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Impact Statements in Court: A Mother and Daughter's Quest for Justice

Pleading for Justice

Video file from Franklin County Court of Common Pleas



Columbus, OH—Wednesday, September 16th, 10:01 AM: On this pivotal morning, as my abuser was sentenced to prison, I felt a profound sense of relief and vindication. The burden I had carried through countless court hearings, continuances, and the harrowing accusations of complicity in my abuse finally lifted.


Before stepping into the courtroom, my nerves were on edge. I prayed earnestly, asking God to be by my side, to make His presence known. And He answered my prayers, not just by being beside me, but by vindicating me and ensuring justice prevailed.


The defense attorney tried every tactic to paint me as deceptive and provocative—a narrative frustratingly familiar to those who have faced abuse. As he spoke, I sat with my head held high, fortified by the truth known to God, my former boyfriend, and myself. Speaking to the judge and addressing the court was incredibly liberating. It was my moment to be heard, to tell my story, and claim back my life.


I spoke not only for myself but for my daughters and for every woman who has been silenced by fear or injustice.

My words were a plea for justice—a call to recognize and punish the wrongdoing, but also a message of empowerment. I wanted my daughters to know that no act of violence against them should ever go unchallenged and that their voices can carry weight and bring about change.

Beside me stood my eight-year-old daughter, Amaya, embodying bravery as she read her heartfelt letter to the judge. Despite the spelling mistakes and innocent handwriting, her words rang with clarity and truth, reflecting the lasting impact of those traumatic events.


As we faced this day together, I was reminded of the words from Ephesians 6:10-14, which had been a beacon throughout this ordeal:


"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place."

This scripture was not just a source of comfort; it was a call to action—to stand firm in truth and righteousness, to fight against injustice, and to uphold the integrity of my faith and spirit.


This day marked a turning point, not just in my legal battle, but in my journey of healing and empowerment. It was a testimony to the strength found in faith and the transformative power of speaking out. It was a day when I stood, not just for myself, but for every voice yearning to be heard.



Update on Victims' Rights - Marsy’s Law


Introduction to Marsy's Law When I was navigating the challenges of the judicial system, Marsy's Law was not yet available to provide the protections and rights it now ensures for victims of crime. Enacted to amend the state constitutions in several states, Marsy's Law grants specific rights to crime victims, ensuring that they are treated with fairness and respect throughout the legal proceedings.


What is Marsy’s Law? Marsy's Law was named after Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas, a college student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only a week after her murder, Marsy’s family encountered her accused murderer, who had been released on bail without their knowledge. This traumatic experience highlighted the need for greater protection and rights for victims within the judicial system.


Rights Provided by Marsy’s Law:

  1. Right to be treated with respect, fairness, and dignity throughout the criminal process.

  2. Right to be informed about and present at proceedings.

  3. Right to be heard at plea and sentencing proceedings.

  4. Right to reasonable protection from the accused and those acting on behalf of the accused.

  5. Right to notification of the release or escape of the accused.

  6. Right to privacy and to be free from intimidation, harassment, or abuse.


Impact of Marsy’s Law: Since its implementation, Marsy's Law has significantly altered the landscape for victims' rights in several states. Victims are now more informed, involved, and heard within the legal process, which aligns with the principles of justice and fairness that the law seeks to uphold.


The enactment of Marsy’s Law marks a pivotal advancement in the fight for victims' rights. While this legislation was not in place during my legal battles, its presence today offers a layer of security and acknowledgment that was previously missing. For anyone going through similar experiences now, Marsy’s Law provides a crucial support system designed to protect your rights and ensure your voice is heard.




Tips for Writing a Powerful Victim Impact Statement:

Writing has always been one of my superpowers. I find it natural to express myself through words, but I understand that for some, this task can feel overwhelming and intimidating. Here are a few suggestions based on my experiences:

  • Write from the First Person: Immerse yourself back into those difficult times to share your story authentically. This isn't just recounting events; it's about letting the judge see the world through your eyes. Remember, for many judges, this will be the first time they hear directly from you rather than through the filter of legal documents or third parties.

  • Tell Your Truth: Often, this is your first opportunity to speak in your own words in front of the judge. Until this point, perhaps only the prosecutor has a full grasp of your experience, and it's not until the trial that all the details of your case are shared. Use this chance to tell your story and convey all the emotions you’ve felt. It can be painful to relive these experiences, but it also presents a crucial opportunity for the judge to understand the depth of what you’ve endured.

  • Catalog Your Emotions: Begin by listing each emotional response or psychological effect the experience has brought you—fear, confusion, withdrawal, mistrust, depression, PTSD, trauma, etc. Expand on each of these responses, providing context and detail. This will help you organize your thoughts and weave them into a narrative that powerfully conveys your journey.

