When I was asked to write a Victim Impact Statement before my final court appearance, I immediately understood the weight that went with it. I knew that it would be shared with other victims who had gone through similar circumstances and that it would be used as an example. I wanted to be a voice for women, while still asking myself what Jesus would do. I mean, He was betrayed by one of his top twelve, His body was broken, He bled. But in the end, He forgave. I’m a flawed human with bitterness and anger. Could I do the same?
To forgive or not to forgive…
This statement was written by me and read aloud under oath in court on February 20th, 2018.
“On September, 27th, 2016, I was so full of hope. The Friday before, we had taken the kids downtown for dinner and to see the Clydesdale horses. We had been separated for five months and I believed that we were finally on the road to reconciliation. You had told me that you were in AA, you had a sponsor and that you were doing really well with working through the issues that were causing you to drink. I was so proud of you. We text and emailed every day and we had made plans to sit down and talk to each other about what it would take to move forward. I was thrilled to finally be getting my husband back.
We had scheduled our talk for the following week, but the Tuesday before, I got a text from our mutual friend, Melissa. The text said, “He needs you. I think you should go over there.” A spark of hope flared up that you wanted to talk now and I called her. She said she had just gotten off the phone with you. You were saying you loved me and wanted us to get back together. I can’t even describe how happy that made me. I drove straight to our house and knocked on the back door, but you didn’t answer. I called you, text you and even sent you an email thinking you might have had music playing and couldn’t hear me knocking. You came out on the upstairs balcony and said you couldn’t talk right now, it looked like you may have been on the phone.
You had told me you were in AA, you had a sponsor, you were working really hard on your goal to stay sober….and I believed you. We were talking everyday, we had set up a day to sit down and talk about fixing our marriage and I had started trusting you again, so I thought nothing of using my key to unlock the door and go in the house. I called your name throughout the house and finally found you in our bedroom. You were lying on the bed playing on your phone when I opened the door. You stood up and yelled, “What are you doing in here? I told you I would talk to you next week!” I sat down on the bed thinking we were just going to talk and you walked over to the dresser and started loading the gun that was laying on top.
You started firing shots in the ceiling of our bedroom and I have been asked over and over again why I didn’t run. That question has plagued me over the past seventeen months. The truth is, I froze. You were shooting at the ceiling, one shot after another and I was frozen, sitting on the bed with both hands held up to the sides of my head thinking, “I’m about to die.” I was frozen like a deer in headlights and I was so confused. You had just told someone that you loved me and wanted us to get back together. Was that all a lie? Were you luring me to the house so you could shoot me?
You put the gun to the side of my head and said, “I’m going to shoot you if you don’t leave.” Tears were streaming down my cheeks and I said I would leave.
You held the gun to my back as I walked down the stairs and I knew at any moment, you could fire. I went out the side door and our dog, Watson, had dug out of the fence and was running around. I turned around to tell you he was out and you fired your final shot. Why? Why did you shoot me? I was already leaving. There was zero reason for you to shoot.
Hindsight is always 20-20. I now know you had been asked to report to HR at work the next morning. The prospect of losing your job probably pushed you to reach for the bottle again and you fell off the wagon. I believe that you went for the gun to try and gain control over the situation because everything else in your life was so out of control.
You told people that I was an intruder in the middle of the night….that you thought I was a burglar….that it was self-defense. But you didn’t tell them that you talked to me from the outside balcony before I ever came in the house. You didn’t tell them that you knew exactly who I was and you talked to me before you ever went for the gun. You didn’t tell them that you held the gun to the side of my head in the light where you could clearly see my face. You didn’t tell them about the shots you fired in the ceiling of our home to terrorize me. You didn’t tell them that you escorted me out of the house holding the gun to my back like you were taking me to be executed. You didn’t tell them that, after shooting me, you went back inside and closed the door, leaving me lying on the sidewalk bleeding. Your wife.
Thank God I had my phone in my pocket. I called 911 and heard the sirens less than 30 seconds later.
On the CT scan they did at the hospital, the bullet track was less than an inch from my femoral artery. If it had hit that artery, I would have bled to death on the sidewalk before anyone could get there.
The bullet broke apart inside of my leg. Half of it exited out the back, half of it embedded in the bone, fracturing my femur above my knee. It’s still in there.
I was released to go home that night, but I didn’t sleep because every time I closed my eyes, I saw a gun in my face. I re-lived it over and over and over again.
I missed eight days of work without pay.
You were let go from your job the next day and I lost my insurance. The medical bills piled up.
I spent nine weeks on crutches and worked a physically demanding job on crutches for seven of those weeks
I was in physical therapy for five months learning how to walk again.
I’ve been seeing a trauma therapist for seventeen months and that will continue.
Every morning, I wake up with a limp and have to stretch to walk properly.
