Home > Stories From Small Town > When They Stand

When They Stand

I don’t write about the sex crimes part of my police job often though it’s considered my specialty. These cases cause me sleepless nights, tears and heartache. I’m not the victim but as a society we are all victimized by such atrocities.

For child victims of molestation and survivors of sexual assault, it leaves behind a legacy of shame and devastation. As a detective investigating the circumstances of the crimes, my job is to remain aloof and impartial. When I’m looking at a woman, bruised and bleeding, gazing at the floor and telling me it was her fault, I’m angry. When I watch a three year old child tell of the horrors he or she has lived with and then ask if it’s time to play, my tears fall.

I am human.

I never lie to a sexual assault victim or the parent of a molested child. The laws are not in their favor. The accused has the right to face the accuser. If a child is old enough to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, they sit on the stand, alone, in front of adults and must be able to point out the defendant and describe what the monster did to them.

For women and men, they must articulate details of the attack and claim intimate pictures of genitalia as their own. The defense attorney, jury, and judge all look at the pictures in open court.

I don’t agree with the term “date rape.” Rape is rape. It doesn’t matter if you know your attacker, the after effects last a lifetime. I know there are those who say “victims” lie. I have investigated two cases where they did. I then prosecuted the true criminals and won.

In the past twelve months there has been an increase in my sex crimes workload. It’s been rough and I’m thankful every day that I have a wonderful support system and the strong shoulders of my husband to lean on.

Until this past year, my victims have agreed to lighter sentences for their attacker as part of plea deals so they would never be required to testify to the horrifying events. I understand. I empathize but I want my suspect to go away forever because I know this is the only way they’ll be stopped. I hold my counsel and wonder if I would be strong enough to bare all under these circumstances. For a long time I didn’t think I could.

Then something happened.

A fourteen year old girl slowly walked to the witness stand. Her long hair in ponytails, with small glasses perched on her nose. Her slender body was engulfed by her chair. She looked out at the audience where her mother and father sat and quietly described, in great detail, what was done to her. She found her voice and her emotional testimony was heard.

Then, in an exceptionally public case, a forty year old woman silenced a disbelieving audience who were supporting a well-known prominent man in our community. She described hours of torture and took one of the pictures of her brutalized body and turned it toward the defendant yelling, “You did this to me.” There was not a dry eye in the room.

Then, three months later, a sixteen year old refused to be silenced and at the end of her testimony she stood up from the witness chair and screamed her pain to a stunned courtroom. The defendant looked down and would not lift his head.

These three incredibly strong females have changed me. In spite of the insensitivity and regardless of reliving their personal pain, they stood up for all victims.

When they stand their power is unstoppable.

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  1. April 5, 2012 at 10:28 am

    I have no words, Suzie. Just thank you for doing your job the way you do…and thank you for being there for the ones who need you. Hugs always.

    • April 5, 2012 at 10:37 am

      I’ve needed to write this post for a long time but couldn’t find the words until recently.

  2. April 5, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Wow…can I just say WOW?

    Terrific post, girl….

    • April 5, 2012 at 10:58 am

      Thank you and Wow is awesome!

  3. April 5, 2012 at 11:13 am

    This is a very powerful post, Suzy. You certainly live life at the sharp end. I am very grateful that I grew up never hearing the word paedophile, never imagined it could exist until I was over 30, then found it hard to understand WHY people could behave like this. But clearly it does and it takes people like you and those brave victims to stand up and put a stop to it. So good for you. Your blog is one of the best things on the net.

    • April 5, 2012 at 11:28 am

      And that my friend is a powerful comment. Thank you!

  4. sarannadewylde
    April 5, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Thank you for being the officer that you are. I’ve said that before, but I’ve been through this. Instead of an officer who cared about what happened to me, I was accused of “buyer’s remorse” and any other nasty thing you could think of to say to a person who’d been victimized. We need more officers like you. So thank you for putting yourself in the line of fire, thank you for looking at all that horror you have to keep in your head, and thanks for not giving up.

    • April 5, 2012 at 11:25 am

      I’ve met so many compassionate officers but I’ve also seen ones that should not be doing their job. Thank you for taking the time to comment and sharing your pain, I know it’s not easy.

  5. April 5, 2012 at 11:21 am

    A moving post. I think what you’re really describing Suzie are survivors. These young women have stood up and faced their persecutors and congratulations to them. I thank you for sharing

    • April 5, 2012 at 11:33 am

      They are incredible survivors. I didn’t want to write in the post about what happened at Christmas but the fourteen year old and her family knocked on my door and brought me cookies and a poinsettia plant. I cried for hours after they left because they took the time to thank ME. I can never thank that young lady enough.

  6. April 5, 2012 at 11:29 am

    I’ve tried to write a thoughtful and deep response to this, but I fear there is nothing that I can write or say that would come close to how I feel. Your post is simply put, empowering.

    • April 5, 2012 at 11:34 am

      That was perfect Samantha {hugs}

  7. April 5, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Like most here, Suzie, I feel almost speechless, not knowing what to say, and yet there is so much in my head that I do want to say. I want to yell! My mother was a rape victim at the hands of her mother’s husband. Her mother knew and did nothing. Her position as the mistress of a very wealthy politician in El Salvador meant so much more to her. Money does indeed talk.

    I applaud your strength, both as a woman and as a police officer. I can’t say enough of how much I admire you.

    I grew up in San Francisco, in the Potrero Hill district, and at the time it was pretty much an impoverished neighborhood where we lived. And I remember hearing and seeing too much. My little friends were helpless to do anything to defend themselves.

    Reading your post made me want to jump out of my chair and scream along with these abused victims. Sigh!

