The Victim Impact Statement my Wharton Ex-Boyfriend Doesn’t Want You to Read
June 25, 2018
Today, I witnessed my abuser plead guilty to a domestic violence charge in New York County’s Supreme Court for Integrated Domestic Violence in front of my family and close friends. While he had negotiated a plea deal with the District Attorney’s Office that prevented me from reading my victim impact statement aloud in court and showed up today expecting me not to, my lawyer had a surprise for him. So he had to sit there and listen to me deliver every last word of it.
I choked only once, nearly inaudibly.
I’ve chosen to share my statement (which is a permanent and public record of the Criminal Court) here to add my voice humbly to the growing army of gender-based violence survivors who refuse to remain silent.
For context, John Doe (obviously not his real name) and I were classmates at The Wharton School, from which we graduated with our MBAs. We were in an on-again-off-again intimate relationship between March 2016 and September 2017.
John was arrested on Veterans Day 2017 and charged with two Misdemeanors (PL 120.14 Menacing with a Weapon in the 2nd degree and PL 265.01 Criminal Possession of a Weapon with Intent to Use in the 4th degree) and one Violation (PL 240.26 Harassment in the 2nd degree) for incidents that took place from August 6, 2017 through September 6, 2017.
This statement – as prescribed by the Courts – does not explicitly reference the many incidents that took place outside of this month.
I could write a book. Putting into words the impact your crimes and abuse have had feels impossible. Know that this statement merely scratches the surface.
One dimension of the impact is imagining the narrative you spin and the lies you tell yourself and others — including our classmates — just to get through each day. I know how you cope with pain and loss, and I’m certain you’ve found a way to vilify and blame me for everything you’ve done. So let me be very clear upfront. I am not your enemy. I never have been, and I never will be. I don’t want justice paid to me in kind; i.e. I don’t want to wreak havoc in every corner of your life as you have in mine. What I want for you is healing, to hold yourself accountable for and make peace with the grave wrongs you’ve committed, to make amends, and to cultivate your happiness. Real happiness, though. Not paper-thin, lying-to-its-own-self-John-social-media happiness. Because a happy, healthy man doesn’t do the things you’ve done. And all I want is for you to never hurt another person (though I fear it’s too late). While I doubt you’ll accept my words as truth today, you know I wouldn’t tell anything other than the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (so help me, God) in a court of law or regarding matters as serious as those at stake today.
All that being said, it is simply the objective truth that I was in an abusive relationship with you. You were my abuser, and I was your victim. This is not revisionist history. Sure, we had good times. Actually, we had THE BEST OF times. This is often true for Supreme Court Integrated Domestic Violence cases because it is a hallmark of relationship abuse. The highs — God are they high; but the lows can be lethal.
I think my favorite day was one day last June. Most classmates had already graduated or left Philly for the summer, which meant we didn’t have to hibernate and hide our sick relationship from our peers. It felt liberating, in a way, at the time. We walked to the Philadelphia Museum of Art wearing our matching black Phillies hats, only to find it was closed. We weren’t fazed. Instead, we impulsively hopped on a Schuylkill River boat tour and chatted up that older couple who was clearly still in love. The sun went down in a glorious ball of fire, which we watched from my rooftop. And for a few hours, we fooled ourselves into believing we were happy and okay. Normal, even. But that night, as we sat on my bedroom floor, you held me and played Tim McGraw’s “Please Remember Me.” As he sang, “You’ll find better love / Please remember me / When snow falls high outside your door / And I can’t hurt you anymore,” your tears melted into mine as I cried in your arms. Because we both knew how bad you’d been to me already, how bad you could be to me in the future, that I will find true love, and that that love could never be had with you. Even on our best day, I knew how dangerous you are, and on some level, you knew it, too.