I tire more easily and I feel it ache on rainy days and cold days….a deep, in the bone pain.
I see the scar every time I use the restroom, shower, change clothes or wear a swimsuit and it takes me back to that day every single time.
I don’t wear shorts or short dresses or skirts, because I see it.
The bone healed around the bullet, but it still sets off security metal detectors and I’ve learned to just say “I have metal in my leg”, so I don’t have to explain anything.
Loud noises are the worst when I’m not expecting them… This past Christmas, one of my family members popped one of the large bubble wrap from an Amazon package. My hands flew to the side of my head and I couldn’t control the tears. It scared me and took me back to that day….even fifteen months later.
I’ve had to leave a movie theater because the gunshots were too much to handle.
Fireworks, construction noise close to my house, even neighbors doing target practice. If it catches me off guard, it’s an instant trigger and puts me right back where I was with a gun pointed at my face.
For several months after the shooting, you drove by my house every morning and I would pass you on my way to work. It terrified me that you knew where I lived. Thank you for stopping that.
My life has been on hold for a year and a half. I think of that day every single day….it’s the first thing I think of in the morning and the last thing before I go to bed. The stress of the looming trial was overwhelming. The reason I agreed to this plea bargain is because it means it’s finally over. I’m no longer on hold, the elephant gets booted out of the room and I am allowed to move forward without the weight of this constantly on my mind…..I’m no longer under your control.
No longer the victim, instead I’m the survivor.
And one last thing.
I forgive you. Not for you, but for me.
The bitterness I was feeling towards you was too much…it was time to let that go. You have the most incredible opportunity right now to use your story for redemption.
There was this guy I used to know who was such an amazing Christian guy. He was a devoted father and husband. He was silly and fun and could carry on a great conversation. He would sing songs and pray with his kids every night at bedtime.
Find that guy again. I know he’s in there.
I’ll never forget that time we were driving home from seeing your dad in Paragould. You told me that your dad had ended up in jail when he was younger and he had used that time to turn his life around and come out a new man, called to preach. You said you might be called to preach at some point too. You have an opportunity right now to use your story to help others who have struggled with addictions, destructive habits and shame. God wants to redeem you….if you let Him.
Lucky for all of us, no sin, no shame, no past, no pain can separate you from God’s love.”
Forgiveness. That’s a tough one.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians [4:31]-32)
And there it is, we forgive others because God forgave us….even when they don’t deserve it. We are all sinners and everyone makes mistakes. You don’t get to hold it over someone’s head forever when they hurt you. Deal with your pain, feel the feels and then let it go. You know the famous quote, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Keeping that kind of bitterness inside only hurts you.
Please understand me…
Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation. For me, it didn’t. I mentioned one of my favorite quotes last week, “You are not the Savior, you cannot save him.” Just because you forgive your hater doesn’t mean the relationship can or should be restored. God has an incredible way of showing you which choice to make through His Word, His people and your personal conversations with Him. He will never let you down.
I learned so much through this experience, but I never could have done it without God. He brought me through the fire and used that heat to mold me into a new person, someone called to share my story. You can’t have the testimony without the test…you don’t have the message without the mess. Because of what He has brought me through, I am stronger. My faith in Him has grown exponentially because He was always faithful and never left my side. He is right by your side too…trust and lean.
Is there someone you need to forgive? If there is, their face just popped into your mind when you read that question. You know you’ve forgiven someone when you can look at a picture of them without wanting to rip it to shreds. God wants so much more for you.
Today, I will be doing a forgiveness burn. I encourage you to join me.
I’m going to delete all the texts and emails and burn a stack of papers and photos I’ve been holding onto…just in case. Once you forgive, you won’t need to look back at those things anymore.
***Please do not destroy any evidence you might need in the future to protect yourself or your children. Let’s use our brains, ladies!
If you are in the vicious cycle of domestic violence, there is help available. My name is Sarah Heer on Facebook and @Sarah.K.Heer on Instagram and I am available to talk anytime. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
If you live in central Arkansas, the organization that saved my life and helped me get back on my feet is Women’s Own Worth (WOW). This organization was created by another domestic violence survivor named Jajuan Archer. She is an incredible Godly woman and she will bend over backwards to help you. From providing a place to live to furniture to cars, attorney’s and trauma therapy and so much more. Follow Women’s Own Worth on Facebook or go to www.womensownworth.com
Sarah K. Heer is the newlywed wife of Paul, a dog-mom of 3, a speaker, storyteller and a champion for women. You can’t have the testimony without the test….Sarah believes, after a life-changing domestic violence incident, that God wasn’t quite finished with her yet and she was given a story to help others dig their way out of the mud. Miraculously, God restored a shattered soul into a woman of resilience and fire and grit. Since that day, Sarah has learned that resiliency can be taught, fire can be harnessed and grit is found when God’s grace rubs off the rough edges.