I very literally cannot express this enough ... yesterday, I thought I was going in to INTIMIDATE the comic shop attacker - I very. very. very. genuinely had NOOOOOOO idea I would end up on the stand.
The DA did not prepare me, nor did this even ENTER IN MY FRAME OF CONSCIOUSNESS AS A POTENTIAL POSSIBILITY!!!
Even my own father who is a corporate lawyer told me not to go to this hearing because it made no sense ... they were only going to read him his rights, and what he was charged with - total waste of energy.
I knew in my gut for whatever reason I needed to be there. I can't describe it, but above anything I have ever known in life ... I know to. trust. my. gut.
Period. end. of. sentence. I was going to be there.
Hold on ... I need a song to go with this post. I kid you not, yesterday was one of the. worst. days. of. my. life. No dramatics, no thing - but 10 years ago when I was stalked - I even said in the post, I would not wish testifying against ANYONE on my worst enemy. It is a HORRID process where you are re-victimized all. over. again.
Holy shit, I can't stop tearing up. They even questioned the presence of staples being in my head ...
WHO DOES THAT TO SOMEONE WHO LOOKS LIKE THIS!!!
So, the court is super good at letting you know after you've been assaulted or victimized in some capacity about all of the hearings and court dates. I got a letter in the mail, a call the week before, and even a call the night before. They find every way to get a-hold of you and make sure you know something is going down.
The district attorney hadn't subpoenaed me to be there, but because it was a preliminary hearing - I wanted to go.
Also, for my own psyche, I needed to see the guy who assaulted me. Not to give him any power, or to add any dramatics ... but for me. Just for me. I needed to look that man in the eye.
I woke up yesterday morning perky as could be. I had planned on making a YouTube video of the experience talking about my anxiety going into the hearing, and what happened after.
I laid out all of the shots that I wanted, made sure my flip was charged - and put up this post indicating my plans.
I've been through the legal system before (after being stalked as a teen), so I knew I obviously couldn't film in the court room (I'd be lucky if I could even tweet), and while I couldn't say ANYTHING about what was going on regarding the case, I could at least post random observations.
I won't stop my job as a lifecaster posting random observations - but I was INCREDIBLY careful to not reveal anything about the case potentially jeopardizing anything.
I got to the courthouse around 8:15. I knew I'd have to go through metal detectors and fortunately, I got there early enough that I beat the rush.
I then found the department where my case was said to be heard in.
Again, they're really good at notifying you of the date, but actually what floor you need to be on and in what department. These details sound minor, but when you're going through something like this to begin with, you're emotionally ... a bit gone.
I sat and waited outside the court room for the door to open and for the cases to be heard.
There were about 20 people peppered about. Staring at one man on crutches and another in a wheelchair, it struck me how lucky I was that I wasn't paralyzed in the attack.
Stay strong, Friel - stay strong.
At around 9 (a half hour later than schedule), the court room door opened and I stepped inside.
I immediately went to the front row (as most nerds do), but then quickly realized the first few pews were reserved for police officers.
Jimminey snickers I lamented. Fine fine, I'll sit in the first row reserved for people like me.
I then sat down and it struck me just how SMALL the court room was.
In Connecticut, on both the criminal and civil side - the court rooms were friggen HUGE!! Seriously, they looked like the ones in the movies, and this one looked like their illegitimate step child.
Super small, only about 5 pews and the chairs where the accused and lawyers sit in were no more than 20 feet in front of me.
Wait, he's going to be THAT close??
Oh no ... oh no ... oh no ... I thought.
Then, one of the clerks approached me.
Jennifer Friel - I'm here for the XXXXXXXX case.
Great, she said. Witness checked in.
I then received a call that I didn't recognize. I let it go to voicemail, and made sure to turn my ringer on vibrate.
My message indicator lit up so I then stepped outside to retrieve the voicemail.
Hi Jen! This is XXXXX from the victim's advocate office. I hear you were planning on coming to court today and needed someone to sit with you - we hadn't connected but I wanted to reach out.
<tangent> I went to court by myself. I didn't want to be dramatic and ask someone to come with me - again, I needed to do this for me, and only me. By planning on also making a video however, it helped me psychologically disassociate with the pain long enough to at least get through it all. </tangent>
I went back inside opting not to call her back.
