Reshaping The Future, Honoring The Past

This week one year ago, Crime Victims' Rights week 2010, you may remember me blogging about how I was nervous, my palms were sweating, and I was stepping up to the podium to speak infront of a crowd of crime victims and their families for my very first speech at the Texas City Police Department. I cried as I spoke, I trembled, and had to catch my breath. I was still in shock that Bradford had been arrested after 19 years of hoping, wishing, praying, and searching for answers...and we were preparing to go to trial in the Fall of 2010. There was alot weighing on my mind. But, I knew I had to gather up the strength to speak to all of the tearful eyes looking at me. I needed to give others hope, as nervous as I was. Needless to say, I got through the speech, all the while Jonathan rubbing my shoulder and trying to help calm me down, as anxiety was getting the best of me. After the balloon release, and many, many hugs later, I thought to myself, "Well that wasn't so bad..." and started to wonder why I had been so nervous; afterall, this is my purpose in life, to help other people through my own experiences, and no one was there to judge me, we were all there, connected through, unfortunately, one common denominator: crime.






A few days later, I spoke again, this time at Dickinson PD, to crime victims and their families. This time, I was more excited to speak and show support to others. I was joyful, didn't cry and was so proud of myself. Dickinson PD is my second home, my comfort zone, and having all of those I've worked with on my case throughout the years in attendance, as well as close friends, gave me the strength I needed. That weekend, Jonathan and I, neighbors, friends and family participated in the 5K Walk/Run in support of Crime Victims' Rights in Galveston. Little did I know then...the course of getting true justice was about to change.

It was only a few weeks after this week a year ago that I got that dreaded phone call that Bradford had committed suicide in his jail cell - one of the most awful moments of my life. Pure shock, heartache and devastation are the only words I can still use to describe that day. How many more obstacles in this journey could I handle? I would say I questioned my faith the most during this time. Flowers and words of encouragement arrived at my door non-stop, and it would make me smile for a little while, but the pain was still there. There was NOTHING anyone could say or do to make the pain go away. For a few weeks, I had a major pity-party but one day woke up and came to my senses and realized I couldn't let the unfortunate death of Bradford get me down...once again, I'd have to jump back on my feet and remember why I'm here on this Earth, and I needed to use my voice and help others. I couldn't let anyone down, I needed to continue to fulfill my purpose.


Fast-forward to Crime Victims' Rights Week 2011 "Reshaping The Future, Honoring The Past" - what an awesome "theme" for this year! I have now accomplished and overcome so many obstacles, and strive to continue to do so on a daily basis. My attack is something that happened going on 21 years ago, but changed my life and perspective on crime, forever. I have done many speaking engagements, and met many people and continue to feel inspired to share my story and know I am making a difference, which makes me feel truly blessed. I know I am doing what I was called to do, and that is an indescribable feeling on so many different levels.


In March of this year, I was invited to attend and present alongside Detective Cromie in Austin for the annual TAASA conference, and what an extraordinary experience that was! I became a TAASA member last year, and this was the first conference I had ever attended, and it was full of amazingly insightful experiences. I went to several workshops throughout the days I was there, and learned so much about being a better victim advocate and learned more about the unfortunately "real" statistics on sexual assaults in our state. All of the information I learned just added more fuel to my fire, and has me striving to continue fighting for others and speaking out.



Day 4 of the conference, Detective Cromie met me in Austin and he and I presented a workshop together. This was our first presentation that we were presenting together, and it went really well, we even got a standing ovation! Members of law enforcement, social workers, therapists, SANE's, and victim advocates attended our workshop, and asked alot of questions. I'm beginning to feel more comfortable speaking infront of crowds of people, and I'm able to control my emotions better although Bradford's death is still very "fresh" and there are times when I just think about how he took his own life and start bawling. It's something that has been very difficult for me to deal with. After our presentation, Detective Cromie and I went to the TAASA awards luncheon. We sat at one of the head tables and were called up on stage to accept the award for "Champions For Social Change" from TAASA. I am so proud of this award, and will cherish it forever. Thank you, friends at TAASA, for acknowledging the changes we are trying to make to end sexual violence in Texas!


Last week, Detective Cromie and I spoke in San Diego, CA at the National District Attorney's Associations' Equal Justice Conference. Our presentation lasted just over an hour, and we were able to meet with conference attendee's on the terrace of the hotel for "table talks" - which were question & answer sessions. I love hearing the questions the different professions we present infront of have to ask. All of the questions vary from one extreme to the next, and I love seeing what people come up with, and it gives me insight into what I should add to future presentations. The thought of and hearing how my story not only effects and changes the perspectives of crime victims, their families, and different professions involving those who work with crime victims makes me tear up.


Today, still tired and having a headache, and recooperating from my trip to San Diego last week (I just got back in town Sunday evening) - I arrived at Dickinson PD for the annual brick laying ceremony and there was not one empty seat in the room the ceremony was held in. Chief Morales started off the ceremony by having everyone in the room tell their name and why they were attending. Some were there in support of crime victims, some were directly affected by crime. Of course he picked on me and made me go first, and put me on the spot. My mind went blank for a few seconds as I tried to push words out and come up with something to say to let others know we had a connection, and I was there to offer help to anyone in need. The woman sitting next to me cried as she told her daughter had just been murdered only a month ago. Another woman cried as she spoke of her son, murdered in 1999. No matter how recent or long ago the crime has happened, it's something that effects our lives, forever. People who haven't experienced what us "victims" have been through...it's easy to tell us to "get over it" or "just move on" - I'll tell you this is much easier said than done. As we all stepped outside for the brick laying ceremony, and I got my camera out of my purse to take pictures, the Chief told me to put my camera up and move upfront because they were about to unveil my brick on the walkway of the PD. I said, "MY brick?!?" - I couldn't believe the police department was honoring me with my very own brick, and was elated. Thank you, DPD, so excited!


In closing, we ALL have a story to share, mine is one of trauma and pain; yet survival and victory, and it's one I'll always tell and use in positive ways to inspire others. What is your story, and how will/are you using it to help others? You never know when or how a few simple words may change the life of someone you don't even know. Together, we can "Reshape the Future" and "Honor the Past." - Won't you join me in making a difference?










1 comments:

TFF said...
May 3, 2011 at 12:22 PM

Jennifer,
Congratulations on your brick! I have enjoyed following your story here, and cannot tell you how much I admire your courage and dedication.

Two months before you began your journey of healing, I began walking the path of my own triumph over tragedy. Twenty one years ago, on May 11, 1990, my eldest child died from unxpected delivery complications, shortly after he was born.

It seems our lives, though so many miles apart, have been lived in similar ways. I knew from the onset that I didn't want to spend my life mourning my son, but I had no idea what that meant. I also knew that someday I would help others overcome their own losses.

Today, I celebrate my son's life, and am working to inspire others through my own blog @ thefivefacets.blogspot.com.

Thanks for your story, for your courage, for your kind and gentle spirit.

All the best as you continue moving forward!!

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