Curveball.

Today has been one of the most difficult days of my life. For almost twenty years, I knew Dennis Bradford was out there, somewhere. In my heart, I knew in due time, I'd find him. People would often tell me after all of these years, my attacker would probably be dead, or that I would never know who had attacked me...I could, at times, even see the doubt in others faces when I'd say I would find him one day. But, I kept on. I knew he was alive, and I knew I'd one day find and face the man that so cold-heartedly attempted to murder me. I made it my goal to find him no matter what obstacles came my way. I've had good days, and I've had bad..but this day is by far the WORST. I've said from the very beginning that I've never had an angry heart about what happened to me as a child. Obviously, a person capable of thinking up a plan and going through with it... such as taking an innocent 8 year old from her bed, raping her, and then cutting her throat and leaving her to die... is sick in the head. Even though my heart was never angry with Bradford, I did always want him to be punished for his actions in the court room, and taken off of the streets so that he could not ever hurt an innocent child again. After him being captured last October, I wanted him to spend every single day of the rest of his life in a jail cell, thinking about what he had done to me. But, today...he took his own life in that cell. Knowing I will never be face to face with Bradford in a court of law, reading aloud my victim impact statement, that I've spent months writing, countless late nights perfecting for my moment in court.. is extremely hard for me to forgive and accept. I have beenleft feeling as though I've been cheated out of an opportunity for ultimate closure. Please try to understand that I have worked so hard for almost 20 years for the moment of facing him and showing him what I've become, and letting him know how what he did to me affected my life, and I'm heartbroken and disappointed that my opportunity to do so has crumbled right before my eyes, and will never come.

On a happier note, I couldn't be more grateful for Tim Cromie of Dickinson Police Dept., and Special Agent Richard Rennison with the FBI for all of their hard work and dedication. Both of those men looked me in the eyes two years ago and promised they would catch my attacker and never give up, no matter how long it took...and they followed through on their promise to me. I am forever indebted to these two men, and couldn't have asked for a more diligent, hard working team to put their ALL into my case. I am working hard to keep positive thoughts, and keep reminding myself of how far I've come in my journey..eventhough I didn't get the full justice or outcome I wanted. Ultimately, I am able to rejoice in knowing I've potentially saved the lives of children and encouraged many to speak out, which does give me an overwhelming sense of comfort.

I made a promise to myself years ago that I would never quit using my voice to speak out, and never stop encouraging others to use their voices to tell their stories...no matter the outcome. With that said, I WILL continue on, doing what I've been doing, and hope that I can continue to show others the strength they may gain from sharing their own stories. I know there have been many of you that have prayed for me over the years and I ask that you please continue to do so, as I take some time to try and make sense of and accept what happened yesterday and then continue on my journey in life. No amount of words could ever express how thankful I am for each and every supporter, card, flowers, e-mail, text message, or phone call I've received. Knowing there are so many that care about my well being is an unexplainable feeling...thank you.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...
May 11, 2010 at 1:39 PM

Jennifer,
I have been following your story and blog for sometime now. It angers me that he would commit a selfish act to take his own life and not wait for his sentencing here on Earth, but I believe that God has his own plans for him below. You cannot feel cheated... you have been given your voice and you need to continue to use it. I think you should actually read your victim impact statement aloud, somewhere, anywhere... it will help you heal. Maybe read it to inmates as part of a rehab program, or even just here on your blog. Read it to God one night and have him pass along your words. And after you have read it, with emotion and conviction, let him go and continue your quest to be the voice of so many children and women whose voices and lives have been taken. You are truly inspirational and I hope that his death brings you not only some closure, but even more determination to continue YOUR VOICE.

Anonymous said...
May 12, 2010 at 12:01 PM

God bless you sweetheart. I just about lost my lunch when I read your post it made me so mad that you should have that feeling of being robbed what was rightfully yours!!!! Your emotional response is totally justifiable. But keep your fire alive. He didn't squash it then, nor in his absence on this earth, should be be able to squash it now. Your resolve is an inspiration and I will keep you in my prayers.

Lynnie said...
May 19, 2010 at 6:37 AM

Jennifer, I still continue to pray for you and your well being and hope that you will keep using your VOICE to speak out against horrific crimes such as the one you endured. God bless you and bring you peace in your life. You will always be a symbol of courage, inspiration ...never ever give up your fight! Again, God bless you!

Susan Komisar Hausman said...
May 19, 2010 at 7:03 AM

Jennifer, I have no doubt that your strength, determination and your voice will help so many other survivors, both to speak out and to pursue justice. I wish you all the very best.

Anonymous said...
May 19, 2010 at 7:26 AM

I just saw your story on the Today Show and I am eager to read your blog site. I just wanted to say, you are a HERO in my eyes.

