Facing Fears and Fighting Predators
I am obscuring his face because I don’t want to look at it and I don’t want it in my feed. Prior to his return to prison, I felt it necessary to share his photo to protect others. I no longer have to do that.
This year, I have had to face many fears. The worst of which, was facing the man who had kidnapped me in court.
Last December, without warning, he had been released early from prison and placed in a halfway house 4 miles from my parents’ - my childhood - home. This meant that I had to fear for my loved ones every moment and was unable to come home.
A court battle ensued to have him removed, and to my dismay, it was not an easy fight. He fought to remain in Pittsburgh, although he had no connections or ties to the area.
In order to protect my family, myself, and fight for the rights of survivors everywhere, I asked for a special hearing to speak to the judge.
The offender was there - right in the room. I stood facing the judge with him sitting behind me, just a few feet away. My parents were seats behind him on the opposite side.
My mind was racing: who would get to me first if he attacked?
I looked forward, took a deep breath, and knew this was something that I had to do. I would not, and could not, ever be silenced. I chose to fight for victims who may one-day find themselves in a similar situation. I've had a number of survivors reach out and ask me to use my platform to be their voice. THEY were giving me strength. I was doing this for them. ❤️
I stood, tall and strong, though my voice was shaking and tears were streaming uncontrollably down my face.
In that moment of absolute fear and despair, I became filled with power. Power that he could not take from me EVER again.
After the hearing, I was hopeful. The judge responded favorably and I knew that she heard and understood my plea.
Weeks later, my attorney shared with me that the offender had violated probation by viewing pornography at the halfway house he was living in, and at the school he was attending. In addition, he had been using countermeasures to defeat the polygraph. This clearly showed that he was unable to control his urges and remained a danger to me and to society.
I knew he was going to violate probation and/or re-offend, and was so relieved he had done so in a way that did not physically harm anyone.
A court date was set, and it was moved and moved then moved again. A final date was set, and it happened to be when I was in Australia for advocacy work.
Due to timezone differences, it was 2 AM in Australia when I received the good news through the phone call from a reporter.
The offender was going back to prison and he was being removed from Pittsburgh!
It was surreal - like it did not happen at all. Honestly, it still feels that way.
Today, I will be driving to Pittsburgh for the first time since I attended that hearing. Pittsburgh itself, my beautiful hometown, has become a trigger.
Today, I will face that fear and reclaim my childhood home. When he was released, the terror transformed from memory to an actual, real-life, current threat.
Tomorrow, I will walk through downtown Pittsburgh and will breathe deeply, reminding myself that I am safe. ✨
For the next two years, he will be further evaluated and receive treatment as a sex offender.
For the next two years, we will all be safer.
PS: I am obscuring his face because I don’t want to look at it and I don’t want it in my feed. Prior to his return to prison, I felt it necessary to share his photo to protect others. I no longer have to do that.