John, our connection was undeniably singular and at times felt like love. But let me remind you that love does not look like our relationship. Love does not break through my locked bedroom door like you did on August 6, 2017 in NYC where I’d barricaded myself out of fear of you. Instead of leaving my apartment as I repeatedly pleaded, “please leave,” through desperate tears, you forcibly grabbed my wrists, hurled unspeakably hateful words at me, and — most notably — waived your unregistered illegal Glock around while telling me, “I’m about the least fucking violent person.” You mocked my fear and challenged me to call the police whom you said, “would love to roll up on a guy with a gun.” Had you brought your Glock to NYC the day of your arrest instead of leaving it at your grandparents’ house in Virginia, you would have been charged with a Felony firearms offense. But, no. You only brought it to NYC to visit me — your “love” — that August weekend.
John. You’re only pleading guilty to the Violation charge of Harassment in the 2nd degree; technically, this leaves you without a criminal record (I hope you know how lucky you are).
Let’s talk about Harassment, then.
The day after the terrifying August 6th incident, you sent me an email outlining your memory and experience of it. While reading in detail how you had threatened my life just 24 hours earlier re-traumatized me, it was your erroneous recounting of my attempts to defend myself and your inability to respect my boundaries and physical safety that truly ignited feelings of fear, disgust, and violation in me. I subsequently blocked you on all modes of communication and deleted our shared Facebook Moments photo album that we had built together over months. In response to my clear requests for a clean break and zero contact, you made and messaged me from a fake, unblocked Facebook account and sent a written letter containing photos of us to my apartment two days later to manipulate me, yet again, back into your abusive grip.
It worked that time.
On September 4, 2017, I awoke in South Africa on business to dozens of calls, texts, and voicemails from you sent through more platforms than I knew existed to my personal and work accounts. As of that day, I only had a few weeks left on my three-month contract for the dream job I’ve wanted since I was a teenager and went into over $200,000 of student loans to obtain (they hadn’t yet told me if they’d convert me to full-time). And so on that day, I participated in meetings with a straight face while you relentlessly bombarded me with messages threatening that unless I agreed to speak to you, you would kill yourself by cocaine (including photos of the “8ball” of cocaine you had purchased and disappearing Snapchat videos of you doing line after line after beckoning-death line), release naked pictures of me, slander me to anyone who’d listen (this threat you began to carry out that day), etc. I had to ask my new boss to block all of your email addresses and phone numbers from our company’s systems (including the fake email addresses you made after I blocked your real ones and the new phone numbers you called me from after I blocked your personal ones). I cried in front of my new boss and feared what all of this might mean for my full-time contract. Many of the emails you sent using Mailtrack — a Gmail add-in that will notify you whenever I open any one of those emails until the end of time. Stalker.
Your Harassment continued through September 6, 2017 when I reached UPenn’s Department of Special Services, and a sworn Domestic Violence police officer officially warned you not to contact me again. While during those three days your Harassment included reminding me you know my family’s home address and threatening, “want me to fucking go up there?!,” your Harassment decidedly peaked when I received a text message from our classmate who had sexually assaulted me in October 2016 at Wharton. You were and still are one of the few people who knows my assaulter’s identity (and I hope you keep it that way). I’d confided in you that I woke up to him doing something sexual to me, and that I’d finally mustered the mental fortitude to confront him when I was back in the US by inviting him for coffee and asking him without advanced notice, “what do you remember from that night?” But instead, within hours of my cutting off all means for you to contact me, you contacted him and told him what I remembered from that night. You thereby robbed me of the opportunity to hear his unprepared answer to the question, “what do you remember from that night?” I will never get that back. I will never know his unpolished answer to that question. Your unauthorized disclosure of my assault to my assailant made me feel compelled to have a conversation with him on the phone while I sat alone in a hotel room thousands of miles from anyone I knew rather than have this very personal and painful discussion with him face to face as I had planned. Your contacting my assailant (which equates to your dictating how I could process MY sexual assault) was a clear attempt on your part to trigger me to re-establish contact with you, thus giving you the opportunity to try to lure me back into an abusive relationship with you. The English language does not have an adjective for that, John. It is a level of violation so extreme I don’t think I’ve even begun to process it yet. Fortunately and finally, though, your manipulative betrayal was unsuccessful.
