Sarah's Story - A Victim Impact Statement
My name is Sarah, and I am a twenty-nine year-old stalking survivor.
No one in court today could possibly imagine what the experience of becoming a stalking survivor has done to me. I have been to hell and back because of my stalker and because of the failures of our so-called “justice system.” I have PTSD and I will be in therapy for life because of what I have experienced over the last nine months.
In September 2022 I became the victim in a class three felony aggravated stalking case. In September 2022 I filed six police reports in three weeks. I had to buy a security camera. I had to keep my doors and windows locked and my blinds down at all times. I couldn’t work outside in my garden. I had to have friends accompany me when leaving the house. I had to put my job on hold. On September 28th I had to spend eleven straight hours at the police station, where I burst into tears upon being told I needed to consider moving, leaving my beloved apartment for good.
I am curious how many people in this room have had a stalker leave a four page hand written letter on their back porch? A letter that says the stalker is not going to give up on you no matter what? How many of you have received texts from unknown numbers professing their obsession with you? How many of you have received emails like the one I got entitled “you are my jewish angel” that said, and I quote, “you and I are going to run away. You are irresistible… I’ll never say bye… Our love is our obsession.” And how many of you have seen footage of eight cops carrying a full grown man off of your property because he refused to speak or move when told he was trespassing?
Every moment of my life since September 2022 has felt like swimming upstream, gasping for breath while waves shove me underwater. I cannot count the hours I have spent crying alone, wondering why this is happening to me, and whether I will ever feel safe again. I have nightmares most nights, and it’s rare that I don’t wake up multiple times throughout the night drenched in cold sweat.
The systematic incompetence I have seen in the last nine months has been beyond even my wildest expectations. From the clerk misspelling the perpetrator’s name, to the police mis-recording my specific category of protective order, to someone miswriting a birthdate (resulting in my final restraining order listing three different possible birthdates for my stalker), to the clerk’s system having no record of the perpetrator being served with my protective order, to the prosecuting state’s attorney apologizing because she was under the false impression that her partner had notified me about my stalker’s pending plea deal and release. Every step of the way I have experienced incompetence and unprofessional behavior that would drive anyone to the brink of insanity. I woke up on Friday, May 12th, to over a dozen missed calls, only to learn that what was supposed to be yet another status hearing had been changed without my knowledge, and now my stalker was not only going to have his charges reduced to a misdemeanor, but he would be released that very day. I guess the state’s attorneys have forgotten what happened the last time my stalker was charged with a misdemeanor, but I have not - last time that happened my stalker was released on an i-bond, and he returned straight to my house from bond court, where he was then arrested for the second time in less than twenty-four hours.
This experience has made it impossible for me to come to any conclusion other than this: our justice system hates victims. This system wants victims dead. I have been through hell seeking “justice,” and to me “justice” merely means safety and the ability to continue living my life. Most women in my place don’t go to the police, don’t get six police reports, aren’t able to take time off work to spend eleven hours at the police station, can’t attend hearings every three weeks to have their temporary protective order extended another three weeks because a clerk error won’t allow them to receive the full two year protective order. What happens to those women? Some of them move, others are murdered by their stalkers. Few make it to where I am today. In this way, I’m lucky. I’m still alive, and at least PTSD and a lifetime’s worth of therapy haven’t left any physical scars.
There’s no way for me to explain what this has done to me. It’s too complex, too large, too painful, too current. This experience will live with me forever. What I have been through in these last nine months has changed me for the worse. I do not trust people or systems that are supposed to have my best interests at heart. I do not go out in public if I don’t have to. I do not date anymore. I am more afraid of men than ever.
Truthfully I don’t know why I’m bothering reading this victim impact statement, because nothing I have done regarding this case seems to have made any difference. So many of my phone calls and emails to state’s attorneys and victim’s specialists have gone unanswered. My pleas have met nothing but deafening silence. I don’t know what the point of this is, except that this is the only time I’ve been given a place to speak and actually be heard, so it feels like my responsibility to take advantage of it. I truly do not know if the people I have had to work with throughout this experience care about my plight or about justice, either in the cosmic sense or the more immediate here-and-now kind. I can’t help but think that if they did care about justice they wouldn’t have put me through this nightmare.
