Location: Wisconsin, United States

I am a convert to the Catholic Church after serving in ordained ministry for more than nine years in another denomination. I hold a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in historical theology, and another in systematic theology, and am currently working (very slowly) on my doctorate. I work in Christian Education and Formation and teach at the University level. I am blessed with a wonderful wife and eight great kids! When I'm not studying, reading, or blogging, I enjoy eating and drinking! Like Bilbo Baggins, I have been specializing in food for many years, and my table has a high reputation!

Friday, August 19, 2005


Well the so-called "BTK" killer has been sentenced to 10 life sentences. The earliest he could get out of prison is 40 years from now. Since he is 60 years old, this seems highly unlikely. An evil monster is off the streets, and the sentence seems just.

Why, then, do I write today?

It is on the subject of "Victim Impact" statements. Prior to the sentencing, families of the victims made statements in court concerning how Dennis Rader's crimes had affected them. Supposedly, such statements are to help provide closure for the families. In my experience, however, much of the time these statements merely provide a forum for angry, hurt people to hurl invective. And I truly wonder if this is healthy.

Please, please don't get me wrong. Dennis Rader is an evil monster and is getting his just desserts. My guess is, is that he is going to have a rather unpleasant time of it in prison.

I am not a shrink -- and have no desire to play one on TV -- but as someone with many years of ministerial experience, I question if such statements really bring closure, or a "cathartic moment". Rather, I have real concern for the spiritual and psychological well-being of these individuals. Do they truly aid the healing process?

I would love to hear from clergy and/or counselors on this point.

Papa Z

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Blogger BonnieBeeZ said...

Very interesting topic and viewpoint...

As you know, I am not a clergy member nor a counselor, but I WAS a victim. As such, I was given the opportunity to give a Victim Impact Statement. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. It was also one of the best things I could have done for myself.

First of all, I had to stand in front of a courtroom full of people, some there to support me...some not, and speak. That was so very difficult. More, I had to stand near to my attacker and that scared me more than anything. But overcoming the fear of facing him was cathartic.

Having the balance of power shifted was healing as well. When I was being attacked, he could do or say anything he wanted and I had no choice but to take it. In court, I had the power to say what I needed to say and he had no choice but to take it. Very empowering!

Writing my statement was really good for me. I worked on it for over a month. I was able to put down on paper so many things that had been going through my head for so long. When I started counseling directly after the assault, it was recommended that I journal. Honestly, I couldn't do it. The assault was overwhelming and I was in such shock for months that I couldn't complete a thought. Everything was jumbled. So having the opportunity, months after the attack, to write down what happened and what the after affects were was healing for me.

Finally, it was my one and only chance to tell my attacker some things I really needed to say. Was I angry? Absolutely! I had every right to be. And he needed to hear what I had to say. I was not abusive, however. The Prosecutor read my statement and suggested some changes a few times before court. I think I started out with 11 pages! There was just so much inside of me that needed to come out. Of course, I handled myself appropriately. But you know, even if some victims or victim's families don't handle themselves as gracefully as they could, is it really wrong for them to be angry and to have this one final opportunity to say what needs to be said? I don't think it's a bad thing...I really don't. It DOES bring closure. This person who completely turned your life upside down has been behind bars until this moment. They have been insulated from what you are going through. And this court appearance is the first and, most likely, last chance the victim has to be their attacker, by the Judge, by everyone.

For me, that day in court was really the beginning of my being able to move forward, to start living again. I needed that Victim Impact Statement. The Judge needed it helped her in her decision. I have no idea if it made any impact on my attacker...and I don't know that I really care if it did or not. It was there for give me the chance to tell my give me the chance to face my attacker and tell him what impact his brutality made on my life...and also to tell him, to show him, to sing it from the rooftops, that he didn't win. I was standing there, brave enough to face him, strong enough to tell my story.


8:08 PM  
Blogger David Zampino said...

An excellent and well-reasoned comment. THANKS!!!

4:19 PM  

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