Anonymous said...
May 19, 2010 at 8:06 AM

Jennifer, I saw your story this morning on the Today Show and just wanted to tell you how amazing you are. I understand some of what you went through - though I knew my attackers (boyfriends) and they never tried to kill me. I think that would give a person extra strength - or it could totally rob them of their zest for living. Your story is encouraging on many levels. My 15 year old daughter recently told us two men crawled into her window and raped her this past February. She says she knows them, but will not tell us who they are and doesn't believe she's worth "the trouble." We took her to the hospital, but she refused the rape kit. Of course, this rips a mother's heart straight out of her chest. Thank you for your encouraging fight! I will try to find the clip from the show and ask her to watch it. We do not have to be victims. We can choose to use what has happened as a platform to help others. I am so sorry you did not get to face your attacker. He is facing God right now. The sentencing he is getting right now is way worse than life in a prison cell... MANY blessings to you as you fight the good fight!

Anonymous said...
May 19, 2010 at 9:54 AM

God's justice will reign. I really hope this story will go onto a new chapter for you.... There is still a lot of life left to live! Ps 9:16

Stephanie said...
May 19, 2010 at 11:56 AM

I echo the sentiments that you are a hero! To God be the glory and thanks so much for be willing to use your voice... you're an inspiration!

Anonymous said...
May 19, 2010 at 4:53 PM

I just wanted to say that you and others like you are some of the strongest people I know. I haven't had to deal with traumas such as these but the stories and the people touch my heart. Continue to use your voice and I will be happy to be someone to hear it and to help.

God Bless you all

Anonymous said...
May 19, 2010 at 5:15 PM

Hi Jennifer!

You are such a survivor, and though you are rightly disappointed in that you cannot face him now and deliver your message as you have wanted to for so long, know that he left this world KNOWING that you survived. He didn't get away with it, and he was obviously too much of a coward to face it. Which is exactly the kind of man he always was - a coward. He was a coward today in taking his own life and not facing you. And, he was a coward 20 years ago when he attacked a defenseless little girl who couldn't fight him. Yes, he no longer is here on this earth, but given who he was and what he has done while living on this earth, I'm sure he is not at peace wherever he is now. Surely he is paying his dues...and he will for eternity.

Alexandra said...
May 19, 2010 at 6:11 PM

Jennifer, I am extremely impressed with you. Whenever I hear a story as inspirational as yours, it really hits home, and I'm so proud of you for being so vocal all these years; thank you for never giving up! You are a wonderful role model for every girl out there who has experienced or who may experience something so awful. I know it must be a terribly difficult time for you right now, but that horrific excuse for a human being will get what he deserves. Fortunately he's gone now, so at least no other girl will suffer the way you did at his hands ever again.

By the way, I can almost guarantee that in those six months he spent in prison, he did hear about what you've been doing for 19 years. He's at the heart of it all, isn't he? I find it hard to believe he didn't know that not only have you survived, but you have also become an independent and strong young woman advocating awareness. Even if you'll never get to read your statement to him in the flesh, I honestly don't think he was completely in the dark about what you've been doing all this time. You ARE a survivor!

I haven't gone through anything a fraction as terrible as you have; a few years ago an ex-boyfriend tried to rape me, so that's about as pathetically far as I can relate in terms of personal experience. However, trying to imagine the horror you went through makes me respect you even further...you are an unbelievably strong person and I really admire you. You are a perfect example of someone who has survived and become a sturdy individual as a result of refusing to keep your silence.

What I really want you to do now, though, is something on a slightly different track. Continue spreading your message to other girls, of course, but it's time to truly start breathing again as well. He's gone; he was captured, ID'd, and imprisoned before the end, so at least you found out who he was. But sweetie, don't let the fact that he "escaped" by suicide deter you; I understand that it will be extremely difficult to deal with at first, and rightfully so. But please don't let that haunt you for life, because that's just giving him the upper hand. You are strong and beautiful and amazing, and he has NO hold over you and your ability to lead a happy life. He can't control you, in life or in death. He couldn't the first time, so don't let him this time either. :) I know you'll be alright, thanks to the incredible show of character you've demonstrated to the world all of this time.

Anyway, I know that this is really long-winded, but I really wanted to tell you all of this in hopes that you'll get to read it and know you have at least one more supporter who thinks the world of you. Continue to be strong sweetie, you have the rest of your life ahead of you and everything will seriously work out.

I truly wish you happiness, Jennifer...you deserve the best!

xoxo Ally

Katie said...
May 19, 2010 at 6:23 PM

Jennifer - First I want to thank you for bravely sharing your story. Your story proves that no matter what one is forced to deal with in life, they can survive and live a good life. The man who attacked you was evil, was weak, and was a coward as his actions have shown. You are beautiful, strong, and inspirational. He has NOT won, and will never win. He will never hurt another person. He will get his just punishment from God. And you are getting the chance to have you message heard by even more people - many of whom still need to be inspired to use their voice as you did. I'm so sorry you won't get to face your attacker in court as you deserve to - but please remember that you are still victorious. And please continue what you have been doing to help others to speak out for justice. If anything, keep relying on God and remember Ps. 34:18 "Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves." My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Angela said...
May 19, 2010 at 6:54 PM

Jennifer, hearing your story touched me in many ways. It makes me feel that there definitely is justice in this world and you have proved it.
From your story and can be proud to say I LOVE my voice and I will use it as much as I can because Jennifer said so. :')

Anonymous said...
May 19, 2010 at 9:10 PM

Jennifer-

I saw your story on the Today Show. Bless your heart, what a moving story. So sorry that he robbed you of the ability to confront him in court. It further speaks to his cowardice as a human.