I returned to New York City five weeks later. After traveling from halfway across the world, I collapsed halfway up the stairwell of my New York City walk-up in the dead of night sobbing with my many bags at my feet. I’d forgotten until that moment that five weeks earlier, you’d sent me a video of you spraying your cologne all over my bedroom — on my bed sheets, in my drawers of clothes, everywhere — narrating your actions, “So when [you] get back, [you] will smell me regardless of whether we’re going out or not…Love you.” I was so afraid to smell you, John; fear immobilized me in that stairwell for 45 minutes. In case you were wondering, only the clothes in my drawers still smelled of you, and your actions were possessive, vilely intrusive, scary, and the antithesis of love.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? As a United States Marine Corps Officer, you swore a solemn oath to defend and serve your country in the spirit of protecting people when they’re most vulnerable. It should go without saying, Major John Doe, that you did not protect or serve me.
The impact of your crimes and abuse continues to last long after the moment and reaches far beyond me. My loved ones lived in fear for my life every day after I told them about your violence and abuse but before I’d escaped the cycle. I can’t know exactly what that was like for them, but I imagine it was akin to torture.
You’ve always wanted to meet my dad. How many hours did you spend writing him letters you hoped could convince him to forgive you for tormenting his daughter and holding her life in your hands (you never did have the courage to send those)? Well — turn around — there he is. He flew all the way from London to witness you cop to at least one of your wrongs and to celebrate MY courage. He’s heard all nine minutes and seven seconds of the recording of the August 6th incident I had the presence of mind to take on my phone during your attack, and he’s enormously proud of how calm I remained while you threatened my life. He’s not interested in anything you have to say and thinks the minute I leave this courtroom should be the last minute I spend thinking about your feelings; I can’t say I disagree. My father — who (inaccurately though understandably) blames himself for not being able to protect me from you — is also too busy asking me on a regular basis if I am suicidal to waste a thought on you. And with good reason: John, you caused me such penetrating emotional pain and threw me into a depression so seemingly insurmountable that I seriously considered ending my own life just to get relief. But instead of using this as a weapon like you so often did against me, I responsibly told my family in December that I was suicidal and needed support.
Imagine if I’d done it, though. How you would’ve felt. Of course, you would’ve been banned from all memorials and refused any chance to say “goodbye” or “sorry” (if “sorry” is something you even feel). But what does it matter, when I’m fairly certain that not even my suicide could knock you conscious, convince you to own your wrongs, and bear the burdens that are yours?
Your abuse overwhelmed one of my younger siblings so completely that that person had to cut me off until I escaped you. During this time, that sibling had a major surgery, and I essentially missed the entire recovery. I can’t get that time back with them.
As you know well, John, I never pursued the Criminal Court. In fact, even though I hadn’t seen you for two months when I sought the Family Court Order of Protection (“OP”) in November, your abuse still had such a strong grip on my psyche that I was terrified to learn the OP had to be based on incidents that occurred while I resided in NYC; I truly feared that the only incidents I could report wouldn’t be severe enough for the Family Court to grant me legal protection from you. It didn’t even occur to me that I was reporting crimes when I made my Domestic Incident Report (which I was advised the Family Court would request). To the police officers of the NYPD’s 9th precinct who believed me: I don’t take you for granted. You are my heroes.
