Aftermath of an Assault: 1989

This illustration was used in early coverage of gender-based violence in Minnesota Women’s Press

In March 1989, an extensive essay in Minnesota Women’s Press was devoted to the personal story of a woman who described her assault. The writer detailed the police process, the legal process, and the anger she felt about the results. Her attacker received a plea bargain that entitled him to no court case, despite her attempts to be assured of the opportunity to deliver a Victim Impact Statement.

I have always known that the system doesn’t protect women. I do not know why it still surprises me when that reality smacks me in the face again.

The night manager at 7-11 offered me coffee and a chair while I waited for the police. Had he known me better, he would have understood that I found it more calming to do the practical things I needed to do — like grocery shopping. He looked dubious about my mental state at that point, but I am sure I was simply in shock. And the calm exterior was deceptive. My signature on my check was unreadable.

A full day elapsed and I did not hear from the police. I was anxious to talk with them while my memory was fresh, so I followed up on it by phone. With some persistence I was able to locate the officer in the Sex Crimes Division who was assigned to my case. The experience was not too bad. His questions were asked in a matter-of-fact way, and I responded similarly. He did ask why I was out so late and what was I wearing. I resisted the temptation to say that my nun’s habit was in the wash.

The case has left me with a three- figure bill for legal services. I had expected that these services would be provided by the Victim Witness program, including the presence of the advocate at my hearings [whose] job description emphasizes duties related to making phone calls and scheduling appointments for attorneys. With the limits of a 40-hour work week, emotional support to victims inevitably gets shortchanged.

Through the entire ordeal, I could see that the system does not know how to deal with a victim who is angry. […] All I wanted was to appropriately tell [the perpetrator] how angry I was. I needed that for my own healing. The judge refused my request. I found out about the sentence the same day I read that the Vikings were going to sign Mossy Cade only weeks after his release from prison for rape.