It's fine, I thought. I'm already here ... whatever.
The first few cases were called - I sat in a haze. I wondered what door he was going to come out from. Would he be in shackles? What if he lunges at me, or tries to hurt me when we see each other again? Will he shout things at me?
My mind raced - but emotionally I was incapable of keeping up.
I sat there with my eyes glazed over.
Moments later I feel a tap on my back.
Are you Jennifer?
Yes, I say looking up.
HI!!!! I'm XXXXX with the victim's advocate office. I had a feeling you'd be here!
Well look at that, I thought - she actually showed up!
I was a bit, meh, at her arrival. I did in fact have a few questions for her, but I genuinely didn't think I needed her. I can hold my own hand spank you very much!
Where is he going to come out from, I asked.
Oh, over there she said pointing to a door in the back. He's in custody, so he will come out in handcuffs, and chains.
That's so wonderful, I said taking a deep breath.
She then explained to me various programs I can take part in to help alleviate any of the psychological pain of "wondering" about the case. There is one program in particular where I can sign up for, and they will message me if he gets released, has a court date, or even escapes from jail.
To have the peace of mind in knowing that "no news is good news" is great. Having to proactively search a lot of things online I could imagine would get annoying, and hiccup too much of my healing over this entire thing.
I took the pamphlet and then continued listening to the court cases.
A few more minutes go by, and around 11:00 - the victim's advocate chimes up.
I wonder if they are going to take you before lunch?
Lunch is at 12 - and it's an hour and a half wait. I'd hate for you to have to sit here longer and miss work.
What do you do?
I run a website, I said - so we're fine. I'm just here to absorb and process everything.
Yeah, but you've been here all morning.
She then got up and talked to one of the clerks, and my case was suddenly brought up to the front of the line.
Moments later one of the clerks calls the case. I hear the side door the victim's advocate point to open.
I see a man in a yellow and blue prison uniform and I IMMEDIATELY start sobbing.
Like head to toe, shaking - crying. from. my. soul.
My brain immediately went into a flashback, and I was brought RIGHT back to the night of the 26th.
That's him, that's him, that's him, I thought sobbing into the victim's advocates shoulder.
She wrapped her arms around me in a soothing and loving way.
This always happens to victims. The second they see the person, they freak. This is all totally normal, you're fine.
I take a few deep breaths summoning up all of my inner strength and reassure myself that this fucking is GOING DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!
The DA then looks out at me, and says we have a witness from the case here and we would like to call Jennifer Friel to the stand.
Wait, wait, wait, I thought. You're calling me TO THE STAND!!!!!! This is a preliminary hearing I thought where he would just be read the charges. Me seeing him was supposed to be the worst part - NOW YOU WANT ME TO FUCKING TESTIFY?!?!! I HAVEN'T BEEN PREPPED!!! NOTHING!!!!!!!
<tangent> When I took the stand in both the criminal and civil cases from when I was stalked I was prepped for WEEKS about how to handle the stand, cross examination, exactly what they were going to ask me and how I should respond. I didn't even get 5 minutes of the DA's time, nor did they even let me know this was going to go down. </tangent>
I rise from the pew in my Berrics hoodie (which I was wearing the night he attacked me), and blowfish shoes. My skirt was slightly shorter than one I would have worn if I knew I was going to testify, but no matter what I was just going to have to own this. I did NOTHING wrong, and all I need to do is speak the truth.
I am then sworn in, but raise my left hand instead of my right. The clerk corrects me.
<tangent> I have partial dyslexia - especially in moments of anxiety. I reverse numbers, and my lefts become my rights. Even when giving directions - it drives people NUTTSSSS because I'll say hang a "left" while pointing "right." It's weird, it's annoying - but it's my thing. </tangent>
Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you god?
Yes - I said.
Please be seated.
I then stepped up to the stand.
It was so high up, and the microphone was so ... fancy.
As I got situated in my chair, I began staring at the attacker.
My eye contact was INTENSE, and I would NOT look away.
The clerk then asks me to state and my name.
With EVERY ounce of strength in my body I said with DIRECT eye contact at the attacker - my name is
Every letter escaping my mouth feeling like a bullet wounding him.
