What Victory Feels Like

This is what justice feels like. It’s the 12 steps up to the stand. Telling myself, Sam, just put one foot in front of the other. Do not let him see you cry. This is not his day. This is yours.
It’s my aunt standing behind me, her hands holding me in place. Keeping me upright, I’m guessing she thought my knees might buckle. As they have before. But not this day.
It’s reading the statement. My first sentence, just get it out: The four years of abuse…he terrified me into silence. The judge: I’m sorry, I know this is emotional, can you speak up just a tad? 

Now too much time has gone by. Now I can feel the pools filling, stinging the back of my eyes. If I blink, I know the tears will fall. And if I don’t, I won’t be able to read the other five paragraphs of this. And Sam, you are going to do this. I talk about the impact, the details, the control, manipulation, the depression, Gavin. I pause. Look around. I wish Gavin was here. No, Sam, don’t do that. You have to keep going. You are going to do this. You are doing this. 

It’s the support of nearly 20 of my family members, all crowded in that courtroom. It’s the support of those that are there in spirit. It’s getting to the final paragraph. It’s turning, feeling my aunt’s grip tighten, looking straight at him. It’s finally having the strength to actually speak to him after all of these years. In front of my family, in front of total strangers, telling him the kind of person he is. The worst kind of person. It’s the 12 steps back to my seat. Sinking in and sobbing. It’s knowing I had finally completed my part. After two and a half years, my part was done.

It’s hearing his two daughters and his wife speak. It’s knowing they have chosen a criminal over me. It’s knowing they chose a man that did this to both me and his eldest daughter, and still choosing him. It’s knowing I’ve always had the support and love of his eldest daughter.

It’s sitting there, quietly. While they call him things like a loving father and wonderful husband. It’s knowing that ironically, I know him better than they ever will. Because everything they are saying is quite literally, absolute bullshit. It’s hearing the judge say she doesn’t buy it – that he clearly has hidden behind this facade of loving father and wonderful husband, and instead, he is a monster. Now that, is the absolute truth.

It’s waiting for it. Sending up one last prayer to God. Please let him get the maximum sentence. Please, God, please. It’s me begging, whispering. It’s waiting some more. It’s finally hearing the words. No chance of parole. It’s feeling my dad’s hand on my shoulder, my mom squeeze my fingers, my best friend sitting behind me, finding my sister three seats down. It’s my godparents and cousins and my loved ones surrounding me and hugging me. It’s letting it all go. The release. The tears, the anguish, the past. It’s refusing to stay down when repeatedly kicked, pushed, shoved. It’s the fight. The survival.

It’s the sound of handcuffs locking around his wrists. It’s the cops taking him away. Far, far away. For years and years. God, yes, it is the sound of handcuffs. It is calling Gavin, calling Ashley. It is sharing the news that is nearly two decades late. But better late than never. It’s knowing I’m going to be okay. We are all going to be okay. The release. It’s everything I have ever told myself to get through a day. It’s beginning to put the past out of sight. Yes, this is what victory feels like.

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