One year ago I didn’t hold the door open for my abuser the day of the sentencing hearing.
A few minutes before the sentencing hearing was going to start, the county attorney needed to talk to me. So we went out of the courtroom and just as were going through the second set of double doors leading to the hall, my abuser and his attorney were walking in.
I looked at his attorney first, he was standing closest to the doors. He looked at me: a bit smug, implicitly minimizing everything, and undoubtedly evaluating me. But, that’s his job.
Close behind him, my abuser stepped back, not expecting to see me.
I just looked at him.
He was maybe a couple of feet away.
I hadn’t been that close to him in over a year and a half.
He is much bigger than me. Bigger than I remembered. And I felt especially small in a skirt, blouse, and flats.
But in that moment I was safe and he wasn’t in control of me anymore.
In that moment, all the growth and work I had done over the last year and a half enabled me to disengage.
I wasn’t going to react.
I saw he was there, we made eye contact, and I went on about my business.
Business he didn’t get to dictate anymore.
In a few minutes, I was going to read my victim impact statement.
Everything I needed to say and most of what I wanted to say was in my victim impact statement. I didn’t have anything to say before that.
I turned to follow my attorney, who was courteous, recognized I wasn’t going to hold the door, and held onto the door long enough for me to get a few steps away from them and gave them time to catch it before it closed.
I wasn’t trying to be rude.
For the first time since the grooming and abuse started, I wasn’t naive and voiceless. I didn’t have the same pressure to reassure his ego or make him feel comfortable and welcome.
I had an equal footing. The playing field was even and he didn’t have an advantage over me anymore.
I had my power back.
I was walking in the power I had worked so hard to get back and seeing him for the first time I wasn’t sure how to respond.
In that moment, I said no. No to everything he represented and everything he did to me.
I said no to letting it continue, because at that point I wasn’t powerless and had the ability to choose.
Maybe it was symbolic of this chapter of my life closing because I wasn’t going to hold the door to it open.
Or maybe it was symbolic of me not covering for him anymore. He gets to be responsible for himself, he can open and close his own doors, and he can navigate everything in between.
Or maybe I was just caught off guard and automatically went into self protection mode.
Honestly, I am proud of my slightly rude one-year-ago-self. My one-year-ago-self looked her predator in the face, when he could have easily intimidated me again, and disengaged. That moment demonstrated his lack of power and control because God had delivered me and I knew that it was God who was in control, not Dustin.
I wasn’t dismissing his value as a person.
My victim impact statement made it very clear that I want what is best for him and that is for him to repent, be held accountable, and get help.
But, he can open his own door.
And I’ll ask God for guidance about how to handle something like this in the future with proper boundaries and Christ like love and grace.