Victim Impact: Listen and Learn (Crime Victim with a Disability)
The video in this series (NCJ 223072) features the first-person account of Kimberly who shares her experience as crime victim with a disability and the ripple effect that victimization can have on family members and the community at large. A companion online only training curriculum is also available and includes a two part facilitator manual and a participant workbook.
When I was 16 years old, a senior in high school, my girlfriend and I were coming home from snow skiing, and she had just taken her eyes off the road for a minute, and we hit a truck, and my neck was crushed, and it left me paralyzed from the neck down.
After I had recovered from my injury and kind of built back some self-esteem and confidence, I was a senior in college and had a boyfriend. Shortly after we became engaged, I heard him refer to me as his pretty bird in a cage, and I think it just sent chills down my spine when I heard that.
I always had to come home from class on time and tell him where I was going and when I would be back. And when I came in from class, I was a few minutes late, and when I came in the door, he was sitting on the couch and he had a butcher knife in his hand. He grabbed me by my feet and pulled me out of the wheelchair. He climbed on top of me and held my arms down with his knees, and he started choking me and stabbing the butcher knife around my head. At that point in time, I realized my life was in danger and I didn't want to stay in this relationship.
But it was just 3 weeks later, um, that he had pretty much held me hostage throughout the night, and I was admitted into the hospital with a broken arm, a broken nose, broken ribs, and my sternum was permanently damaged.
Then at that point, it took the hospital, the police, the university, and my family all stepped in and got me out of that relationship. And it was about a year later, when the trial was starting for the first charge, and I went into that courtroom with the utmost confidence that the person that did this to me would be punished for what he did. It was a 5-day trial. On the witness stand, his attorney portrayed me as a woman with a severe disability, that no other man would ever want or ever love, and how wonderful his client was for giving up his life to take care of me. And in a jury of 12, my batterer was found not guilty.
That was completely devastating for me. I felt revictimized, only this time by the system. What was so difficult for me is I knew there were other people that went through experiences of domestic violence, but I felt like I was alone as a person with a disability going through that. And there were so many layers of issues with my disability that contributed to the abuse, made it more difficult to get away and to recover from.
I had moved to California after the abusive relationship, and I was out there, and I had just completed my master's degree in social work.
And this was 6 years later, in '96. And it was one Friday evening about 8:00. I was sitting on the living room floor and I had my bedroom window open--not unlike all the other apartments in my complex--and I heard a noise in my bedroom. I called for my caregiver to come to see what the noise was, and the next thing I saw was she was walking out of my bedroom backwards, and there was a man that had a gun to her head, and behind him was another man with a knife. Then the man with the gun went to the sliding glass door, opened the door, and in walked two more men, so there were now four men in my apartment. And they pulled all of the phone cords and all of the lights out. And they burglarized my home and I was raped and repeatedly told that they were going to kill me.
I know that the reason I was chosen is because of my vulnerabilities with my disability. I could not run from them, I could not fight back. I hardly even have the strength in my voice to be able to yell. I'm an easy victim, an easy target. Those four men were never caught. I see all of the additional stigma in our society for people with disabilities. I see how they're being targeted for crime and abuse.
And, for me, I felt like those experiences happened to me, and I don't want to just bury them and not do anything with those experiences. And people with disabilities is a huge population, and I think it's important for everyone to realize that people with disabilities want to be treated fairly and equally in our society like everyone else, and we want to have the same services and the same respect as everyone else in our society.
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