Upcoming trial
September 24, 2009 7:42 PM   Subscribe

How can i get through this when i have nobody to relate to?

Today, I got a subpeona to go to a trial October 26th. This is the SEVENTH date they've set for this trial, seventh subpeona, i swear i have a collection.
Three years ago, I was in a sexually abusive relationship. It changed the way i viewed life, authority, justice, etc. It was long ago, but its weird the things that stick with you. I remember insignificant things, like the combat boots he wore every day, and how his eyes showed no emotion whatsoever, but i dont even remember how many times he called per day, which was somewhere in the teens but the actual average number is crucial, because they have the call records right there and are testing my credibility. I dont remember exactly what day and how long he touched me when i fought away from him, or even if he penetrated. I remember that our relationship was like a game of hide and seek, and i was afraid of coming out or breaking up with him, because i knew he would try to hunt me down, which he did when my friend told the police about what was going on.
So basically, i dont remember the things im "supposed" to as a victim and i dont think they can show me my statements from three years ago to refresh.
Also, i get through things by talking to people about it, and this ones tough. People don't understand the fear and anger i have when i get a suppeona in the mail. They dont know why i think and talk about it alot. This time may be different though. I have no faith in that trial, no faith that it will happen. I cant keep things bottled up though. When i talked to my friends and boyfriend about it, i guess you could say i dont get the answers i want or need. They'll say "oh that sucks", and yeah it does suck but i dont think about it like that. And my boyfriend tried to calm me down ( because last time i was so stressed and hyped about it ) when this time i was just simply telling him about it, and he was like "that suck really, just please dont start like last time". It sounded at first to me as a little insensitive, but he doesnt understand what im going through and neither do any of my friends. He claims that he does understand, and i like that he wants to, and know that he cares, but how could he ( or anyone ) truly understand? It feels almost that im alone in this. I have people who are there for me but can't help me. I used to be in therapy but my mom lost her job and we can't afford that anymore.
I need help on how i can get through this, ( I have anxiety disorder it is hard ) and still be able to share my feelings with friends and boyfriend knowing the answers wont always be what i wanted
posted by xopaigexo to Human Relations (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry you're going through this.

However, I'm afraid I'm also a little confused exactly what your question is. Are you looking for emotional support about the trial itself, or about the abuse?

If you're looking for emotional support about the trial, the courts should have some kind of a rape crisis counselor that they can suggest to you. If it's the abuse -- I also recommend the RAINN hotline -- they are open 24/7 and can recommend rape and sexual abuse counselors in your area, and they are incredibly nice and supportive and understanding. They will probably also be able to suggest basic getting-ready-for-a-trial information (they can't give you legal advice, but they can prepare you for what a trial might be like, what will happen, when lawyers would say what, etc.).

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:50 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

So basically, i dont remember the things im "supposed" to as a victim and i dont think they can show me my statements from three years ago to refresh.

I don't know where you are, but in my limited experience with the justice system (a few months ago I was a juror on a murder trial), prosecutors - and defense attorneys - absolutely prep their witnesses beforehand. The trial I was on was for a murder that happened more than a decade ago, and all the prosecution witnesses (cops, mostly, but also non-police people) had clearly reviewed their notes and whatever previous testimony they may have given. They had notebooks and folders in front of them on the stand. So did defense witnesses.

In addition to calling the RAINN hotline, you might feel better if you take some measure of control of the process - that is, this isn't something that just has to "happen" to you, but also something you are doing. Call the District Attorney's office (if you're in the States) and find out what the process is going to be like. Ask why there have been so many delays. Push to be included in the process, as much as is legally allowed, of course. The prosecution presumably wants to win this, and it's in their interest to have you, the main witness, as prepared as possible.

I'm sorry this is so hard. Good luck.
posted by rtha at 8:00 PM on September 24, 2009

I don't know what state you're in, but some states offer free legal guidance for women in your kind of situation. For example, in Maryland, there is House of Ruth and The Women's Law Center.
posted by That takes balls. at 8:09 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think a moderator may want to make this anonymous.
posted by 6:1 at 8:09 PM on September 24, 2009

I might be helpful to understand more about this court proceeding. Is this a criminal case in which you are being called as a witness? Is he being prosecuted for crimes he committed against you or someone else? In either case, is it possible for you to reach out to the prosecutors office to discuss your situation?

If it's a civil case rather than a criminal case, the questions are similar: who is suing your abuser? Can you approach them for support in your testimony?

Good luck with this.
posted by alms at 8:10 PM on September 24, 2009

The good news is you have some time before the 26th to get outside help.

