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Written By:  Anne Albert

“How do you, the jury, find the defendant?” asks the judge, after two hours of deliberation.

The room was silent. The only sound was the jurors breathing a sigh of relief as they sat in their chairs. It was all going to be over soon. A tall man with white hair and kind eyes answered the judge.

***

I greeted customers and enjoyed seeing the regulars come through my line at the grocery checkout. I went through the day getting more tired each passing minute. I’d recently had surgery. My boss asked me to stay until close. Of course, I said yes because I needed the money, and I didn’t have any other responsibilities. As a young woman of eighteen with a free spirit, it never occurred to me that every choice in life has an impact. An impact either large or small, but still one that makes you think about the next choice you make. I was living life, working, dating the guy I thought would be my forever. At the time, I didn’t know this would be my last shift at the checkout. By the time I got home that night, it was already 11 p.m.

After saying good night to my boyfriend, I went next door to my friend Rhonda’s to sleep since he was having a party. I was too tired to party and had to be up early for work so, I was headed to bed. I settled in after taking my meds for the residual pain from the surgery. I’m not going to need a whole dose; the pain isn’t too bad now. It was day eight of recovery, so things were improving. Remember when I said, each choice we make has its consequences?

***

“Mr. Dion was there anything that you left at the residence of the victim?” my lawyer asked.

He slumped back in the chair and replied without hesitation, “Only thing I left was my fist in that bitch’s mouth.”

His mom stands up in the middle of the proceedings and yells, “I oughta slap the hell out of you boy.”

The judge and everyone in the courtroom turns to look at his mother who has tears running down her face and has a mortified look from what she just heard her son say. I can only imagine that she was feeling like a failure of a mom because she didn’t raise her son to be like this. She felt helpless because her son is now admitting to being there and hitting me.

“Ma’am, you need to sit down or leave. You will be held in contempt of court if there are any more outbursts,” the judge said to her.

She didn’t give him the chance; she grabs her bag and leave the court room with 2 young girls right behind her.

“Nothing further your honor.” My lawyer says.

***

My sleep was disturbed by noise around 2:20 a.m., and I could feel my body moving. I opened my eyes and realize that there is a man in the room., It was not my boyfriend. I felt a bit cold and noticed that my blanket was off of me and pj pants are partially down. I begin to sit up and make sense of what was going on. I asked the man where my friend Rhonda was. She was the only person I was expecting to enter the room. She was not in the room. Then with a hard blow to the left side of my face I knew I was in danger.

“Lay down and shut up bitch,” he said with anger in his voice.

“What are you doing, stop!” I cried out.

He didn’t stop, he proceeded to do what he came here to do.

***

“Will the witness please come forward?” the judge asked.

I don’t want to see him; he’s going to be looking me. I walked up to the witness stand where the court officer in a green uniform held out a Bible with a brown-leather covering.

I took the stand and sit in the chair, the chair he had just been sitting in. I was almost hesitant to touch the chair, but I do take the seat. I try to keep my eyes on my lawyer and not him. The marshal, who had just sworn me in, placed a glass of water in front of me. “Take your time,” he says, noticing my unease. I glance to my left and see Darrell with a smug look on his face, slouched in his chair. My lawyer proceeds to ask me about what happened that night.

***

Frozen from fear, I couldn’t move from the mattress, my face hurts and I am more scared than I’d ever been in my entire life. I hold my hands close to face, covering my chest and neck. Oh my god, he is raping me. Why is this happening to me again!? Remembering the same kind of fear when I was raped just 3 years prior, I lay there crying silently. Please don’t hit me. Please don’t hit me. He thrusts his body aggressively on top of mine. His breath smells vile and I become sick to my stomach. He kisses me on the lips, and I feel like I’m growing throw up on him.

***

I arrive at a tall grey building for my deposition and I’m greeted by a lady who has this comforting energy about her. “Hi Alice, I am Debbie, I am a victim advocate. I am here to sit with you while these officers speak with you along with your lawyer.”

“Is the officer who arrested him here?” I asked with urgency.

“Yes, I believe he is,” she said.

“Would it be okay if I met them and thanked them?” I asked shyly and unsure if I should.

Debbie directs me to a quiet room where there are two officers and two lawyers sitting around the table with a recording machine in the center of it. I take the open seat next to her and look around the room and think one of them is the arresting officer, I must thank him.

“Now Alice, we have a recording here that you can listen to if you want to. You don’t have to, but we wanted to give you this opportunity if you were interested,” one of the prosecuting attorneys says.

“What is it?” I ask.

“Well, after Mr. Dion was arrested, the officers here interviewed him to get his side of the events,” he said in a tone that tried to sound reassuring. He warned me that the interview would be difficult to listen to but suggested one possible motive for the terrible events. “Not to say that what he did was in anyway okay, but so you could know that you were not the intended target nor in any future danger from him.”

It took me a few minutes to fully understand what he was saying to me. So, I agreed to listen to the recording. When I first heard his voice, I could immediately recognize it.

***

“Come on you know you like it,” he says, like he’s done this before.

