There are some who don't understand why I find it so important to spread my message, and who have expressed what happened to me was so long ago that I should just move on with life and leave the past...in the past. But, thankfully, there are also those who know my passion and see my drive in continuing to share my story, and know that my heart hasn't fully allowed me to move on from this experience...and truthfully, never will. After being so blessed to have lived through an abduction, rape and attempted murder, I feel that I have a responsibility to encourage other victims to use their voices, and it's something I'll continue to do, loudly and proudly, all the rest of the days of my life. No one can ever persuade me to do otherwise, as I'm following my heart, and doing what I know is not only the right thing to do, but what I'm destined to do. THIS IS MY PURPOSE!
Every year on this day, I have tried to do something special in celebrating my life, and have tried to make it a joyous occasion, but every day of the last nineteen years, I've also had one lingering question that has "eaten" at me, and that was simply "who?" Who could have committed these awful acts toward me? Now, twenty years later, to the day, I've got a smile on my face, and my heart is beaming a bright light...as I have no need to question any longer. This year, I am not ONLY celebrating life, but also, a victory!
To my two heroes, Detective Tim Cromie, and SA Richard Rennison:
I know I've said it at least a hundred times, and I'll say it a hundred more, THANK YOU! If it weren't for you two, using your knowledge and experience in doing what you both felt was appropriate for my case and me, this would have been another anniversary where I'd be sitting here wondering who did this, who else had been a victim at the hands of this person, and when the time would come for me to get answers. Thankfully, this year, I've got all of the answers, and together, we've potentially saved the lives of others and together we've been able to make a difference in the lives of thousands of victims all around the World...I cannot express to you enough how much you both mean to me, and the pride I feel just knowing you two. I hope that others involved in law enforcement will learn from your mannerisms and work, because you are both the perfect example of what those in law enforcement should be. You both work not only because they are your jobs, but because you really and truly care, and want to make a difference. Thank you over and over, not only for giving me answers, but for putting your hearts into my case, and changing my life forever. This gift of peace you've both given me, has been the greatest gift I've ever received.
Peace this August 10th. No longer do I go to bed at night wondering who, or worrying about this person attacking others, as now we all know Dennis Earl Bradford was arrested October 13, 2009. On that day, nineteen years of prayers were answered. I would like to also take a moment to tell everyone, incase I've never said it, that I am still brought to tears at the many self-less acts of those who prayed and continue to keep me in their prayers, those who helped search for me and distribute fliers when I went missing, the cards and flowers I received in the hospital in 1990, and last year on the day of the arrest, the fundraisers that members of the community put together for medical expenses all of those years ago, the work of the officers that responded to the scene back in 1990 and everyone involved; including the officers and investigators at Dickinson PD, Galveston Co. Sheriff's OFfice, FBI, and the Texas Rangers. And, a special thank you to those at the North Little Rock PD who helped prepare with Cromie and Rennison and aided in the arrest of Bradford. Also, thank you to those supportive family members, friends, and my Jonathan, who have all guided me along at different points throughout the last twenty years...thank you for listening to me talk endlessly and openly about my experience, thank you for having open hearts and minds, and thank you for allowing me to smile, cry, and at times, yell if needed...all without judging me, and knowing how important this was to me to keep seeking an answer until an arrest was made.
I say that my heart will not ever allow me to fully move on, because there are countless victims out there, afraid to come forward, so I will forever use my experience as motivation to do what I am incredibly passionate about, and that is sharing my story and fighting to make a difference in this sometimes-cruel World we all live in. I have seen the need to share my story even more in the last year, as I've received many e-mails and phone calls from different organizations and advocacy centers, locally and out-of-state, asking me to share my story with their communities and help them in getting support, because there are still those that do not like hearing about or changing the horrible things going on within their community. I've received e-mails from victims in different countries, telling me either that they don't know how to go about telling someone what's happened to them, or asking if it's too late to speak out, or about their unfortunate and unfair experiences with law enforcement when trying to report the crime.
Rape is REAL! It's happening, unfortunately, all over the World. Every hour, of every day. It's something that no one should ever have to experience, but sadly, many experience it repeatedly. It is never too late to speak out! I will do whatever I can to help save others from having this happen to them, and encourage those it has happened to in using their voices to speak out against it.
Today, while I should be preparing myself for going to trial this Fall, and Bradford being sentenced, I will instead be sitting at Dennis Bradford's grave, reading my victim impact statement. Eventhough he is no longer here, I have to do this, it's something I've wanted to do for twenty years now, although I didn't plan to do it in this manner. If you are a victim of a crime, or know someone who is, please let my story be a reminder that we are all really not victims, but victorious! Please continue to use your voices to speak out, you never know the difference you may make in the life of someone who may just need to hear your story.
There are a couple of things that I didn't elaborate enough on in my Today Show interview
that people have been commenting about, through guestbook entries and e-mails, so I'd like to just "set the record straight" and clear up some of the confusion:
I've had probably over 150 heartfelt e-mails from women all around the United States offering to be my surrogate. The infertility issues I have do not require me needing a surrogate, but I feel very blessed to have had so many offers! I can still carry a baby, I just have to rely on in vitro fertilization to get pregnant. There is a 70% chance that it will work, but I know several women who have tried it time after time with no luck. The fertility doctor I have been working with has great success rates, though...so when Jonathan and I get ready to have children, we will cross our fingers (and toes) and see what happens! Whether the in vitro works or not, we still plan to adopt sometime in the future.