If I remember correctly, you're in school, right? Schools have free counselors.

TOMORROW -- Talk to a counselor. Talk to a counselor. Talk to a counselor.

A school counselor can hook you up with victim's advocate groups, free specialized therapy outside of school, etc. etc.

Your school counselor, at the very least, needs to find you someone who can hold you hand through the court appearance.

Talk to a school counselor, bring your subpeona to the counselor's office so they know exactly what court you are going to, and get yourself some help.

Good luck.

(And please report back to this thread and let us know how you're going with things!)
posted by jbenben at 8:17 PM on September 24, 2009

I think she may be asking for:

- Ways to think about this situation to help her be more emotionally in control;

- Ways to tell her friends and boyfriend how to be better at supporting her;

- Ways to handle questions, during the trial, about specific events that she doesn't remember clearly at this late date.
posted by amtho at 8:18 PM on September 24, 2009

I can only imagine the anxiety you must feel facing a seventh subpoena which you fear may turn into an eighth or might not actually result in justice. Everything I know about the legal system, I've learned by watching tv, but I thought pre-trial witness preparation was a standard practice which would include reviewing your initial statement. I'm going to assume this is a criminal case, and I would encourage you to contact the prosecuting attorney directly and ask your questions. If you ask something they can't answer, they will simply tell you that and explain they don't want to jeopardize the outcome of the trial.

I also want to second RAINN as a resource. While no one can have your exact same experience, there are sexual abuse victims who can relate to what you are going through and provide support. RAINN will help you find the resources and support systems you need. You may not be able to afford individual therapy right now, but there are support groups and free counseling which can help you navigate this tumultuous experience. You do not need to weather this alone.

Lastly, I wanted to say that I think you're incredibly brave. It is phenomenally difficult to leave an abusive relationship, and it takes an immense amount of strength to testify against your abuser. I hope you get justice and find what you need to help you heal. Best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 8:37 PM on September 24, 2009 [4 favorites]

If you end up testifying in front of a jury, communicate everything you have here. Your side should tell you how this will work, meet with them. If it's a deposition, then your big picture won't count, and it will be all about picking at discrepancies. Don't give any incorrect numbers or dates, just say "I don't recall the exact number/day/time, but here is what I do know happened..."
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:39 PM on September 24, 2009

Also, if asked, for instance, how many times he called, say something like, "I know it was more than 3 and less than 20."
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:48 PM on September 24, 2009

Here's another thing. You know how, in trials, the opposing counsels ask impossible-to-answer questions in order to shake your confidence? Don't let it shake your confidence--that's what they're trying to do. Answer to the best of your ability, and you'll be fine. Everyone knows the game, including the judge.

Much strength to you. All the suggestions of working through your school counselors to get hooked up with victim advocates and support groups are good ones, and I hope you get good support quickly.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:51 PM on September 24, 2009

but i dont even remember how many times he called per day, which was somewhere in the teens but the actual average number is crucial, because they have the call records right there and are testing my credibility.

No. The actual number is not crucial. Nobody will expect you to remember the actual number. If all you know is that it was "a lot," your testimony that it was "a lot" will be all that is necessary.

So basically, i dont remember the things im "supposed" to as a victim and i dont think they can show me my statements from three years ago to refresh.

There are no things you are "supposed" to remember.

The defense attorney will have any prior written statements you gave. Be prepared to be cross-examined about any variations between your trial testimony and past statements you gave to police or investigators.

Here's where a good criminal defense attorney will eat you alive if you let him or her: The attorney will know that you feel that you "ought to" remember certain things, he will manipulate that feeling to try to lure you into expressing certainty about something about which you are not certain, and then he will spring a trap and catch you in the lie about something you aren't really certain about.

The only way to avoid falling into the attorney's trap is to tell the absolute truth, and if that means expressing uncertainty about things you don't remember --- even at the cost of the defendant being acquitted --- then that's what you must do.

Keep in mind your role in this proceeding. You are a witness. A "victim" has no privileged role in a criminal trial (notwithstanding some victim's rights acts). Your job is to be a witness and tell what you know --- NOT to get the defendant convicted. Your job is to tell the truth, as well as you recall it, and let the factfinder render a verdict.

Don't beat yourself up about things you don't remember. In fact, complete candor about what you do and don't remember is far more likely to persuade the jury of the truth of the bad stuff you remember, and thus, is more likely to result in a conviction.
posted by jayder at 9:07 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Why isn't your lawyer helping prep you for the questions? Anyway, I don't know if this is relevant I had a lawyer friend tell me once to always give a range, for just the reasons you describe. Even if you ARE pretty sure the number of calls was 16, say "between 12 and 20" or something. I don't know if this is generally advised or if it was just his thing.

