You can now order my e-book THE SANTA NEXT DOOR on Kindle for 99 cents!
(warning:graphic image below)
Have you ever survived something that you feel completely defined you? The event defines how you divide your life?
For some of us, it’s a break up of a relationship, the death of a loved one, getting a cancer diagnosis.
For me, it was the day I left my husband after getting strangled. Then it was replaced by the day my daughters were kidnapped.
|8/6/2011- an hour before the assault/robbery
At the end of summer 2011, I dropped my college-aged daughters off reluctantly before midnight in downtown Anchorage, where they were meeting up with five friends for drinks. Our conversation just before went something like this:
Me: “Nothing good happens after midnight. You girls should stay home.”
Girls:“Mom, knock it off. We’ll be in a group. We’re safe. Don’t worry.”
Less than twenty minutes later, I got a call. The girls and their five friends had been victims of a random attack on the street by three Polynesian gang members, two of whom I knew from my work as a juvenile probation officer. My youngest daughter’s date Joe got his head stomped into the cement repeatedly. The police told us he wouldn’t likely survive. My daughter had tried to protect him and was subsequently beaten and robbed. My oldest daughter intervened to protect her sister, becoming the complainant and the state’s key witness.
In all, six of the seven kids in my daughters’ group were hurt. Six hurt by three, you say? You have to picture the size difference. Something akin to grizzlies attacking koalas.
Joe spent nearly a month in intensive care. With multiple skull fractures, he’s still in the process of healing.
The many months since have been filled with court, bail reviews, problems at the District Attorney’s office, a change of plea, trial, and chronically rescheduled sentencing hearings.
But that’s just the bad stuff.
The surprisingly good stuff?
Watching how they came through it.
I knew the girls moved easily from victim to survivor by a few markers.
The return to everyday routines
My daughters returned to their jobs and university courses nearly immediately. No fanfare or theatrical displays of sadness. They refused to let the perpetrators steal from them what they were working towards before the robbery and assault. Added to the everyday routines were visits with Joe in intensive care, court hearings, and doctor appointments, but that simply became the new normal.
Reaching out for support
Without hesitation, both contacted therapists to help them process the trauma. My youngest daughter contacted the Office of Victim’s Rights after all of the victims were repeatedly left out of court hearings they had a legal right to participate in (“Not enough staff to notify victims of hearings,” a staff person at the District Attorney’s Office said).
Why Me was replaced by What’s in it for me? Not in an exploitive sense, but in the Look How I’ve Grown sense.
My oldest daughter, anxious in daily life, was a rock star at the trial, bravely facing two defense attorneys, the offenders, and the jury panel without flinching.
My youngest daughter told me, “I’m not glad any of this happened, but I know now that I’m stronger than I thought I was.”
Quite right. I wish none of us would experience traumatic events, though they’re clearly a part of all of our lives.
But I hope we remember to honor the strength gained in the process.
My daughters and the other victims didn’t linger in that role. They’ve gracefully morphed into survivors.
Think back to your own trauma(s). What strength did you gain from the experience?