I haven't found the justice that I wish for either.

I was raped by my step dad for several years beginning when I was 12. Unfortunately my mom didn't choose to protect me. In fact, she is still married to him. (I am 45 now)

Luckily the abuse finally stopped, but the pain remains. It's hard to go on some days when you know that your own mom didn't care enough to save you. I don't know what will take the pain away.

{ Lana Cox } said...
May 19, 2010 at 10:41 PM

Wow, I just listened to your interview on the Today show. You are an amazing person! I just love your positive attitude despite all you have been through. Take care and God bless!

Anonymous said...
May 19, 2010 at 11:53 PM

Dear Jennifer,

Keep going. We girls need you one way or another. Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...
May 20, 2010 at 5:03 AM

You are a role model for all females. so many rapes go unreported for so many reasons, shame, guilt, retalaiation, being told they deserved it. I know you went through more than just a rape, but you spoke up. He will knew what he did, what you were doing, and he was a coward. but he was judged. please don't stop your telling your story there are alot of girls and women that need to know this is not acceptable. you are a huge voice, keep using it. thank you

Anonymous said...
May 20, 2010 at 10:14 AM

Hi Jennifer,

I watched your story on the TODAY show with a pit in my stomach and tears in my eyes. I've been blessed with a beautiful little girl who is now 6 years old. As a mother, my biggest fear is someone hurting my "baby". I cannot imagine one ounce of the pain you have endured. I don't know what I would have done had you been my daughter - I probably would have been in jail myself once we found out who had committed this horrible act. Thank you for sharing your story and for keeping your faith in God. We'll never understand why tragic events like this happen but we must keep faith in our hearts. Your abductor may not have had his punishment on earth, but I believe he's now paying the ultimate sacrafice for his actions. You are definetly a hero and mentor to others who have survived similar circumstances. Actually, you're a hero and mentor to us all! God Bless you and I'm sending a hug from North Carolina!

Anonymous said...
May 21, 2010 at 9:19 AM

Jennifer,

You truely are an inspiration. God bless you and your family.

Diana

Laura said...
May 21, 2010 at 5:11 PM

Jennifer,
I am sorry that you didn't get your day in court. You truly will be an inspiration to others in your situation. My son was abused by my husband/his stepfather and finally came forward last summer. We are currently waiting for our day in court. We are expecting to start trial with a plea Friday May 28th. I know that it will never be "over" for my son, but I am hoping to get some justice and maybe closure for him.
I hope you find some closure in all this yourself, and you have been an inspiration to me. I would like to devote my life to helping others in this position.
I feel helpless sometimes to stop the hurt that my son is going through and horrible for what you have had to endure. If I can help one other victim for just one minute I will go out of my way to do that.
We will keep you in our prayers for peace and also that God finds another door to open to you to become a mother. You will be a wonderful parent.
God bless you and keep you,
Laura

Anonymous said...
May 22, 2010 at 4:07 PM

Jennifer,
I saw the video that was posted on MSN and I just wanted to tell you how impressed I am with you. You are such a strong woman, it is unbelievable. Your story truly shows what an amazing and courageous person you are. You are by far an inspiration and a hero. I will pass your story on to so many others, so they too can see what an inspiration you truly are.

I wish you the best of love, joy and happiness throughout your life. You deserve so much happiness and I know you will receive it. God bless.

Anonymous said...
May 24, 2010 at 5:04 PM

Jennifer, we often think an apology or seeing our attacker punished will help us to get closure and to somehow finally move on. You have moved on with using your voice. Those things HELP, but NOTHING will undo what brings the gap that lies within, because somehow, such a violation brings pain that lasts way beyond the wounds. As you well know, only God and time will settle everything concerning what you have experienced. Continue to fight!

superrubbrduckie said...
May 25, 2010 at 6:50 AM

I read you felt cheated, cause you practiced saying it to him many times, i think it might be healthy to still get closure, even if its not face to face. Say it outloud, and know he will hear it say it for you and most importantly, forgive him (not that he deserves it) but humans tend to hold on to grudges like they were treasures, but the real treasure is being able to let go. I don't think that you can forgive him on your own, in my life i haven't been able to forgive certain people on my own. So i recommend praying and asking God to help you forgive him, and get closure for yourself. As you well know i am sure, you did help him get off the street, just not in the way you previously imagined or expected. Like you said, God has a plan! Continue being part of it. Don't forget, we are forgiven, as we forgive. God bless you !!

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