One day during the first week of August 2014, I received a call from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office informing me of the upcoming parole hearing for gang leader and rapist; Joseph Evans. I was asked, as the victim on record, to submit a letter to the Michigan Parole Board and to attend the hearing scheduled on November 6, 2014.
Because prisoner Evans was considered a “violent offender”, and after reviewing the details of the case, the Prosecutor would be opposing parole.
As an advocate for victims of sexual assault and my strong belief in standing up in opposition to violence against women, I did not hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity to be heard. (Read the letter submitted, http://bit.ly/1yoZCgf )
Upon hearing the news, I immediately began to feel distressed physically and emotionally. The effects of PTSD manifested at such a high level, it was confusing to say the least. Firstly, Joseph Evans was sentenced to two life terms for his actions on the night of February 12, 1976 without the possibility of parole. When I questioned the prosecutor about it, she explained that the State of Michigan was allowing lifers to be paroled at the age of 60 in order to alleviate the overcrowding problem within the prison system. Secondly, all the work I had done to move past the trauma of the ordeal (38 years) seemed to vanish.
I started getting flashbacks for the first time in over three decades; not just at night but during my regular daily routine. I experienced severe anxiety and headaches and noticed I would lose time. My mind would shut down and I would become paralyzed, noticing that unaccounted minutes and hours had gone by. I increased my therapy sessions with Dr. Smith; my psychiatrist.
I was less concerned about attending the parole hearing than I was about the change in my energy and outlook on life. Had I regressed? I felt like a degenerate. But Dr. Smith explained to me that it was not unusual for PTSD to be triggered by a specific, upcoming event.
After a full day of travelling to northern Michigan (3 hours one way), attending the hearing at the prison and driving home, I was absolutely exhausted; physically and emotionally. I felt traumatized and wanted to be alone.
Over the weekend several close friends called to see if I was okay, but were quickly dismissed with the promise that I would contact them when I was ready. My children knew well enough to leave me alone until I was prepared to talk.
For three days I did nothing but think, and attempt to analyse what was happening. I wasn’t upset about seeing the gang leader for the first time since the rape, nor was I concerned about the outcome of the parole hearing. I was overwhelmed by inexplicable emotion. The effects of this latest ordeal were so severe on my spirit and my psyche, that I couldn’t make sense of anything. One particular thought however, was conspicuously dominant: I wanted to die.
First thing on Monday morning I called Dr. Smith and made an emergency appointment. He was expecting my call and had left a time slot open for me. I sobbed as I tried to articulate my thoughts and this is what I shared with him:
“The hearing forced me to relive every detail of what happened that night leaving me vulnerable and exposed. Every minute of the 12 hours I was held captive, I expected to die and I was ready. I wanted to die and I begged the gang leader to kill me. And I was angry that I was left to live another day. My soul was dead and I wasn’t me anymore.
For 38 years since the rape, I felt like there was something blocking me from success; a buried pain remembrance that was sabotaging my personal development and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Now I know what has been holding me back. All this time I subconsciously wanted to die.”
During the 12 hours of captivity, I was so horrified and unable to process the violence, that in order to survive, I welcomed and accepted death. Ever since, I was subconsciously trying to kill myself, irrationally thinking that death equalled success. Dr. Smith explained that the trauma of the parole hearing had metaphorically left me stripped and naked to the point of complete emotional exposure.
Being exposed once again, I wasn’t disturbed by the rape or concerned about the gang leader. I was reminded of all the work I had done, trying to help myself for the past 38 years. There were many failures along with successes but isn’t that what life is all about? I have been blessed in so many ways and by re-establishing my faith and relationship with God, I realized the truth: I want to live! Like the Bon Jovi song, “I want to live while I’m alive!”
By forcing me to relive the trauma, the parole hearing actually exposed my strength and ability to see things in a new light: that circumstances no longer have any power over me. I can now see the meaning behind the pain and suffering. I see the infinite possibilities that are available to everyone. I see good instead of evil and I see happiness.
Finally there is closure, the block is gone and new, exciting goals have been implanted subconsciously. There is great anticipation for everything I can accomplish from this point on. I have much work to do and helping other victims is first on my list. I am free.