For the past 6.5 years I have worked with victims. I have empathized, validated feelings, and normalized emotions and thoughts in the context of the horrible crimes committed against them. I have tried to understand through mere human connection to the victims I work with but I have never been able to fully understand given that I have never been victimized in such a way. I still cannot understand what it is like to be a victim of rape, domestic violence, or human trafficking — the three primary types of victimization I work with. But I can now, unfortunately, understand what it is like to be a victim of a crime.
On Friday night, some one or some people entered my home unlawfully and took close to $5,000 of my property. They walked in, wearing gloves or something over their hands to prevent leaving any mark of their identity, and they stole my property. They did so in such a neat and orderly way. Nothing aside from a book on the floor and a shuffled through underwear drawer was out of place minus the stolen goods. They took away items that at the end of the day are materialistic — electronics and jewelry. But these items represent a lot to myself and my partner. They demonstrate hard work and independence — being able to purchase these goods on our own. The $1,000 in jewelry that was stolen from my Lia Sophia small business venture that I started just a few weeks ago represents my independence as a woman and my ability to be an entrepreneur. The jewelry was not just the means to making money from this venture but it represented a way to empower women to beautify their lives and make a living on their own. The jewelry was gong to help me tap into charitable networks and raise funds for non profit organizations within my community. Now, I await a phone call to see if Lia Sophia will allow me to get a new starter kit of jewelry or if they’ll say “so sad, but you’ll have to buy a new one.” They stole my own personal jewelry that friends and family have given me over the years. My mom’s pearls. Bracelets from my grandparents. A bracelet from a high school best friend who has since exited my life for good due to confusing and unnecessary events — that bracelet sat in my jewelry box simply as a reminder of a great friendship and how fast things can change. The jewelry box they stole was given to me after my grandfather died. It reminded me of his comical love for shopping via TV ads and hording his purchases for god knows what. They not only stole my TV but the opportunity to relax in my partners arms at the end of a long day of work to laugh at our favorite show or learn of the events happening all across the nation and world. They stole my love for sports and the joy I get by sitting in my own home, screaming at the TV and cheering on the Celtics. They stole the opportunity to read the news and enjoy breakfast each morning as we are always crunched for time but wanting to know what is happening around us.
I now know what it is like to have something valuable and meaningful stripped away from you without warning and without any looking back. I know what it like to feel out of control and afraid due to someone else’s actions. I know what it is like to have a constant reminder of the crime committed against you. Every time I walk into my living room I see open space where our TV once stood or into my bedroom and see my dresser top bare without my jewelry box and stripped of a memory of my Papa.
I know what it is like to feel as though the police are not on your side. I know what it is like to feel dominated and unequal in the presence of the police. I know what it is like to expect some empathy and compassion in times of distress and horror but only receive robotic, condescending answers. I know what it is like to desperately desire a solution and justice being served but only get “I am so sorry that happened to you” over and over again.
I can now see through a wider, clearer lens when working with the victims that I do. No, I was not raped. My partner did not beat me. I was not forced against my will to participate in prostitution or other slave labor. But I understand the essence of what it is like to be a victim a little more now. In the grand scheme of things the crime committed against me this weekend was so small and trivial compared to the violence and exploitation I see every day. I will not begin to say I understand but I will be able to relate to the feeling of loss of control, invasion of privacy, and losing things that are valuable and meaningful with no justice being served. I have experienced how hard it is to work with the police because the goals are just not shared. I have experienced how twisted and complicated the system is. I have felt pure frustration that criminals rights are protected more than the victim’s rights.
I come away from this more understanding and empathetic to those who struggle with these feelings, behaviors, thoughts, and actions every day due to the victimization they have experienced. I cannot imagine being a person from a marginalized or oppressed population or someone who does not speak English or someone who is not from this country and therefore unfamiliar with the twisted and complicated system by which we refer to as “criminal justice.” I do not say this from a place of privilege. I say it actually by standing outside my privilege and seeing that the system is not built to protect the vulnerable, marginalized, oppressed people in our society. I say it with deep sadness and disgust.
But the criminal. The person or people who entered my home illegally and took my things. I hope he/she/they at least know that what they did was wrong. I hope that some one in their life has cared or does care enough to teach them right from wrong. Even for those who do know right from wrong, wrongs are committed all of the time. People get caught up in the pressures, stresses, and mere impossible aspects of life and see no other solution than the wrong. I cannot begin to understand what that is like. Given the nature of burglary today, my items were most likely sold to pay for drugs, alcohol, or to feed the burglars and their families. This is what society has come to. Someone has to enter my home illegally to pay for things that, in their eyes, they need to survive. I can here the Conservative platform already — PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. THEY COULD GET A JOB AND PAY FOR THESE THINGS. But it is not that simple. It is not that black & white. As we enter into one of the most important elections in my generation’s history, I hope that we all remember that personal responsibility is not as simple as getting a job and doing the right thing all of the time. Life hands us a lot of struggles and it is not humanly possible to handle these problems alone and come out as an accountable, responsible, educated, self-sufficient human being. So yes, I want justice to be served because my life was violated. But if I could sit down with the person/people that burglarized my home I would ask why they chose the wrong instead of the right. I would ask them who has helped them in their life and who has hurt them. At the end of the day, we need to understand why these crimes occur and we need to help society prevent these crimes from occurring. If you think cutting taxes for the rich, cutting social services and public welfare, sending jobs over the pond, and doing close to nothing to change our broken and failing education system will prevent these crimes from happening my heart hurts for you just about as much as it hurts for the person/people who felt they had to choose wrong to survive.