A Victim Impact Statement Helped Me to Reclaim My Sense of Control

I moved from the paralysis of trauma to bolstering my vulnerability

Martha Manning, Ph.D.
Invisible Illness
Published in
6 min readJun 9, 2024

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Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Background

My ex-brother-in-law burned my sister’s house down. To ashes.

She had died a year before from an overdose of oxycontin, a wrenching loss from which my family had not recovered. It was so hard to differentiate my grief from depression, and then to understand the difference between fear and depression. The possibilities all felt consuming and powerless, confused and unsafe.

My sister’s death led to a horrible estate conflict between two parties — her ex-husband and my family. The conflict escalated into bins of legal briefs and ended up with a variety of restraining orders that he ignored.

His rageful words made chilling threats and began to scare me. At what point do vitriolic words become acts?

He began to follow his letters and creepy phone calls with acts against our houses and cars. He made threats against our children.

The estate contest was decided in my family’s favor. The house was ours.

So, he burned it to the ground, with her five beloved cats inside.

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Martha Manning, Ph.D.
Invisible Illness

Dr. Martha Manning is a writer and clinical psychologist, author of Undercurrents and Chasing Grace. Depression sufferer. Mother. Growing older under protest.