In criminal cases, the victim normally has an opportunity to tell the judge the impact the crime has had, either in court at the time of sentencing, by written statement read before court, or by comments to the probation officer preparing the presentence investigation to assist the judge in making the sentencing decision.
Some of the most distressing victim statements I have considered involve victims of sexual assault. They are really difficult to hear or read.
Perhaps the most difficult victim statement I have read was from the victim in a child pornography case, and her mother and stepfather. When she was a small child “Alice” (not her real name, or the name used in the pornographic movies), was horribly abused by her father. The depredations committed on this helpless girl were filmed and distributed among viewers of child pornography. Here are excerpts from her statement:
“I am living every day with the horrible knowledge that someone, somewhere is watching the most terrifying moments of my life. I am a victim of the worst kind of exploitation. Unlike other forms of exploitation, this one is never ending. Every day, people are trading and sharing videos of me as a little girl being raped in the most sadistic ways. I wonder if people I know have seen these images. I wonder if the men I pass in the grocery store have seen them. Because the most intimate parts of me are being viewed by thousands of strangers, I feel out of control. I feel like I’m being raped by each and every one of them. They are gaining sexual gratification from images of me at ages 10 and 11. So many nights I have cried myself to sleep thinking of a stranger somewhere staring at their computer with images of a naked me on the screen. I have nightmares about it.
“Some of these perverts have tried to contact me. I wish I could one day feel completely safe, but as long as these images are out there, I never will. Every time they are downloaded I am exploited again, my privacy is breached, and my life feels less and less safe. I only ask that those who have exploited me be brought to justice to hopefully defer some others from doing the same and to lessen my shame.”
One case of child pornography is one too many. I hope to never preside over such a case again.
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Next week: A Beautiful Young Woman