Grand Jury

Grand Jury

A few weeks after my abuser torched my house, I was summoned to testify before a grand jury. I was experiencing a broad array of trauma symptoms. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I couldn’t listen to music or read a book because my brain couldn’t process it. My mind played constant tricks on me. I smelled smoke when there wasn’t any. I kept imagining my little dog grunting beside me because he wanted to go out. I was a fucking mess.

I also knew my abuser had intentionally set my house on fire. And I was terrified. I thought I needed to do the right thing to protect myself and my family, but I didn’t know what the right thing was. My abuser and his relatives had already launched their smear campaign saying I was equally responsible and my family had started to turn on me. When I was summoned to appear before the grand jury, my abuser tried to convince me I was in just as much trouble as he was.

He told me that I needed to find myself a lawyer, and fast. He told me that I might incriminate myself if I said the wrong thing and that I could be implicated for the fire too. I felt panicked. My house was destroyed, my dog was dead, my family was rejecting me and now I had to worry about being charged with a crime? I remember saying to him “But I didn’t burn down the house, you did!”. 

My abuser insisted that I pay $1500 out of my half of a community GoFundMe account to pay for his sister’s hand-picked attorney. When I balked, he told me things were going to “get rough” if I didn’t cooperate and do as he said. So, like a fool, I complied and paid $1500 of desperately needed charity funds to a defense attorney.

My abuser continued to badger me about what I should and shouldn’t say in court. He told me not to talk too much about the dog because that might make the grand jury biased against him. He texted me saying “So, apparently I’m being told by my lawyer the fact that the dog died makes this a bigger deal than if he wasn’t part of the equation. I know we loved the dog but please try not to break down in tears when they bring up the dog. Regular concern, but not heartbroken.” WE loved the dog? He murdered the dog.

I was about to cover his ass by neglecting to offer up information to a fucking grand jury and he was telling me not to cry about my sweet little dog. I gritted my teeth and told him I had no intention of crying about anything. He also interrogated me about what story I had told my new lawyer. I replied that I hadn’t said a word about the fact that we had wrestled over the gas can and that I knew the fire was no accident.

I went alone to the hearing, met my lawyer, handed him a check for $1500 and did what I was supposed to do. I lied to protect my abuser. But it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough to make him or my family happy. My abuser continued to destroy my life until the day he was briefly thrown in prison more than a year after my testimony.

I wrote a poem about my grand jury testimony. It was published by Quail Bell Magazine on January 4, 2018 http://www.quailbellmagazine.com/the-unreal/poem-grand-jury-by-lily-bell


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