Long day today, but one of those days that make me remember why I do what I do, and why I keep doing it. The reality is, I did very little. Instead of heading to the office, I drove to a prison to accompany a client to a parole hearing. She was attending on behalf of her family, the rest of whom were unable to attend. I was attending to support her in any way I could.
She was the picture of strength, silently sitting through a process where the man who murdered her family member was allowed to say whatever he wanted in an effort to convince the parole board that he should be granted full parole. I know that she wanted to defend her loved one, to refute the lies. She could not, as the rules do not allow her to comment on the actual hearing. Instead, she was forced to sit and listen. She did so stoically, needing little from me.
At the end of the long hearing she was given the opportunity to read the statement that she had prepared weeks prior, her victim impact statement. It is a very brief opportunity to share her feelings and her pain in an effort to help the board understand the true impact of homicide. It was raw and honest, given a true reflection of some of the harm felt by this family. We can never know how much or little this statement influenced the board’s decision. They denied this offender’s request today, to the relief of the client and her family.
I am immensely proud of the work that I do to help victims navigate the criminal justice process. In this instance, I offered emotional support, normalized her grief and her ever present anger, held her hand, but most importantly, I made sure that she knew she was not alone. In a process that is so focussed on the offender, this victim needed to know that I was there for her, and only her. Today I did that.