I’ve spent the last nine months being strung along by cops, victim’s specialists, clerks, and state’s attorneys. I’ve been given little to no notice about things that directly impact my ability to live my life without having to fear for my safety. Today is no exception. Throughout this process I have never once felt that the state valued my life in any way, and have instead repeatedly been shown that the lives of stalking victims like myself are worthless and disposable. I was victimized by my stalker when he chose to stalk me, threatening my safety and forcing me to change the way I live my life forever. But it didn’t end there. I was victimized by my stalker’s parents who were informed, prior to both of their son’s arrests, that their son was stalking someone in my city, and if they didn’t come get him he would end up in jail. My stalker’s father’s response was that he “empathized with his son’s victim but that his hands were tied” - evidently those ties loosened as soon as his son went to jail. I was victimized by the cops who, when asked to arrest my stalker, instead escorted him across the street from my apartment and left him there where he could continue intimidating me, now with the cooperation of the police. I was victimized by different cops who, when asked how I can keep myself safe, told me to buy a gun. I was victimized by my assigned victim’s witness specialist, who never returned any of my calls or emails. I was victimized by multiple state’s attorneys who never bothered to tell me they decided to reduce my stalker’s charges, or even that there was a court date set for his release.
On the morning of Friday, May 12th, my advocate - mind you, this is not an assigned advocate but someone I had to go out of my way to find - called me to let me know that, unbeknownst to either of us, what was supposed to be a status hearing instead had become a charge reduction and plea deal, and that after nine months of hearings with no substantive changes, suddenly my stalker was given a deal to have his class three felony aggravated stalking charges reduced to a single misdemeanor, and that he would be released that day.
I began this statement by saying none of you could possibly imagine what this has done to me, and I hope you understand just how much I mean it. I hope each of you takes a moment today to imagine what it’s like being traumatized over and over and over, first by a stalker and then repeatedly by the system supposedly put in place to keep you safe from that stalker. To those of you who took part in my victimization: I hope you never forget my words here today, and that you recognize that while I’m alive to give this statement, many more women like me have died at the hands of their stalkers, because of people like you. Even in this very case, my stalker was required to have GPS monitoring as one of his bond conditions - that requirement was part of a law named after Cindy Bischof, an Illinois woman murdered in 2008 by her stalker.
When I go home today, I am going to lower all my blinds, lock all my doors and windows, begin obsessively checking my security camera footage, notify all of my friends who live within a half mile radius, start setting up time slots for folks to come check in on me, pack a go bag in case I need to leave my home with very little notice, and find at least three friends and family members who are willing to host me at their homes in case it is no longer safe for me to stay at my house. Many of the people responsible for forcing me to live this way are in this room today.
My experience throughout this case has shown me time and time again that there is no justice for victims. At best we are silenced by the systems supposedly put in place to protect us. At worst we are killed. I pray you remember my words here today. Do not let the deaths of women who were killed by their stalkers be in vain.
This statement is for Cindy Bischof, murdered by her stalker on March 7, 2008. It is for Shana Grice, murdered by her stalker on August 25, 2016. It is for Maria Jimenez Rodriguez, murdered by her stalker on June 21, 2018. It is for Jessica Smith, murdered by her stalker on July 5, 2020. It is for Gracie Spinks, murdered by her stalker on June 18th, 2021. It is for Abigail Saldana, murdered by her stalker on October 26, 2021. It is for Sylvia Matthews, murdered by her stalker on December 3, 2021. It is for the 54% of femicide victims who reported stalking to the police before being killed by their stalkers. Today I beg the court: do not let my name join this list.
Notes: I read a similar version of this statement in court on May 26th, 2023. Shortly before court began, I met with the prosecuting state’s attorney to request that she ask the judge to add GPS monitoring to my stalker’s release conditions. After reading my statement, the attorney relayed this request to the judge, who immediately denied it. After court I was granted my sixth restraining order in the case - the first four were temporary orders, the fifth was a two year civil order, and the sixth was a four year criminal order. Thankfully my stalker has not returned, but I continue to live in fear that he will.