A most important piece of writing

I am sitting here this morning staring at the screen gearing up to undertake one of the most important writing tasks I’ve ever taken on before; a victim impact statement.

Now that Trent has been found guilty of impaired driving causing death for the death of my mother-in-law; Mamma K (2009), we move into sentencing mode and this is where Mamma K’s family, friends, and coworkers finally have a venue to speak out.

In Canada, victims of a criminal offence may choose to write an account of how the crime has impacted their lives and submit it to the court upon a conviction and before sentencing. It’s a document that essentially outlines the physical, emotional and financial impact of the crime on the victim and their family. A victim impact statement is a way for victims to have a voice in the criminal justice system.

Writing and submitting a victim impact statement isn’t required. It is optional and we can each write and submit our own. Any impact statements written are then presented to the judge before sentencing. Most importantly, judges are required to consider the victim impact statements when sentencing offenders. This means that not only is each of our victim impact statements our “voice” in the system, but essentially we can each have an influence on Trent’s sentence. For us, this makes them extremely important.

As well, at sentencing, we can request to read or have read aloud our impact statement, although the judge has discretionary authority to allow it or not. If allowed, this would give those of us who choose to do so, an opportunity to tell Trent how his actions and choices on that fatal day have changed and marked our lives forever; pick me…pick me!!!

And once our statements are in the court file, they become part of the public record and may be seen by a Probation Officer or by the National Parole Board; offering us possibly more influence on Trent’s future in the system.

So you can see how important this piece of writing is and the impact it could potentially have not just at sentencing but beyond. I want this to be one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever done. I want it to evoke those intense emotions of grief and shock that I felt, and I want to appropriately capture the depth of the emotional trauma. When the judge reads it, I want him to be deeply moved; I want him to feel even a small portion of what we feel; I want him to have a great sense of the extent of our loss and the tragedy of it; and I want him to feel compelled to take a stand, a real stand, against impaired driving and sentence Trent to at least ten years or more in prison. And when I read it aloud in court, I want Trent to hang his head in shame.

It’s got to be perfect. It’s got to be intense. It’s got to be hard-core. It’s got to be my absolute best. Mamma K deserves no less!

I’ve already got four pages of material typed out. The emotions are percolating and bubbling around in my soul and coming out in bits and pieces. I am not worrying about formatting or perfection right now but just getting the “stuff” out. Soon it’ll be time to fine tune, organize, and pull it all together into a meaningful format that speaks to the depth of this tragedy and moves people to take action.

But in the end, can the trauma of it really be captured in words on a piece of paper? Likely not adequately but I’ll definitely give it a go!

Ever written a victim impact statement or a piece of incredibly important writing? If so, any words of advice?

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