As a child, I watched many, many foster children come in and out of my grandmother's home, and it really inspired me to adopt children sometime in my lifetime. I feel very fortunate to have seen the endless love my grandmother always had for any children that came into her home, and hope to show my children the same, as I truly believe my grandmother loved all of her foster children just as much as she loves us grandkids. I also have family members who are adopted, and can't imagine our family without them!
2) Dennis Bradford's Death.
I have found in my journey, that people are very opinionated, and I have learned to accept people's feelings for what they are, and not let them upset me, because everyone IS entitled to feel or voice their own opinions. BUT, I will say...that no one can ever fully understand what a person has been through UNLESS they have experienced it themselves, and even then sometimes people's opinions/feelings will be different.
With that said, there have been comments and messages from several people not able to understand WHY I'd be upset that Dennis Bradford hung himself. The opinion of most is that "it saves tax-payers dollars." Indeed, it does...BUT I wanted my time in court with him first. After searching for almost 20 years, all I asked for was 5 minutes with him in a court room face-to-face, and it was devastating to me that I did not get the chance to do that. With rock-solid DNA evidence, a 4 hour confession on tape, and 2 or 3 other times he confessed over the last 7 months in jail that were documented, I know Bradford would have been given a life sentence. Yes, with the chance of parole after 30 years, but I'm sure he wouldn't have lasted 30 years in prison, anyway. Call me selfish, but I felt like after all of these years of searching for him, he OWED me my 5 minutes, to hear what I had to say (whether he would have listened or not), and I am entitled to feel "cheated" out of that opportunity.
It is not in my nature to have an angry heart, I just never have. I have never sat and cried and asked questions of "why me?" or been in despair over what happened to me. I've never played the "victim" but have played the role of "Victorious!" and tried to make a positive out of this negative experience I had as a child. I forgave Dennis Bradford for what he did to me years and years ago, but was worried about all of the others that could fall victim to him, and wanted to get him off of the streets, as I've said many times before..so he could not harm anyone else. I feel SO BLESSED to have conquered that goal and potentially saved others!
3) Victim Impact Statement.
I wrote my VIS not for Dennis Bradford, not to get any reaction out of Dennis Bradford, not to get an apology out of Dennis Bradford....but wrote it for myself for closure, and to be the voice of other victims everywhere.
When I did my interview with Jeff Rossen from NBC, and talked about missing out on my moment in court to read it, I mentioned wanting to face Bradford in court to:
"Show him (Bradford) that he didn't win. And, that I'm a strong survivor, and to show other victims no matter what obstacles you come across, or how long you have to wait, as long as you're strong and determined, you can get the justice that you want."
..and by that, I meant that for myself AND for others, I wanted to sit face-to-face with him and read my 3 page long Victim Impact Statement that I had been preparing for years, whether my words meant anything to him or not, I did not care. I wanted to do this to show not only Bradford, but others that prey on children and adults that we WILL fight for justice and conquer crime!
4.) What now?
Was me facing Bradford in court necessary for me to heal? NO. I had feelings of disappointment, but I DO have closure, and I am moving on with my life, continuing to USE MY VOICE to speak out and encouraging others to do the same! My "Meme" (Grandma) always told me..."Jenny, you can make all the plans in the World, but you can't plan the outcome." Now more than ever do I realize just how true that statement is.
I am going back to college June 8th, and finishing up my Bachelor's degree in Criminology hopefully within the next year and a half. I look forward to writing a book in the near future, starting a family within the next couple of years, and working in an area of law enforcement after obtaining my degree that will allow me to continue to grow as a survivor and in helping others to use their voices and conquer crime...one VOICE at a time!
Victorious in Jesus,
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.
Click this link to watch portions of the ceremony: www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrnSrMT8I5w&feature=player_embedded
On Tuesday, I attended and spoke at a Brick Dedication Ceremony at Dickinson PD, and I did much better giving my speech there, and didn't even cry this time. I also got a standing ovation, which was very unexpected and nice! I couldn't help but think of how just 6 months ago, I stood at the very same podium, in the very same room, giving a statement just hours after Dennis Bradford was arrested in Arkansas. These past six months have really flown by, and it's just amazing to me all that has happened within that short period of time. At the ceremony in Dickinson, I met a little girl who is 9 years old, and at the age of 2, both of her parents were murdered. She is being raised by her grandmother, and was crying during the ceremony as her grandmother spoke up and told the story. It was very emotional, as they still have not caught who murdered this little girl's parents. It was heart-wrenching, to say the least. Afterward, I talked with her, and she drew me this picture: This is the reason I continue to share my story. If I could, I would bring her mom and dad back...but that isn't something I'm capable of, so at the very least, I was able to use my voice in sharing my story and showing support.. comforting her and giving her and her grandmother hope that day. As we congregated outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather, with our lit candle roses, Chief Morales unveiled a brick on the walkway of the police department, dedicated to Crime Victims.
Saturday morning, Jonathan and I got up early and headed to Galveston Island for the Crime Victims' Rights 5K Walk/Run along the Seawall. We were both excited to participate, as neither of us had ever done anything like this before, and now look forward to participating every year! Over 200 people showed up for this event, and God is so good. The weather was supposed to be awful, with over a 60% chance of rain...and honestly, we couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day for the run! It was 84 degrees, full of sunshine, mixed with a cool breeze, and we finished our walk in about 45 minutes. This was HUGE for me since I do not like to sweat, and I don't even walk to my own mailbox, lol. I ran into many supporters along the Galveston Seawall who were wearing their "Use Your Voice!" t-shirts, and I was just elated to see everyone out there and see so many familiar faces!! At my half-way point, there was an especially familiar face giving out water :) Thanks, Cromie - for all that you do to support crime victims!