost killed herself in a drunken car wreck a couple of years ago.  Her body hurts and her heart hurts worse.  She wants relief but has no way to get it, other than in a jail cell with three meals and a cot.  

During the whole call I could hear Tom in the background, sometimes his voice was right next to the phone, sometimes it was farther away.   He picked at her the whole time.  'Get off the phone.'  'Come on, baby, let's play.' 'Let ME talk to that bitch!' 'Baby, baby, baby...' 'Come ON!' and on and on and on.

The longer she talked the more she cried.  "I just need you to know," she said.  "I just need you to hear me.  This is not who I really am."

"I know that, Shelly.  I do.  I know that's not who you are.  I hear you."

I didn't say much, just let her talk.  I let her talk and I listened to her tell me how she was going to allow herself to be raped as soon as she hung up the phone.  Because she needs a place to sleep.  And food.  And a place to have a bath.  I couldn't do anything about it, but I could listen and I could believe her.

Let me assure you that by the time that phone call ended, I was glad my secretary was not at work that day and that my office is at the end of a maze of rooms in the very back corner of the courthouse where no one bothers me.  I needed some space.  

These would have been hard conversations at any time, but all of this coming at a time when my own emotions were more accessible than normal, made for a long and difficult week.  It's still difficult a week later.

But at the end of that phone conversation, I got a message from Reverend Ref.  He was pushing some boundaries with his Christmas Eve sermon and wanted to know how it might play to a stranger off the street.  He sent me the sermon.  

I sent him back a scathing email.  That sorry Yankee bastard wrote something beautiful.  Something that resonated with what I'd heard over the last couple of days.  I was very glad there was no one around while I read it.  I pretty much hate him.  

You should read it too.

Christmas Eve 2017 - Reverend Ref







9 comments:

Unknown said...

I love every bit of this long, winding tale, except I hate it a bit, too, because it's truth and it hurts my heart.

This is the real world. I am glad for the truth. Thank you for telling it.

Loved the sermon, too; guts and bravery and more truth.

Amen.

spookyrach said...

Thank you, 'unknown'.

Lois said...

The richest nation the planet Earth has every known can't make sure that a woman who just wants a bath and a bed can have them without being raped. I hate everything. At least for the next 15 seconds.

spookyrach said...

15 seconds is allowed.

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

And how many years have we done this and listened? That job comes with such responsibility. I am glad you are losing some control. It looks really good on you. I hate you a whole bunch.

spookyrach said...

Does it look good?! I find that... illogical. Haha!

It has been a really long time of listening. And I still have to fight to keep my mouth shut a whole lot of the time. The older I get, the more I realize that advice just ain't all that.

Reverend Ref + said...

I need my business card to read:
ReverendRef
Sorry Yankee Bastard

spookyrach said...

Yes. Yes, you do. :D

St. Inuksuk said...

Thanks be to God that you are a good listener. Sometimes, we don't seem able to do much more than that. Thanks for all you do. Folks need you and they are the needy folks among us. Hard to hear that a woman can't find food, bath and bed without giving herself away for it.
Thanks for sharing a courageous sermon.
God keep working through you to give hope, healing, peace and encouragement to those your life touches.