  • Organizing Your Thoughts: When preparing your victim impact statement, it can be helpful to use journal entries or personal records arranged in chronological order. In my case, which spanned nearly two years before sentencing, I referenced numerous journal entries documenting my experiences as a victim, the toll of the legal process, emotional responses, and the path to healing. These included notes on medical procedures, therapy sessions, the effects on my children, and the economic impact of the crime. Consider printing and physically rearranging these notes to better see the timeline and how events unfolded. Creating an outline is also an effective way to ensure your statement is structured clearly and flows logically.

  • Enhancing Your Impact Statement with Visual Aids: To further emphasize the seriousness of your experience when delivering your victim impact statement, consider using visual aids. For example, during my statement, I presented images of my injuries on poster boards. Even though the judge had already seen these images in my file, displaying them again while I read my statement ensured that the visual impact accompanied my words, leaving a lasting impression. This approach is particularly effective in helping the court grasp the full extent of physical injuries and the tangible aftermath of the crime. If you decide to use visual aids, make sure they are prepared professionally and are sensitive to the context of your statement. It's also important to check with the court or your legal representative beforehand to ensure that bringing such materials is allowed.

  • Conveying Your Message to the Defendant Indirectly: While most courtrooms do not allow you to address the defendant directly, use your statement as a chance to articulate the impact of their actions. This indirect address can be a powerful way to express the pain and consequences of their behavior.

  • Take Breaks as Needed: Writing a victim impact statement can be an emotionally taxing journey. It's vital to prioritize your well-being throughout this process, so please, take breaks as needed. There's no requirement to complete it in one sitting; allow yourself days, even weeks, to thoroughly articulate your thoughts. This process is not solely about crafting a compelling narrative—it's equally a period of personal reflection and self-care during a challenging recount.

    • Planning: Please be mindful that impact statements typically need to be submitted to the prosecutor one to two weeks before your court date. Plan accordingly to give yourself ample time for reflection, writing, and any revisions that might be necessary.

  • Empower Yourself Through Your Words: Use this moment to reclaim your voice and your power. Writing a victim impact statement offers a unique opportunity to stand up in a formal setting and speak your truth. It’s about transforming your narrative from one of victimhood to one of strength and resilience. This is your time to assert control over how your story is told, to ensure that the court understands the full impact of the crime on your life. It's not just recounting facts; it's about conveying the emotional depth and personal changes that resulted from the incident. Let your words reflect your journey from pain to empowerment, showing that while the experience is a part of you, it does not define you. Embrace this opportunity to make your voice heard loud and clear—it’s a powerful step towards healing and justice.


Comprehensive Guide and Sample Letter

For those looking for more detailed guidance and a practical example of how to apply these tips, I have compiled a comprehensive guide complete with a sample victim impact statement. This guide is designed to support you through the process of articulating your experiences and emotions in a structured and impactful way.

To access the guide and sample letter, click below to download.


Victim Impact Statement Guide 2024
.pdf
Download PDF • 277KB

This resource aims to provide you with the tools you need to effectively communicate the depth of your experiences and the consequences of the crime, helping you navigate this crucial part of the judicial process.

Further Reading and Resources: 

For those looking for more detailed guidance or additional perspectives on victim impact statements, you might find these posts helpful:





Call to Action

If you or someone you know is navigating the aftermath of a crime, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with Marsy’s Law in your state and advocate for your rights. Understanding these provisions can significantly impact your experience and outcome in the judicial system.


Share Your Voice: Have you or someone you know been affected by similar circumstances? I encourage you to share your story in the comments below. By speaking out, we can support each other and work towards a more just system.



Embracing Your Journey of Healing and Empowerment

Being victimized initiates a journey of healing and growth, and writing a victim impact statement is a pivotal step along that path. This process is more than a formality—it's an opportunity to reclaim your voice and affirm your rights within the judicial system. If you have the chance to give a statement, I highly recommend seizing it. Don't let feelings of being overwhelmed or stepping outside your comfort zone deter you. Use this moment to stand in your power!


I understand it can be daunting, but remember, it is your right to speak up. Using your voice in this way can significantly aid in your healing process. It allows you not just to be heard but to actively participate in seeking justice for yourself and potentially preventing future harm to others. Embrace this opportunity—it is yours, and it is powerful!




Additional Resources and Support

  • National Center for Victims of Crime: Offers resources for crime victims and policy advocacy. Visit their website

  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): Provides support for sexual assault survivors. Learn more here

  • Victim Support Services: Offers practical advice and support on navigating post-crime challenges. Find assistance

  • Battered Not Broken, Inc. Resources Please click here to access the full range of resources available on our website. We’ve gathered this information with the hope of making your path to recovery a little easier by connecting you with the best possible support networks.



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