The rest of it needs outside help. Your friends and boyfriend just can't. It's not that they don't want to- they're just unable.

I think I would call my old therapist, explain the situation, and ask for a recommendation for someone who can help. You're already dialed in- you may as well use your resources.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:10 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

In regards to your problem in getting friends and family to talk and listen to you about the abuse you suffered: that may be par for the course. When I tried to talk to my family about an abusive relationship I had been in, they would change the subject. Every time. I don't think they meant to hurt me by that, they probably just didn't know what to say since they had thankfully never suffered anything similar.

Therapy ended up helping me, and I took on some consumer debt to pay for it. It was worth it. My advice would be to get back into therapy, even if it costs you, because you can't put a price on your own health and emotional well-being.

Good luck with the trial; my heart goes out to you.
posted by sinderile at 9:10 PM on September 24, 2009

like other people who have left comments here, i want to acknowledge your strength in taking part in this process.

a few individuals have suggested that you contact rainn, a good resource for survivors of sexual assault/abuse/incest.

it also appears from what you wrote that this sexually abusive relationship was part of an overall abusive relationship. another resource for you to consider is the national domestic violence hotline, also a 24-hour phone number (1.800.799.SAFE). domestic or dating violence can often take the form of sexual abuse and the hotline can provide you with supportive services.

because you didn't indicate which state you live in, you can contact the national dv hotline or rainn to be connected to legal and non-legal resources in your area. these organizations often provide free or sliding-scale counseling or therapy, if that is something that you are interested in. additionally, these organizations may also have educational information available for supportive people in your life. i obviously cannot speak to what you are experiencing with the people in your life, but i do know that sometimes people do not know how to help, even if they want to, so instead they opt to do or say nothing.

you can try contacting your state's victim witness/victim services program. often times they can connect you with resources in your area, and potentially provide you with support during the criminal process. the criminal process can be intimidating. and memory loss/repression is really common for people who have experienced trauma. having a support person with you, or guiding you through the process, and explaining your rights, can sometimes help you prepare for the intensity of having to testify, or at least provide you with some tools to make it through it.

finally, i'm not sure how old you are, but break the cycle has really useful information for younger survivors of dating violence/abuse. you may want to check out their website, or their chatroom, particularly their safe space program.

i know you are feeling quite alone in this, which i must say is heartbreaking. but there are resources that are out there and hopefully accessible for you. and there is a whole world of people who stand by you, without your even knowing it.
posted by anya32 at 12:17 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

A lot of good advice for getting support though established channels, hopefully you'll be able to take those steps. I've been on both sides of the support network -- needing the support that no one can really give and trying to offer support for a situation that I really can't help. It's exhausting for your friends and family to be a sympathetic ear when there is nothing they can do to help. So, really, you need to get the tactical and pragmatic support from some of the sources listed here and just get the emotional support from your friends. Frankly, what friends and family are best at is taking your mind off things. So, when you are feeling a lot of hopelessness, let them know that you need a night out -- go bowling, go out for wine and cheese, see a movie, hit the mini-golf, take up a goofy sport like kickball and get friends involved. They really do care about you but those are things that are within their power to do and anything beyond that gets very difficult. I think it's one of those things that no one ever tells you about being a grownup -- there's no one there who can just pick you up and make it all better.
posted by amanda at 8:24 AM on September 25, 2009

You should be working with a lawyer and probably a rape advocate to prepare you to testify. Listen to the advice in this thread about admitting that you do not recall exact amount of times that things happened or at which time they happended. Give a range if you can. If this is a criminal trial and your honest inability to recall is used by the defendant to say you are lying, then the prosecutor would in all likelyhood bring in a psychologist as a witness to say that it is entirely reasonable for a sexual assault victim to block out details / forget them over time in an attempt to heal.

Your friends and current boyfriend are'nt really in a position to help or even understand you. In fact what you have been through is probably so foreign to them that it makes them uncomfortable and they have no idea how to handle it. For emotional support you might want to try a therapy group with other survivors of abusive relationships. There you will find people who do understand what you went through and can respond with actual relevant insight as to what helps them deal with the past in their daily lives.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:08 PM on September 25, 2009

Even if you don't have a lawyer that you've hired for the case, the court-appointed one will go through your statements with you and help you prep for court up until pretty much the minute it starts. I know, I just did this in December. Memail me if you need support.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:54 PM on September 25, 2009

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