I can assume that anyone who has been called into jury duty might have the same reaction as me, “why did I get picked?? And why does it have to be on a day that I’m working?? And how did they ever find me?!” I was picked once before but that was when I was moving so I didn’t have to attend it because I was getting married and moving. So, to say the least I was not looking forward to it.
My husband, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of me. He enjoys jury duty and boasts all the time about the case he ended up hanging the jury on the verdict. He didn’t understand my apprehension, repeating over and over again, “it’s just jury duty!”
I tried to come at it from a good angle but failed miserably. I arrived in the room where people were stacked upon people for the case. My assessment of everyone else was that they hadn’t quite packed like I had for it, I had my backpack, a book, my iPad, water, and snacks. The day before I had worn out my introverted self by dancing and going to a party so I was more than happy to lose myself in the book I had brought.
They started to call names and we all filtered into the room one by one. I kept saying to myself please don’t call my name, and I was almost in the clear… Until my name was the last one they called. There was a ton of us in there, and you couldn’t tell anything about the case.
The judge tried to get things rolling a little more light hearted, and I knew that this case was something big. Then, she ended up saying it, in a muffled voice, “aggravated sexual assault of a child (less than 6 years old).”
The reaction was immediate from all of us, but from me I felt like I had been run over by a bus. My heart started racing, my breathing changed, and my head kept on saying just not this, I can’t be here. They went into the explanation of sexual assault, and I saw one girl ahead of me on the verge of something. She was experiencing a reaction like me, and she was trying to fight it and was losing the battle.
Her hand shot up and in tears she said that she couldn’t do this case, that she had been molested by her uncle. I knew it from her face that she had a personal experience like me, and my heart went out to her. I just wanted to hug her, to take away that experience from her. Of course, I can’t, and then they ended up asking the question soon afterwards of who else had experienced a friend or family member that had been sexually abused.
There was a mother where her daughter had been molested all of her life without ever telling anyone. Another and another and another, so many stories, going row by row and people showing their jury numbers to be called upon. The girl who had experienced it herself raised her hand again, and then I knew I had to do it. I didn’t want to, certainly not in front of seventy other people, but I just felt sick, sad, upset, and most of all, angry.
I raised my number, was called upon, took a deep breath and stared down. I wanted to speak clearly because they were asking everyone telling their stories to repeat it since they couldn’t hear us. I was not going to repeat this again, and I told myself just don’t cry.
“Well…” I started, taking that one deep breath, “I have been sexually abused as a child, a teenager and adult.” The prosecutor asked me by whom, and I said I would never talk about it, but it’s been by multiple men in my life. They asked where, if it was the same area they had court, and I told them back where I used to live. My voice was cracking severely as I spoke, I couldn’t cover up the emotion pouring out from my body. I felt so raw, like I was completely exposed and naked to everyone.
All I kept on thinking about was this little girl, and when it first started with me. How there wasn’t anyone who believed me when I told them what had happened. The years I’ve spent trying to trick myself that I’m okay, and that this is just the past.
But, it didn’t feel like the past, it felt like the present and I couldn’t escape it. I sat through the entire jury duty, and the defense presented his case that the child could have lied about it. That she didn’t know the gravity of the situation. I felt the horrible feeling of not being believed for something so horrible myself, and how my entire life has had continuos molestation, sexual abuse, and then in my early twenties I was sexually assaulted. There wasn’t anyone who believed me when I told them about it, and then when I was sexually assaulted I was blamed for what had happened.
All I want is for this little girl to be okay, and for this to never happen to her again. I want her to be safe and protected, and I never want it to keep happening to her like it did with me. I just feel these overwhelming feelings of sorrow, grief, and most of all what I felt in that court room was anger.