JENNIFER FRIEL, I said.
You piece of fucking shit. You might not have known my name before the attack - but YOU WILL KNOW IT NOW.
I then testified, barely able to keep my composure; the judge hands me a tissue.
I was asked about the event, I was asked about my body positioning being on the sidewalk when I regained consciousness, I was asked about the process of getting staples in my head, and in GREAT detail describing every. bit. of. that. evening. for the court.
Even as the DA delivered her line of questioning, however, I wouldn't look away from my attacker.
I stared at him wondering if he had a family, if he had friends, if he had anyone in this world outside of his public defender that even knew his name.
You COWARD I thought. STARE AT ME!!! LOOK AT ME WHEN I DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DID TO ME!!!!!!
It was interesting, I've always said the worst part about my stalking case as a teen was the fact that it was VERY personal. Two of the girls were my good friends and two were my best friends. In this moment, testifying again, in a NON-personal manner ... it still felt just as horrible.
He took no satisfaction in anything I was describing - there was this vacancy. This guy truly had no idea who I was, and showed absolutely ZERO remorse. He was just ... there ... sitting ... looking around at everyone but me.
I can't tell you all any details about my testimony, nor the outcome of the case. I testified for about 20 minutes, and then the victim's advocate took me outside the courtroom while she held me as I was shaking and sobbing into her shoulder.
I couldn't believe I not only saw him, but that I actually had to TESTIFY today. I thought that would be later on, and I thought that I'd be prepped in some manner first.
You're so lucky he didn't kill you in the attack, she said.
I then sobbed more realizing that after seeing the man on crutches, and the other man in a wheelchair that she was right.
I am alive. I don't know why I'm alive after something so vicious (HE HIT ME WITH A FUCKING BRICK. I TOOK A BRICK TO MY HEAD AND FRIGGEN LIVED TO TELL THE STORY.) - but I just can't do this anymore, I thought.
I was a random person, randomly walking down the street. A street that I knew, in my old neighborhood at SEVEN THIRTY at night on my way to a comic book shop.
I then sat down to catch my breath since my chest was so tight I could barely get a breath in.
I fortunately also found an outlet, so I charged my phone.
You can't take this personal, the victim's advocate said. Have you ever read The Four Agreements?
No, I said - but I have heard of it.
He wouldn't even look me in the eye, I cried.
I know, she said. He didn't know you - he's a looney toon.
She then asked if I'd be okay, and I sobbed that yes I would be, but just needed a minute to myself.
Here, let me get you a voucher for lunch. You take your time, she said, I'll be right back.
The officers who responded to the scene, who had also testified in the case, then approached me.
The victim's rarely show up unless they're subpoenaed. You should be really proud of yourself, that took a lot of strength.
Strength? I thought staring up at him with my mascara stained cheeks and god only knows how runny of eye liner.
I thanked them profusely for their testimony (which I didn't hear since I was outside the courtroom).
Not a problem, they said. It's part of our job. You take care of yourself, they said each lovingly placing an arm on my shoulder.
I then called my parents and couldn't stop sobbing. My first call was to my dad who was SHOCKED I had to testify. He didn't even see a need for me to go to court let alone think I'd have to testify.
I am so sorry, sweetie, he said.
It's over dad. I did it ... it's over, I said exhausted.
The victim's advocate then returned with a lunch voucher.
Here, she said ... I look down and see this ...
A Mcdonalds gift card.
Today, I had to unexpectedly testify, and all I got from it was a MCDONALDS GIFT CARD???
Well, spank you very much universe.
I wouldn't wish this experience on anyone. I don't say that lightly either ... but having to testify in a case where you've been victimized is literally the worst thing ever. You have to relive each and every detail, and emotionally - it puts you through the ringer.
I can't thank you all enough though for the tweets/ comments/ texts/ and Facebook posts. I can't respond back to it, but I am fine. This was something that I got through with all of your help, and this will hopefully be the last time I will EVER have to go through something like this.
Again though, how impressive is the human body?!?! I TOOK A BRICK TO MY HEAD and I'm still putzing around, now even staple free.
Be grateful of everything, always, nerds. You never know when something like this can happen. I'm just glad it's over.