Last year I stopped believing in many things. However, I now believe I will not settle.
In a small plain windowless room with shackles on the floor, I told my story. I pushed back the words of the police officer from the night before who said “he seems really sorry,” and “If you file a report he will probably go to jail.” I would not be one of the countless women who remained voiceless. The detective was quick to classify the case as domestic violence. I walked out feeling soon I would achieve justice. The evidence was heaping and the police officer even had a confession.
I remember clearly the first time I felt like a victim. Surprisingly, it was not at the time of the violation or when the detective told me I could get a restraining order “but it really doesn’t ensure he will stay away from you.” It was when the prosecutor told me they had decided not to press charges. It was explained to me, there were too many other more important cases to pursue.
After sobbing the rest of the night in anger over the unfairness, I awoke with a different perspective. Yes, the Attorney General’s office made the wrong decision and endangered other women and myself by doing so. I would not be helpless, though. I would not be a victim of the justice system. I was just not going to settle for this.
I called lawyers, domestic violence advocates, friends, family, and other prosecutors in the Attorney’s office. I wrote emails. I left message after message. I told my story over and over again. Finally, after a month the department agreed to meet with me. Once again I relived my nightmare. I showed pictures. I read one disturbing email after the next. More importantly, I let it be known I was not going to stand for this. Two days later they declared they made a mistake and went forth with charges. For me it was victory for all women.
The thousands of other women who are in similar situations will always haunt me. I worry for the woman who believes her boyfriend when he says, “it will never happen again.” Or the one who accepts the response from the police officer, “he seems sorry.” And for those women that don’t think they are strong enough to stand up to the justice system. I hope they don’t settle for that.
Currently, I am getting my master’s in Public Policy because I decided this country is not perfect and I am not going accept that. We are arguably the richest nation in the world yet millions are poor, homeless, and uninsured. If my situation taught me anything it is that not taking “no” for an answer can go a long way. Imagine what we could do if we all just decided we weren’t going to settle.
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