I gave evidence in court against my stalking abuser this week. It was very different to what I expected – not least, because he didn’t even turn up.
The case was for harassment, under UK anti-stalking laws. I never reported the father of my child for domestic violence (though I now wish that I had). But, as he stalked me after I left – a common tactic for abusers – I had to involve the police. I thought that I could handle it myself: it turns out that I couldn’t.
Looking back, it was one of the best things I could have done. It imposed boundaries designed to keep my child and I safe. It also gave me some of the space I needed to live No Contact – which now tops my list of must-dos for staying out of an abusive relationship.
Unfortunately for me, he didn’t see it that way. He continued to violate the orders prohibiting him from contacting me. He refused to engage a solicitor to arrange child contact. He was arrested repeatedly. Eventually remanded, he was released in the weeks before the trial.
My day in court
Arriving in court at the appointed day, I arranged to enter the building through a side entrance rather than risk bumping into him in the lobby. Six police officers joined me in the witness room – mostly familiar faces by now, and all there to give evidence for the prosecution. I was given a coffee by welcoming and friendly staff.
The prosecuting barrister introduced herself to me, and explained what would happen. She laid out some convoluted options on how we would proceed, which a police officer asked her to explain more clearly for me. Without his intervention, I’d have unwittingly agreed to dropping the case in favour of a restraining order! He knew from experience that court orders don’t mean much for my ex.
I was given my police statements – a hefty bundle – to refresh my memory of a long sequence of events. We all waited. Shuffled our feet. Talked about the weather, a top topic amongst Brits. I cycled through the mental Abuse Survivor’s Playlist put together with the help of blogging friends (thank you all for that!) The time for the trial to start came and went. We got on with waiting. Then finally, came the news that the defendant hadn’t turned up.
It wasn’t much of a surprise. He never expected to experience the consequences of his abuse, so why would he accept the consequence of breaking the law?
What WAS surprising, was that this meant that the trial would proceed without him. Instead of appearing by video-link, I’d now be sitting in court. Instead of being cross-examined by a defence barrister, I’d simply be going through my case.
It was still intimidating to walk into a room full of strangers. To try, as factually and articulately as possible, to describe what had happened to me and why. But the magistrates and barrister were respectful, and the process was as gentle as these things can ever be.
Since he wasn’t there, I was not afraid to remain in the court to listen to the other witnesses against him. Some of what I heard – like the transcript of his police interviews – was quite eye-opening. I was also in court to hear the guilty verdict.
Justice, sadness… and waiting
I’d like to say that this was a jubilant moment. For me, it wasn’t. I was angry that he didn’t even have the courage to answer the case against him. I was disappointed that I couldn’t challenge – even in court – the excuses and distortions that my abuser so fervently believes. The words of a Patty Smyth tune kindly nominated by Human Rights Vs. Stalkers seemed prophetic:
You run, run, runaway
It’s your heart that you betray
But mostly, I felt unbearably sad. I thought about the happier times we shared, before the abuse. I took a photo of our child out of my purse, and wondered how I would ever explain this day. It was justice, cloaked in sadness.
Unlike many men and women who do have to go through the emotionally exhausting process of a full trial – I got off pretty lightly. Sentencing is postponed until he can be located and arrested.
So far, the police aren’t having much luck – he has quit his rented home and his job, and seemingly disappeared without a trace.
I know he will be back, like a rabbit out of the magician’s hat. I just don’t know when – or how. So for now, I carry on waiting.
© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14