Marsy’s Law Is For All – Breeanne’s Story
The room was cold, as was always the case for me as a petite ten year old. But this time was distinctly different. I was cold and alone, in a room full of adults who were complete strangers. I remember saying goodbye to my mom at the door, wishing she could accompany me in that room. But, for reasons I didn’t understand at the time, she wasn’t allowed. No one I knew was allowed in the room. And at ten years old, with no familiar faces and no counsel as to what was happening, I was expected to share with strangers the most horrifying experience I’d had in my life. I didn’t say a word. I was terrified and ashamed. And my abuser went free, while I bore more shame for being unable to be strong enough to prevent him from hurting others.
Eventually, after the revelation that he’d been abusing a family member for years and abused his own infant daughter, my abuser finally went to jail. I only know any details through the grapevine, so to speak – I’ve certainly never received any notifications as to his status within the criminal justice system. At some point, he will be released. And I will, once again, rely on the grapevine to alert me so as to keep my own children safe.
I hadn’t heard the term “Victim Advocate” until I came aboard the Marsy’s Law team. Through my experience with Marsy’s Law, I’ve learned there are people dedicated to helping victims like me navigate a system that is overwhelming and, for a child, scary. I’ve been reminded of my experience off and on as I’ve heard stories from other victims of crime across the country.
Most recently, the efforts of a group in Montana pulled at my heart-strings: bikers who do whatever it takes to help children through the process of facing their abusers. Said member Cara Barnes, if they need to take shifts in sleeping bags in the front yard to help kids feel safe in the days leading up to facing their abuser in court, they will not hesitate. To have that strength of support would have made all the difference for me and, more importantly, prevented my abuser from being free to hurt others.
Yet, while I’ve been inspired by the efforts of those like Cara, I’ve also heard the complaints against Marsy’s Law – namely, that it would be costly to implement. Aside from the fact that this argument is unfounded, considering that implementation caused no financial burden for the states of California and Illinois who’ve already passed Marsy’s Law, it is supremely offensive to victims like me. The argument goes something along the lines of – If we guarantee victims’ rights in the state constitution, we will have to spend the money to actually do what should’ve been already happening under the current statutory rights already given to victims of crime. And further, crimes that aren’t as important (in the eyes of some) will now be equal to other crimes (deemed more important in the eyes of some) which will put a burden on our judicial system.
The victimization I endured as a child has carried through my life, affecting me in ways I continue to realize the older I get. The idea that my abuse is somehow less important because I wasn’t actually raped or murdered is devastating. At what point do I matter?
I stand with Marsy’s Law because, under this law, all victims matter and all victims are protected. The rights of my abuser do not outweigh my rights – as a ten-year-old or at my current age.
I’ve many times traveled to Washington, DC and have often passed by the Supreme Court building. Like the many historical buildings found there, it is awe-inspiring – be it blanketed in snow or with the sun’s attempts to push past its strong frame. Atop the entrance, words inspired by our Fourteenth Amendment read, “Equal Justice Under Law.” Despite our country’s dedication to equality, such has not always been the case. But we have aspired to more and, every day, we work towards that notion of equality that defines us as a country. There is more work to be done, this we know. I believe Marsy’s Law will bring us closer to this goal and it is a step we can be proud to have taken. It’s time for Marsy’s Law.