Updated: Feb 6, 2021
It took me a while to actually post this blog. I didn’t want to admit these feelings to myself, much less the public. But here we are… Maybe some day I’ll find another survivor with similar feelings? Or maybe it’ll help readers understand how challenging being a survivor can be.
I recently read this highly intriguing book called “Until We Reckon.” I truthfully thought I would hate the book and 100% disagree with everything it details. But I decided to order it and give it a chance after it was recommended by one of Minnesota’s most well-known Sexual Violence advocates, Sarah Super.
Upon reading the summary of the book, I almost didn’t even open it. It took me months. But I finally did, and I’m happy with my choice. (Note, there is a summary of the book at the end of this blog post). Very briefly, Common Justice is a restorative alternate option to incarceration for violent criminals, if agreed upon by the survivor of the violent crime. While I don’t agree with Common Justice as a program for my rapist (which isn’t an option anyway, since Common Justice does not work with survivors/perpetrators of sexual violence), I do agree that it should be an option in Minnesota for those that would fit a criteria to qualify, if the survivor of the crime agrees.
The success statistics in the book are unarguable. Again, I’m biased in my particular case and would NOT want my rapist to have this option because I do feel like he needs to be locked up for life – but I recognize that is the beauty of it: Survivors are given a choice, a voice. For example, if an offender of a violent crime is looking at a 5-year prison sentence, or has the option to go through a program that will hold him (we’ll say “him” based on statistics) accountable, in which he will apologize, feel remorse, take classes, learn how he impacted the survivor by listening to the them, and be statistically significantly less likely to re-offend, rather than sitting in a prison cell where he can hide from what he did – the survivor may prefer the Common Justice program. (The book explains this beautifully).
While "Until We Reckon" is about non-sexual violent crimes, it still made quite an impact on me considering the violent nature of my assault and either type of survivor is still a survivor of trauma. When I got to this quote, "Hurt people hurt people," I feel like I had an epiphany. I felt like things clicked and these simple words explained so much regarding my situation, but also raised many questions. Another sentence I came across in the next chapter says, "Research unequivocally shows that one of the most sure-fire predictors of violence is surviving it." This solidified one of my questions – What did the rapist who hurt me survive to cause him to hurt other people?
I've obviously been feeling a lot of anger and rage since November 18th of 2018. I can maintain a calm demeanor a vast majority of the time, but occasionally I feel like I am about to snap. And I’ve admitted to a couple of friends when I find myself seeing red and raging, that I'm not afraid to go to jail if someone pokes the bear. When I say this, I can’t express how serious I am about it. I can’t find the right words. My face, my voice… nothing portrays accurately what I feel. I can tell someone “I’m so mad I’m shaking,” or “I’m raging; all I am seeing is red,” and sometimes the reply I get is, “Oh Honey, you’re still a ray of sunshine.” No, no… you don’t understand. Please, listen. But… bad guys are the ones that hurt people. I shouldn’t be feeling like this. I’m not a bad guy, obviously. But now that I’ve survived violence, what if I become a bad guy? What is stopping me?
Truthfully, my best friend and my sister had a conversation about this... Their conversation included this statement, “I’m afraid she’s going to stab somebody in the eye with a fork,” if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and say/do something stupid to her. (And then my best friend tells me, “No forks for you!” Hah!) I feel like this is truth. And it’s scary. I scare myself. I don’t want to end up a bad guy. I don’t want to be violent. I don’t want to see red and rage anymore. But I also don’t want to be wronged anymore. I want that target men see taken off of my damn forehead.
I spoke about my feelings in the Sexual Assault Survivor Support Group that I attend. I’ve said, “I’m not afraid to go to jail if someone pushes me too far or tries to hurt my son again.” While I suppress these feelings far more often than not, I sometimes scare myself and feel like I need to be honest about them. One of the hosts replied to my comment, “You are on a whole other level of empathy. You are discovering who you are, and you’re going to research this (because I know you) and get to an entirely new level of advocating. You may even work with perpetrators someday.” She enlightened me to the fact that I have empathy that hurt people hurt people, and acknowledging and being aware of this can be used for good, despite the fact that it is a mind-blowing extremely heavy burden to actually feel this way. I can’t imagine many people will understand my feelings… but rather read this blog and think, Wow. Nutcase. I’m forever grateful for the host of the group validating, supporting, and seeing the light in my dark, heavy feelings. I think what separates me from being a violent person is awareness, knowledge, education, and being on a path to healing. And I shall continue to follow the Yellow Brick Road in my sparkly red heels.
I’m not always feeling this angry. I’m most certainly not always feeling violent. And I sure as hell am a ray of sunshine more often than not! (Right?) But sure enough, sometimes I do feel this way… and I hate it. I don’t deserve it; my loved ones don’t deserve it; innocent bystanders don’t deserve it; the fork doesn’t deserve it. And I’m sick of having a target on my forehead. Or my body? I’m sick of being vulnerable. I’m sick of being objectified. I’m done.
I’d like to end with… Knowledge is power. Knowledge is healing. Enlightenment is healing. Understanding is healing. I’m so glad to learn more about myself through reading and attending support group. I’m finally starting to understand who I have become because of the man who raped me at gunpoint and threatened to kill my son. Little does he know, I'm winning.
So here we are: Danielle using rage-energy for positive things! And speaking in third person?
Your local ray of sunshine,
(Danielle Louise Leukam)
Summary of “Until We Reckon” by Danielle Sered – taken from Amazon.
Although over half the people incarcerated in America today have committed violent offenses, the focus of reformers has been almost entirely on nonviolent and drug offenses. Danielle Sered’s brilliant and groundbreaking Until We Reckon steers directly and unapologetically into the question of violence, offering approaches that will help end mass incarceration and increase safety.
Widely recognized as one of the leading proponents of a restorative approach to violent crime, Sered asks us to reconsider the purposes of incarceration and argues persuasively that the needs of survivors of violent crime are better met by asking people who commit violence to accept responsibility for their actions and make amends in ways that are meaningful to those they have hurt—none of which happens in the context of a criminal trial or a prison sentence.
Sered launched and directs Common Justice, one of the few organizations offering alternatives to incarceration for people who commit serious violent crime and which has produced immensely promising results.
Critically, Sered argues that the reckoning owed is not only on the part of those who have committed violence, but also by our nation’s overreliance on incarceration to produce safety—at great cost to communities, survivors, racial equity, and the very fabric of our democracy.