    So thank you for sharing, Suzie, it should help to open our eyes and DO something, if we are ever needed.

    Big virtual hugs, mi Amiga,
    ~Virginia

    • April 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      This past year has taught me that the many who are unable to stand up for themselves are represented loudly and powerfully by those who do.

      I was in the San Francisco Bar Area from 1973 to 1979 and went to high school in Fremont. I spent every other weekend taking BART and walking the streets of San Francisco. To think we may have been so close.

      Big {hugs} back and thank you sharing your mother’s story.

  8. April 5, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Thank you for this.

  9. April 5, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    My friend, I am not only thanking God that you found your way to becoming a police officer, but that you found your voice as a writer to share your thoughts and the blogoshpere to make such an affirming and empowering post as this.

    I stand in awe of and solidarity to these woman and girls. Brava!!

    • April 5, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      And you made me cry though it has been a day of strengthening and happy tears.

      • April 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm

        Hey, fair is fair. I’m typing through blurry eyes too.

  10. April 5, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Suzie,

    As a male officer, I took a few initial rape statements, “early doors.” In my force those investigations usually were taken over by a special unit or detective outfit. I know the descriptions of the act used to tax my capacity to hold back tears, and being a bloke, shiny eyes would never do, would it?

    I don’t know whether it is more openly publicized nowadays, or whether the problem of sexual violence has got worse. It, “feels,” as if it has got worse.

    This is another of those blog posts on the web that makes me feel distinctly less than proud to be a man. When are we going to start socializing men properly?

    In regard to your own feelings, I know you’re a tough cookie, much flintier than me. I used to lock it up and that causes insidious internal wreckage.

    Let it out, tell the story.

    It’ll do _less_ internal damage, although there’s always some. It’ll tell some truth in the world, and for that, bless you.

    For dealing with the victims with compassion and decency, bless you twice.

    Live long and prosper, heroine:)

    brendan

    • April 5, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      Brendan, If young boys could be raised with the compassion you show, investigating sex crimes would have a much lighter load. I am honored to have you as a friend though we have never met. I value your “police” eyes and the support you give me.

  11. isthisthemiddle
    April 5, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks, Suzie, once again for doing your work with compassion. You are making a difference in the world through your police work, your blog, and your books. I’m proud to know you.

    • April 5, 2012 at 4:23 pm

      Even with tears in my eyes, you make me smile. Teachers are powerful too.

  12. April 5, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Wow, Suzie. You are an amazing soul. Thank you to you and your wonderful support system that enable you to do what you do. It can’t be easy, having to absorb on a daily basis the atrocities of humanity. It must have been so gratifying to witness those brave women rise up and face their accusers. Thank you for sharing this!

    • April 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm

      God gave me all I could bear. When I could take no more he gave them a voice which I needed to hear. Simply amazing!

  13. April 6, 2012 at 11:15 am

    I cried my way through the whole post, but the last two paragraphs really hit hard.

    “In spite of the insensitivity and regardless of reliving their personal pain, they stood up for all victims.

    When they stand their power is unstoppable.”

    I never got the chance to participate in a prosecution of the man who sexually abused me, because he died when I was nine years old, before I had the strength to speak out. I have always regretted the loss of that moment.

    • April 6, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      I’ve been trying to find the right words but I have none and it’s hard to see the monitor through tears. I thank you for adding your comment.

  14. srs35
    April 6, 2012 at 11:24 am

    :(((

    Suzie Ivy :
    God gave me all I could bear. When I could take no more he gave them a voice which I needed to hear. Simply amazing!

    • April 6, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      Sveta, I’ve missed you. Be happy for me, I really needed to write this post 🙂

  15. April 6, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Thank you!

  16. Liz Hennel
    April 6, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    I would love to be able to confront my abusers – but they are dead. However, even if they were still alive, I am not sure that I have the emotional and psychological strength to do so.. The law – and our system in the UK is so loaded – it is adversarial in the extreme….. It is like being raped all over again, this time in public. The assumption of innocence until proven otherwise is a wonderful thing – but….does it have to be so brutal to victims???

    • April 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm

      The UK is similar in law to the US when it comes to sexual crimes. With these in place, I doubted my own ability to stand up if I was the victim. In all three of these cases I stood in the same courtroom. You could feel the power of all the victimized people as they spoke. I wish I had better words to describe it. They spoke for you.

  17. Nancy
    April 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks Suzie for your words, voice and strength. Many adults are carrying secrets from childhood.

  18. Eva
    April 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Thank you. I have no words to add to what has already been said but as a therapist who works with trauma victims, I wish there were more people like you. As a trauma victim myself, I wish there had been someone like you when I told. Thank you.

    • April 6, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      I work with a therapist who works with trauma victims. Without her I would have walked away two years ago. Thank you!

  19. April 6, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    I have often wondered how a person develops the required inner strength to be able to do a job such as yours. Thank you for writing this.

    • April 7, 2012 at 7:02 am

      I often wondered the same thing and never thought it would be me. I love my job and feel very fortunate that so many people touch my life.

  20. April 8, 2012 at 4:05 am

    I search for words, but I confess, I cannot find a any to add to your own. The only thing I will say is that, difficult though it is, keep writing about it. Keep putting these things out there in front of the world. When you recount these amazing stories, your voice becomes a megaphone for the victims, which will hopefully help give strength to others who have gone through these horrible ordeals.

    • April 8, 2012 at 6:26 am

      Thank you Ruby, you always say the right thing,

  21. April 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    You write so well about very difficult topics. Your descriptions are vivid and your stories pulse with the emotion you stand as a witness to. I am often humbled by your words.

    • April 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Thank you Christine. I am always humbled by the comments, yours included.

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