The Down Side

I can’t save people. I know that. I have no power to stop people from being assaulted. I can’t force anyone to make the choice I would pick. I can’t go back in time. I can’t fix everything. So today instead I cried.

I sat in a courtroom today for 8 hours on the brink of tears. I watched the scene in front of me play out like a terrible movie. I was powerless to stop it. It was like watching someone get into a car accident in slow motion. I could see everything before it happened, but there was nothing I could do. I was helpless.

There were witnesses who provided their evidence. I saw their nervous reactions on the stand. I watched as they gave the facts. I listened as they told their version of the truth, knowing they only knew part of the facts and I stayed silent, I had no choice. I watched the defendant grin like a Cheshire cat. He was so smug and defiant even here looking down the barrel of a loaded gun. He kept looking at her, winking at her, smiling at her hoping to get a response.

The lawyers asked their questions. They gave dates, circumstances and facts. They defended their position like they were trained to do, not knowing how wrong they were getting it. The facts without the context are easily misconstrued.

The judge made a long statement about the history of the case and I lost it. There was so much I wish I could have done. I thought about how different the case could have been. I thought about all the pivotal points where a different choice would have ended in a completely different conclusion. I cried for my own helplessness. I cried for the people involved and the pain they felt. I cried because so many people in the room didn’t understand what was really happening in the case. They only saw one small portion and with that, made their judgement.

When the judge came back with her verdict and sentencing, I cried. I knew the full impact of what this would do. I saw firsthand how broken the judicial system is where victims are punished alongside their abusers. I further learned how unfair life can be and how hard it is. I saw the bias that exists in the legal system.
A complete stranger took my hand. She held my hand as I cried in the courtroom. I didn’t pull away. I didn’t tell her to stop. At that point her hand was the only thing holding me on the earth. It reminded me of just how soft and human people can be. Our eyes met and I knew she understood. We didn’t share any words, but she knew.

They took her back to the jail and she was screaming and crying. She yelled “No one believes me. I can’t go on like this.” She had fought so hard and it had no impact on the outcome of the case in the end. I knew that her words were the result of her pain and her anger. I believed her, I still did.

When I got to my car I let myself fall apart. I felt all the cracks break open as I felt the hot tears fall down my cheeks. I sobbed until my head pounded and my lungs ached. I cried not only for myself, but for her. I cried for all the things that happened and the ones that should have and didn’t. I felt so much of her pain and grief. I felt the devastation let go as I cried in my car.

I called a co-worker and talked to her about it. She reassured me that I did all I could have, but it didn’t feel any better. She told me I worked hard and that I did my best, but my best didn’t feel good enough. She told me to take care of myself, but I knew I’d let this hurt fester and burn until it burned itself out.

I still can’t save anyone. I still can’t change the past. I still can’t choose for anyone. In the end, nothing changed for me. But knowing the true impact of the final verdict changed me forever. And in the end there was nothing else I could have done but cry.


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