“No, where is Rhonda?” I whisper through tears.

The next few minutes are a blur, he gets off of me and goes into the kitchen where the back door is. I hear money clanging to the floor. He’s taking my laundry quarters. Afraid to move until he gone, I lay there like a statue and could still glimpse his figure through the open door. He spooked himself from dropping the coins and goes to open the back door, with to his surprise, Rhonda was sitting outside by the stairs, smoking a cigarette. She is startled by seeing him and gets up. He slammed the door in her face and ran back through the apartment out the front door, which he had broken open. He was gone.

Rhonda flips the light on and runs to my side. Knowing by my appearance and because I was crying, she asks, “Did he rape you?!”

She helps me to sit up and calls 911.

***

I get up to leave the room, trying to process everything I just heard on the recording. Darrell had stated that he went to the apartment because Rhonda had given him the address and her number so they could hang out. When no one answered the door, he let himself in. Even though he realized I wasn’t Rhonda, he still proceeded to do what he had gone there for, regardless of who it was.

Debbie stopped me at the door and said,

“Alice, this is Officer Jones.” An officer in full uniform walks over to us and puts his hand out towards me.

“I know you said earlier that you would like to thank the officer who had arrested Darrell.” I held the officers hand tighter with both hands and began to tear up when looking at his face, knowing he was off duty but answered the call so this guy couldn’t and wouldn’t hurt anyone else the way he had hurt me. I felt gratitude and relief.

***

Rhonda is outside waiting for the ambulance to come. I sit there not being able to move, wondering where my boyfriend is. He surely would be awake by now and coming to me. Before I know it, a group of EMTs and officers come rushing into the apartment. They tell me not move until they have collected the things around me. I’m in a daze and not fully absorbing what is happening.

At the hospital, a nurse comes in to take pictures of me and tells me,

“I’m so sorry dear, but I am going to have to perform a sexual assault evidence kit now. I will be taking samples from different places on your body. Are you okay if I do that?”

I appreciated that the nurse was being kind and less crass with her terminology, I knew she meant a rape kit. I lay there following the directions she gave me and uncontrollably crying with each touch. I want my mom. I want my dad. I want to go home. Feeling all alone I finally called my aunt and uncle who lived nearby because I needed someone, someone to hug me and tell me everything was going to be alright.

***

After hours of questions and prodding at the hospital and during the car ride, I get to my dad’s house where my younger brother is waiting to hug me. He had a look of hurt and anger. He didn’t have any words just silent long hugs. He let me cry into his chest as he held me tight. I go in to lay down because I was exhausted and needed to sleep off this whole mess. Later that evening I got the call that the man who assaulted me had been arrested. I didn’t feel relief or happy. I felt like I wanted to die. I didn’t want to go through this a second time. I sat on the edge of the bed just staring at the bottle of my pain pills. I grabbed them from the table in front of me and opened it to put the bottle to my lips. About to throw my head back and empty the bottle into my mouth I can’t do this. He’s just going to walk free. I shouldn’t have been there. If I’m dead, it won’t matter.

***

“We the jury find the defendant on the charges of aggravated sexual assault, guilty.”

Guilty.

All I could think about was that word, waiting for each charge to be read and sentenced.

“Guilty,” the juror repeated for each of the thirteen counts.

Ultimately, he was convicted of 3 counts of home invasion, 1 count of residential burglary, 2 counts of criminal sexual assault, 4 counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, 1 count of theft, and 2 counts of battery. It took all my strength not to burst out in tears with each guilty verdict that was announced. I sat in the public seating area near the middle row. I could be seen by the judge, the jurors, and the defendant’s table. Debbie, the victim’s advocate, sat with me and held my hand. She handed a tissue to me when she saw the silent tears running down my cheeks. My Mema was on the other side of me holding me tight with her arm around my shoulders. I was on the path to healing and to surrounding myself with people who had my best interests at heart.

I look around the room and I see that his mother hasn’t returned for the sentencing. This poor lady, she knows her son is guilty for what he did to me. Trying to keep my composure, I held my head high and waited for the judge to make his final ruling.

“This case and the facts of this case are appalling. This case is every woman’s nightmare. It is an absolute horror story, and when you hear the facts, words cannot describe what the victim in this case was put through. Words cannot describe your actions. They have no place in society,” the judge starts with and continues to say,

“With that being said, I hereby sentence you, Darrell Dion, on these thirteen charges, to 50 years and life in prison.” The judge said addressing him directly for the first time.

***

According to the organization RAINN, in the United States there are approximately 230 out of 1000 rape cases reported to police, 46 of those cases lead to arrests, 9 cases that get referred to a prosecutor, 5 cases where they lead to felony convictions, and 4.6 cases where the perpetrator is incarcerated. These statistics are at a scary low point. I never thought that I would survive something like this, but I did. I never thought that I would ever feel relief at the sound of a six-letter word. It was a good kind of guilty because if I hadn’t persevered and pushed through or if I had taken my life that day then I wouldn’t be a part of that 4.6 statistic today. I wouldn’t be who I am today.

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