There are no windows here. Four walls adorned with government symbols and flags. It’s supposed to represent the power of government to protect the people. For some reason it just represents a room with no view of the past or future. It’s just a place where we apply the law, nothing more and nothing less.
The lights in the courtroom seem brighter today. Almost blinding me. I am sitting with two others in the jury box because there are no seats available in the gallery. Normally we sit in the back, hidden away from the judge and the lawyers. Our work is done, after nearly a year and thousands of hours toiling over disgusting and almost inhuman information and messages and pictures and emails, after an eternity of darkness in his pathetic and single minded little world, we are done and today is his day. It is judgement day.
In the back corner of the gallery I can see her sitting with her mother and father. She is in college now but she still looks so very innocent. She is pretty and tries to hide her beauty under long hair and baggy clothes. Her lack of self-confidence is entirely because of him. Just another wound that may never heal. She sees me looking and smiles shyly. I smile back and give her a nod. She did the right thing. We are here for her today. But she is not the only victim here.
His wife and kids are here to. They haven’t really seen him for a year. He sat in a cold dark cell while we busied ourselves exploring the depths of his depravity. His wife still believed him. At times I wanted to just call her and tell her what we found. Tell her what he really was. Tell her that she deserved so very much more than the monster that she shared a bed with for so long.
I look to his oldest daughter who was only a year or two younger than the victim. I remember seeing text messages to his daughters about picking them up and the very next text setting up a time to meet a girl their age to “play.” That’s what he called the game. It was play. Most games have a winner and a loser. Not these games. Everyone lost. This entire room lost.
His hair is grey now. He looks tired in his prison jumpsuit. I look at the handcuffs on the chain belt around his waist and smile a little thinking back to when we first cuffed him. When we first took away his freedom much the same way that he took hers away. He was going with us whether he wanted to or not. She felt the same way. She thought he loved her and where he went she would follow. She was a prisoner of another kind, a worse kind of emotional prison.
I hear him apologize to her and his family. Its sounds hollow to me. His mother begins to wail and he describes how their “relationship” started. He calls it a relationship. I feel like standing up in my seat and telling the judge that he shouldn’t be allowed to call it that. He shouldn’t be allowed to use that word because it doesn’t represent what he had with her. He raped her, there was no relationship I want to yell.
But I don’t. I sit and wait. Finally he stops talking and the judge begins to establish that he will spend the next seventeen years behind bars considering the impact of what he has done. Some are happy with that but I look back at her. Her father is holding her tightly as she cries. This part is over. He will “pay” for his crime. But when they walk out of this building and into the street it will not end for her. She will pay for his crime for the rest of her life. I did what I could to give her justice but I know that it will never truly be enough to make up for what he had done.
Again I will go home and shower the feeling of the dirty animal off of me. I will put the thousands of notes and pictures and files into boxes in storage and never look at them again. But I won’t have to. I will remember each of them. I will remember each piece of the pain that he caused. I always do.
When I am finished I sit in my chair and look out of my window. The sun is bright today. All I can think is, “what’s next” and wait for the next cry for help. It’s out there beyond that window and soon I will hear it and it will start again. That’s my choice. For right now, I relax and sit and wait. What’s next?