In addition to torturing my family, you damaged nearly all my friendships. Many of my friends rode the roller coaster of your abuse with me and my family; you drained us all. As is often true for the loved ones of domestic violence victims, my friends struggled to understand why I’d go back to you (answer: your abusive manipulation), were distressed when my going back meant they had to spend time with you, and grew resentful that, from their perspective, I “didn’t listen to them” when they begged me to leave you. In my loved ones’ eyes and my own, I’ve always been a force to be reckoned with. It was hard for them even to believe I could be abused; it was hard for me to accept that, too. You exposed me to two tragic realities, John: (1) anyone can become ensnared by relationship abuse under the perfect storm of circumstances and (2) most people don’t understand relationship abuse and aren’t mentally equipped or sufficiently educated to support a loved one stuck in or recovering from it. My loved ones didn’t understand that while it may have looked like I was making choices of my own free will, I was actually stuck in a textbook abusive relationship with you, and “choice” wasn’t something I had. Some still don’t understand this, which remains one of my greatest sources of pain today. However, I’ll continue to put in the labor of love required to repair the relationships I value, and there isn’t one iota of me that doubts those relationships will ultimately be more meaningful and love-filled than they were before you. As for my “fun-time” friends — I thank you, John, for helping me accelerate my identification of those “friends” on whom I no longer waste energy.
If I were granted only one wish, I would use it to take away the pain and damage you inflicted on my loved ones. As for me, though, I wouldn’t change a thing. Surviving your crimes and abuse has only made me stronger and my life richer. You hear that word, “surviving,” John? While you made me a victim, I made myself a survivor.
Before my company knew what I was going through, they gave me my full-time contract and invested in my UK visa. Because I’d proven myself, despite you. While your name and face have been at my company’s security desks globally since September, I waited until my tenth month with them to tell them exactly what you did. The first seven months, I changed continents every 1–2 weeks (often not seeing a friendly face for five weeks in a row) before moving to the UK, where I had no close friends yet. The last 365 days of solo travel, emigration, your abuse, and battling my way through the NYC courts have been some of the darkest and loneliest days I’ve lived. But I continued to deliver at work and learned that some employers (unlike yours) DO actually care about and take action in response to crimes and domestic violence involving their employees.
Your crimes and abuse could have ruined love, sex, and intimacy for me. While I never thought your treatment of me was ok, believed I deserved your abuse, feared I couldn’t find a partner better than you, or internalized the hateful words you insisted described me, you DID successfully manipulate me through other means. The worst of these was probably your pressuring me into having sex with you the many mornings I said “no” lest you seek it elsewhere (again) or you take away the “accolade” you’d bestowed upon me of “THE BEST sex John has ever had.” As though my ability to satiate your specific sexual preferences was somehow tied to my value as a woman. As a person. And something I had to re-prove to you. Endlessly. Waking up next to you almost guaranteed that my day would start with sexual violation.
No. Rape. John, you raped me so many times that my memories of those mornings have blurred together; I have no idea how many times or in how many ways you raped me.
I know the criminal and abusive ways you’ve treated women and am acutely aware of the depravities of which you’re capable. And yet, you walk around the world unmarked — getting jobs and meeting up with women alone who have NO idea how dangerous you are. I didn’t know people got away with so much until I met you. This knowledge has made me a less trusting person and definitely a more cautious dater.
Despite everything you did to me — with the help of my loved ones, therapist, and my own arsenal of strength — since you, I’ve been able to enjoy truly great consensual sex, love every inch of my own body, continue to believe I will find real love, learn that my trauma doesn’t faze good men, and realize that many people still do deserve my trust. You showed me my rare ability to empathize and capacity to forgive can put me in grave danger as they did with you; nevertheless, I haven’t lost an ounce of my ability to foster intimacy through making myself vulnerable to others. I just know a little something more about boundaries, now.
In addition to making myself a survivor, I’ve also bravely chosen to be an advocate for survivors of gender-based violence. While you get no credit for either, you did give me the material and credibility to be an impactful advocate. So if ever you find yourself feeling hurt, betrayed, or otherwise adversely affected by my advocacy, just remember you have nobody to blame but yourself. I’m not the same woman you met on that first date in March 2016 who will protect your feelings and reputation at the expense of my own happiness and safety. As far as I’m concerned, anything you suffer from my advocacy is collateral damage. Because ultimately, John, my advocacy really has nothing to do with you.
