September and October were never very significant months for me. They didn’t really contain much when it came to yearly calendar events. That changed two years ago from yesterday. (NOTE: While the date in 2014 was September 22, it was a Monday, and for some reason, this time it is the day of the week, not the date, that holds the significance.)
Two years ago from yesterday at 8:30 a.m., I arrived at my city courthouse for jury selection. Two years ago from yesterday at 10:30 a.m., sixty of us finally filed into the courtroom and listened while the judge explained the process we were about to experience. He then identified the defendant and read the charges against him: William Thomas Wilburn, 48, was charged with three counts of statutory sodomy, one count of statutory rape, and distributing a controlled substance to a minor.* Two years ago yesterday after the judge read those charges, I was overwhelmed by some kind of a trauma response (as my therapist termed it) at the thought of potentially being selected for the jury and having to sit through a two-day trial listening to the defense attorney try to spin the facts to convince us that he was not guilty of those heinous crimes. Two years ago from yesterday around 12:00 p.m., we broke for lunch and I texted my best friend:
I am not ok!
Two years ago from yesterday around 4:00 p.m., the prosecuting attorney finally asked if anyone had experience with sexual abuse; having raised my hand, I was invited to come up and tell the judge, the attorneys, and the court reporter my experiences at the judges bench and out of earshot of the rest of the courtroom. The attorneys then asked me some questions; I only remember one, asked compassionately by the defense attorney: “Miss Crafton, you look shaken. Has listening to the details presented today been difficult for you?” I barely contained the tears as I answered her.
Two years ago from yesterday at 5:00 p.m., day one of jury selection ended and everyone was sent home with the order to report again in the morning for day two, except for me and a handful of others who also had past experience with sexual abuse—we would not be chosen and were therefore free to go and our service was completed. Two years ago from yesterday around 5:15 p.m., I left the courthouse, walked several blocks to my car, climbed in, and sobbed uncontrollably for a solid fifteen minutes. I cried all the way home. I cried the rest of the night. I cried most of the rest of the week. By the end of this week two years ago, I was an absolute mess and scared out of my mind because I had no idea what was wrong with me or what was happening. I barely got through my work days, I couldn’t get anything done at home. I couldn’t recall to-do lists or how to do simple tasks like tidying my apartment or even the directions to go places I could drive to in my sleep.
Two years ago from yesterday, my internal world was quite literally shattered. It took almost a month to find a therapist (which is why October is now so significant). It took a year before I finally began to feel like some semblance of myself again.
Last year, on the one-year anniversary of that event, I wrote this on my Facebook page:
One year ago right now, I was in jury selection for a child sex abuse case and suffering through hour 6 of an emotional trauma response to it.
Praise the Lord, I was dismissed at the end of that day. But it’s been a long year.
It’s been a long year, and I wish this anniversary didn’t exist. But I think…
I think it merits recognition.
From my own voice.
Another year has passed now, and it wasn’t as hard as that first year. I am stable, and I am me again, perhaps more truly me than I ever was before that day two years ago. But even though there is more distance between me and that moment, I cannot forget it. It is a hard stop in the timeline of my life; my timeline is now marked in Before Trial (BT) and After Trial (AT). For that reason I cannot let it pass without recognizing it once again with my own voice.
More often than not we try to forget the painful things we walk through, because pain hurts. But sometimes it’s important to let ourselves remember the pain, remember the shattering, remember the feeling, not just the fact, of falling apart and being a million shards of glass spreading out into the infinity of time and space. Not that we need to actually fall apart again. But remembering that we did, remembering how it felt to have been shattered, how hard and painful it was to be put back together in the most painful ways possible—well, it reminds us of just how uncertain wholeness really is.
I do not want to forget how precious and fragile my wholeness is. I don’t want to forget where it comes from or ever take it for granted again. I live daily with the awareness that I could easily be shattered again, if God so wills it; my wholeness in this life is not guaranteed. Remembering that shattered feeling while celebrating this present wholeness makes me profoundly mindful of that fact that, shattered or whole, I am safe in my Pops’s hands.
September is now a time of profound reminders that I really am dust, but I also really am safe in my loving Father’s care. And that is truth I never want to forget.
1. TRIGGER WARNING: Conviction press release from the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and a blog post describing in more detail the crimes committed against the defendant, who was fourteen when it happened. Wilburn was sentenced to life in prison for each of the three counts of sodomy and the statutory rape and to fifteen years for distributing a controlled substance to a minor.