He entered the courtroom hunched over and pale, his previous swagger and pride gone missing. We were there first, sitting through interminable hearings and arraignments and postponements, waiting for our turn. I knew he was there somewhere, having seen his car outside, but he didn’t enter the courtroom until just minutes before our case was called. Then, his sleazy attorney walked in ahead of him, smoothing his too-big suit jacket over his considerable waistline, and CF skulked along behind like the mongrel dog he is.
The judge went through all of his rigmarole about whether CF understood the charge to which he was pleading guilty, if anyone had coerced him to change his plea, etc…and then he read aloud the one charge to which CF was pleading. It was terrible to have read out loud the nature of his charges, and that was the point where Hannah started to tremble. Prior to that, she sat still and cold, her only movement that of squeezing my hand tighter and tighter. As the charge was read and expounded upon, she began to shake, and when CF uttered aloud those word which we have so longed to hear she broke down in tears. There was more legal mumbo jumbo, then “the matter” was set for sentencing on August 31st.
The more I think about this, the more I believe that no matter what punishment the Court recommends or agrees upon, there isn’t going to be any justice. 4 months in county jail or 4 years in prison, both are equally meaningless to me. I looked at him across the courtroom and saw what I believe to be pure Evil in human form. I looked and saw the very beginning glimpses of stress and fear carving new lines into his face, and was glad. So far as the law goes, it isn’t going to be enough, and I will always carry with me the belief that no punishment could in any way atone for what he has done. We accomplished what we had as goals from the beginning; some sort of punishment, the requirement that he register as a sex offender, and the hopes that he won’t be able to do this again. The rest? Doesn’t really matter. Or rather it does matter, but we can at least rest in the knowledge that we have done all were capable of doing.
It isn’t enough, though. God, it can never be enough. When he left the courtroom, we had already gone outside, so they walked CF out the back door and to his car, with a fucking police escort. And we laughed, standing over by Jim’s truck watching; we laughed, because the idea of any one of us doing, what? Launching ourselves across the lawn like rocks from a catapult, to do just what? Kill him? It all seemed so ridiculous. Any one of us, had that been in our minds, would have done so long before this day. Spit at him? Call him names? Make spectacles out of ourselves only to bring more trauma to this little girl? I don’t get it; and Hannah cried again, saying, ” But I am the victim; how come we have never had a police escort to our cars?” Too many times through all of this, today included, I haven’t had any answers to 95% of her questions. I just hug her and say, “I don’t know, baby, I just don’t know.”
Not enough. We will all be able to get the help we need now, most importantly Hannah, and we will move forward, but this isn’t going to go away. The first time a man who wants her because he loves her touches her breast, Hannah will flinch. It will take time for her to accept the touch of anyone, and a lot of patience and love from her future partner, whomever that might be. She will sit in the front seat of a car on the way to the movies, maybe on a first date or maybe on a tenth, and he will reach across the seat to touch her leg and she will feel afraid and maybe a little sick. No matter how much therapy she gets, no matter how much she comes to believe that she is in no way to blame, that her body is sacred and beautiful and hers, there will be echoes of this underneath, bubbling up from underneath when she least expects it. She will feel those echoes ten years down the road when the doctor tells her she has a daughter. She will feel them when she sees a man who walks with the same gait, or wears the same hat, or has a particular look in his eyes. And she will learn somehow to be okay with these things, to talk herself through the momentary panic and reassess the reality, but those echoes? They never go away.
They say we can ask for restitution at the sentencing. Restitution. It sounds like a nasty word, and makes me gag just a little bit to think it. As if some kind of monetary compensation is going to absolve him of this. As if a dollar amount somehow makes this okay. He used to slip me money on occasion, or help with things like school clothes or treats for the kids, and I want to scream at him, “Did you think that you were buying my daughter?” This feels like the same thing. Also, what value do you put on innocence stolen and broken dreams? How do you put a price on depression and failing school and spending time at the nuthouse? And I think of the time off of work and the additional expense and time involved in taking care of Hannah through all of this, and I think, “Fuck you; this is my job.” None of this makes any kind of sense to me; not one little bit of it.
So we got through today, and it was good in some ways and not so good in others. However, regardless of what effect it has had on us, we are at least one step closer to the end. And that? Is a good thing. Jacquie and Jim took Hannah out for lunch afterward, then Jacquie took Hannah to get her hair cut as a celebration of sorts; we are hoping that a new haircut will somehow boost her a little so that she starts feeling better about herself. An outward change that shouldn’t be necessary, but somehow is. Tonight, I think that Steve and I will splurge for pizza, a way for us to be together and do something that normal people do. And it isn’t going to change anything, isn’t going to affect the outcome in any way, but will be a visible move toward getting on with the business of living. I keep saying this, because it is so true, that it isn’t enough, but it IS.