From the outset, I knew I wanted to speak with the rapist. I didnâ€™t want to be just another rape statistic. I was a real person, with a real life, who had been really harmed. The collateral damage to my family and friends was immense.
I wasnâ€™t aware of Restorative Justice (RJ) at the time; and despite being so traumatized and barely able to function, I went on to work with two highly skilled mediators who agreed to take on my case. After 20 months of negotiation, I finally got to speak to the man whose first words to me had been â€œDo as I say, or Iâ€™ll kill youâ€.
….When we finally met, the offender was shaking, sweating and wary of my actions. I was in the perverse situation of asking him if HE was alright! However, we both went on to calmly talk for 2 hours. He did say â€œsorryâ€. I had to ask him to say it. He said it didnâ€™t seem enough after Iâ€™d described my current state of desperation. He had eye contact with me when he said this and at last I felt like I counted. I was able to voice the feeling of hurt, abandonment and the damage wreaked on my family and I as my life slowly fell apart in the months after his conviction.
It is â€˜humanâ€™ to want to feel understood. I needed to be heard, but so did the offender. I listened, without judgment, to the pain and hurt he described of his early childhood. How his anger and unhealthy sexual fantasies had evolved into his own rage; enacting crimes perceived by the public as second in severity only to murder. I wanted him to take responsibility for his crimes. Chillingly, he described how this was the first time he had ever vie wed his victim as a real person and only because I was sitting beside him and confronting his excuses; bringing him out of his disassociation from the reality of his crimes.
Rape is about power, anger and control. It is rarely about sex. On that day, in a small prison visiting room, the balance of power changed. I too had to confront my hopelessness and helplessness. I was also in prison but the fear was in my head. Being given the opportunity to allow the rapist to think about his crimes in a different way was a huge step forward in the start of my recovery.
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