The Importance of Justice & Closure: My Letter to the Court

I'm glad to announce that the person responsible for committing violent crimes against my mother and relationship abuse against myself has been held accountable for his crimes. On Monday, June 10th,  I walked into the Bronx Criminal Court building for what I was hoping to be my last ever appearance before the court. After 3 years of ups and downs with the judicial process, I was anxious to finally end the case and continue my journey of healing. I was greeted by family members in the waiting area outside of the courtroom wondering if they had the same thoughts as I did; was this case finally over?

The court allows victims to speak before the court and acknowledge the crimes that were committed against them. Up until that day, I had not said a word to him in almost 3 years nor had I been able to speak before the court. Prior to the sentencing hearing, I prepared a 7 page letter that was revealing, open, and honest. While I do not want to expose anyone to vicarious trauma, I find that sharing my story is therapeutic for me. I edited the letter to take out the extreme graphic details but in order for it to remain “real”, I decided to leave in my personal experiences.

“Good afternoon your honor. I would like to thank you for allowing me to address the court. This afternoon I will speak on behalf of my mother and I... I have so much to say about the things that I have endured... I never thought that I would be a victim of domestic violence... I never knew things like that could happen to me, I was naive and uneducated about dating violence...I remember the first time you blacked my eye, my first busted lip, and the ones to follow...

You took so much away from me, mentally, emotionally and physically. I felt so empty and angry for such a long time. You made me suffer time and time again because of your insecurities and selfishness... I kept the abuse a secret for such a long time,  thinking who would ever believe me if I told them I was being abused... I always blamed myself for the way you treated me, thinking that there was something I could do to make you stop abusing me but only you control your actions...

My best friend kept telling me that if I didn’t leave, one day I might end up dead and to me that was the only way I thought our relationship would end. I remember the last day I was ever alone with you, you threatened to take my life... I knew that if I survived that night, it would be the last day I would ever let you cause me any harm. I thought that I would be rid of you and able to start a new journey and a life of happiness that I deserved but days later the new way of life that I wanted for myself was put on hold. I never thought that you would attempt to murder my mother... She was there to help you that day but you didn't want help. Instead you wanted to take back the control you once had and revenge against me for ending our relationship and you wanted me to feel pain and suffer...

The feeling that I had in my stomach and heart when I got the call from a detective about my mother's condition, is one that I could never wish on anyone. My grandpa had to drive through a blizzard and occasionally stop just so we could figure out where we were going. It was the craziest and scariest day of any of our lives. They had her listed as “unknown” in the hospital and she was barely recognizable... Her face looked like a mashed tomato...

The doctors told us that she had 48 hours to live and that they would make her comfortable so she could pass away peacefully. I couldn’t imagine how you could make someone comfortable that was just bludgeoned into a coma and set on fire. We sat in the ICU waiting room area for hours and hours. My grandmother was inconsolable kept screaming out “my baby, my baby, look what he did”.

I cried myself to sleep on the hospital chairs, vomited from crying so much. My aunt and uncle were stretched out on the hospital chairs; we all just sat waiting. It was the hardest thing ever telling my teenage sister that she may no longer have a mother, and for what, I have no idea. My sister dropped to the floor hyperventilating, shaking and crying. I think we just sat on the floor and cried for hours because there was nothing that I could tell her that would make everything alright.

For months I watched my mom lay in the hospital bed while she slept so peacefully in a coma... I used to stand at the edge of the hospital bed and watch her and just cry and beg her to wake up. Some days I was too afraid to even walk in her room fearing she would just die in front of me so i would stand at the door for a few seconds and walk away...The mental agony that we faced just thinking she would die at any moment was unbearable... It was so frustrating hearing constant updates from the doctors saying that she would never wake up or live a meaningful life, thank God that doctors do not have the final word.

As her brain started to heal from the trauma she began realizing that things were no longer the same. She asked me what happened to my old boyfriend. It was so hard to explain everything to her, it broke my heart to tell her what really happened. She couldn’t believe that someone was capable of beating her so badly...She had no idea that she was robbed of living a normal life for months and the years to follow her. I have watched her struggle every day with daily activities...

You have no idea what you put my family through in these years. This completely changed the dynamics and lifestyle of my family... We’ve spent all of our birthdays and holidays at the hospital and if we weren't at the hospital, we were at court. The whole court process was very exhausting on all of us. we had to take off of work and spend full days here waiting for you to be called up and hoping you would admit your guilt. You stood before the court each time full of arrogance and no remorse... Just last month on what we thought would be your sentencing we were struck with another blow stalling the process, stalling our closure. I watched you smirk and smile but I can’t seem to figure out what you think is amusing or entertaining about destroying lives.

Thinking about the 18 years to life plea deal, I can't say I'm satisfied with the amount of time your are ordered to serve because my mother was handed a life sentence. She wasn't offered a deal, you forced this new lifestyle on her... However, there is comfort in knowing that you will not roam the same streets as me... I guess I can feel safe for the next 18 years, but I am uncertain of what will happen after that. I can't imagine what my life would be life if you are ever released again. Would my family and I have to pick up and move to avoid you?

I know this sentence cannot and will not change the events that have taken place in the last 5 years but there is closure in knowing this case has come to an end. I have spent the past few years raising awareness to dating violence and teen dating violence...  My hopes are to educate adolescents about dating violence and healthy relationships. I have been completely open and honest in telling my story without shame... I'm grateful that I still have my life but it came at the price of you nearly taking my mothers life.”

My mother wanted to speak before the court but she now has a speech impairment as a result of her injuries. The letter to the court ended with a speech prepared by my grandmother, my mother, and myself. In the speech my mother recounts her injuries and the difficulties she now faces living as a permanently disabled person. It was extremely difficult to read through the entire letter without crying but I managed to get through it. I stood taller and taller as each word rolled off of my tongue.

I returned to the court bench feeling a bit light-headed. like I had spoke without taking a breath, but it felt good to release everything that I had kept bottled inside for years. The judge thanked myself and my family for our dedication to the trial, our display of courage and strength. The last 3 years have been mentally, emotionally, and physically trialing, but I am still standing. I walked out of the courtroom feeling like a new woman. Although I cannot turn back the hands of time and erase the past, I can now focus on my mission to raise awareness about dating violence and promote healthy relationships.