Speaking my truth in arenas both large and small has enriched my life immeasurably. I’ve derived meaning and beauty from my trauma. My advocacy inspired one friend to report the sexual harassment she’d endured for years at the hands of a Partner at her top Wall Street firm; he’s since been fired. It compelled another friend’s mom to speak publicly about domestic violence, a topic she’s rarely even discussed with my friend directly, who as a child endured abuse and domestic violence alongside her mom and siblings. I’ve lost count of how many people have told me my words and vulnerability enabled them to face their own trauma, to heal wounds they once thought would always be gaping, and to thrive in spite of it all. I inspire them, and they give me life.
Of course I’m aware of the full spectrum of reactions to and opinions of me and my advocacy. I know how much people talk, especially within Wharton circles. I’m sure it brings you great pleasure to hear “she overshares,” “it’s just for attention,” “she’s a wreck,” “not even her friends believe her,” etc. Sure, victim blaming and gossip sting. But I expect it, and I can more than handle it. I refuse to discuss what you did to me in hushed tones and act like your crimes and abuse are things for which I should be ashamed. In case you forgot, they don’t make them stronger than me. I know what you’ve done. I know how lucky I am to be alive. And I’m the only person I need to believe me in order to heal. You, on the other hand, will have to answer to your maker.
John, the objective truth is that you have serially committed violent and abusive acts and exhibited behavior that betrays your severe addiction and anger management afflictions (addiction is a disease and nothing to be ashamed of). You decimated my world, and I don’t want another woman to suffer at your hands like I did. So please listen carefully: until you can face who you are today, you can never be anyone else. Know that until you hold yourself accountable for, make peace with, and seek amends for the grave wrongs you have committed and truly change, you will never be happy or whole. Not alone. And certainly not with or inside someone else.
If there is one thing you take away from this statement, John, I hope it is this: with everything I am, with everything I have ever been, and with everything I will ever be, I forgive you. I forgive you. I wanted to write that I also believe in you — that I’m confident you’ll earn redemption. But I realized that while this might be my greatest hope (and I believe you’re not beyond redemption), to say I’m sure you’re capable of it would be a lie.
You once ended a letter you wrote to me with, “I will always be indebted to you — for all that you have given, and for all that I’ve taken.” Even though I can’t think of a truer statement, I don’t want your indebtedness. Pay it off to your young children, instead, by showing them that you are worthy of redemption.
Part of your story is already written. You can’t un-commit the crimes and abuse your children will one day know as fact. But you can control how your story ends. Show your children the integrity and strength it takes to face your demons, admit fault, and shoulder righteous blame. Demonstrate for them the power of forgiveness, derived from forgiving yourself and accepting the forgiveness of those you have wronged. John, I am giving you the foundation on which you can change the course of your life. What a gift?! Make today the nadir. Ensure that one day their sick dad will be but a painful memory for your children rather than an ongoing reality. Prove to them that a man can redeem himself — not through a single extraordinary act — but through painstaking emotional work every day over time.
As I look out on the horizon, one thing is certain: I will continue to move mountains. As much as I wish I could guarantee your redemption and that you will never hurt another woman again, I’ve accepted that these are not things in my control. So I’m leaving it all here in this courtroom with you today, John. Because I have a beautiful life to get back to and a bright future beckoning my name.
Edit: 2-year update — When “Justice” Has Been Served
Note: this statement differs slightly from the one submitted to and delivered in court (edited to protect identities — including his — and to include some language that had to be excluded due to court-mandated length restrictions). ***Edit*** This means that in this Medium post I’ve changed details (I won’t say which ones), and you can’t identify him. I’ve remained consistent with those changed details in any comments I’ve made on any platform.