The following is the statement a 29-year-old Minneapolis woman read at the sentencing for Mohamed Elmi, who was sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping, first-degree criminal sexual conduct and armed robbery. She consented to publishing the statement and asked that it be shown in its entirety. Portions of the statement are graphic.
I don’t know where to start. I am so tired of talking, thinking, existing in this mess of what has become my life. I never wanted any of this.
(My neighbor) and I were talking that night and before he approached, (my neighbor) asked me if I believed in destiny. I don’t know if I do, because the things that I believed or held to be true have been so shaken from my identity as a result from all that unfolded that night. Why would another human being do this? Why would someone take so much and leave another being in such a confusing and terrible place? I have been told by numerous people, both professional and not, that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, that had it not been me, it would have been someone else. (This thought in itself makes me cringe, that it could have been someone else. I would not wish what happened to me on another living creature, not even on him.) Although, these things do happen. Robberies, rape, assault, these are unfortunately common things in our society. I do not have a unique identity in this case. I have become a number, a statistic. I am another, who has been labeled as a “victim,” to be specific “Victim B,” and just a pawn in this case.
I had had such a lovely night, especially for a Monday. It was one of those nights where I realized how much I love living in Minnesota. When he first approached us in the alley, I think I laughed if not outwardly, inwardly. I was thinking, ‘This is a joke, right?’ Who actually gets robbed? I was doing the same thing I always did: I had gone out to that alley a thousand times. I couldn’t and still can’t believe that he was there with a gun in our faces. That he was threatening our lives. All I could think was: “Is this really happening? Am I really going to die in this alley? Why in the world do I have my purse with me? This cannot be happening.” I panicked once I noticed that he was intoxicated (because guns and any drug do not mix to make wise choices) and what if he demanded to go inside our homes, to put other neighbors at risk? I have never been so scared in my entire life. I really felt that “this is how I am going to die.”
But unfortunately, that was not the end of my fear. It only increased through the events of the night. When I realized that I was not coming back in the promised five minutes, when sexual acts were demanded, when I was taken further and further away from an area I knew. My only option was to cooperate. I know I did the only thing I could. In spite of people afterwards telling me I need to take self-defense classes, get mace, get a gun; I have always believed I could take care of myself and in spite of other peoples opinions, I know I did the right thing. And as a side note, guns terrify me, I choose not to be around them and prefer them not to be shoved in my face.
I also prefer not to have strange men’s penises shoved in my face or vagina either.
They both kept saying how much they wanted to “bust a nut.” I wanted it to stop — I wanted not to feel the pieces of myself disappear with each thrust. To feel this ultimate feeling of helplessness. I kept thinking in that moment, what can I do to escape this? What did I do to deserve this? If I fight back now, is that it for me? The minutes were hours. And as I watched them drive off, I felt every ounce of self-respect leave me with them in that car.
The psychological torment of him saying that he did not want to do anything that I didn’t want to has stayed with me; haunted me. Why would anyone want this? I did not want any of this: I did not want to have a gun pointed in my face, I did not want my life threatened, I did not want to get in that car, I did not want to give him my possessions, I did not want to follow his demands to “suck their dicks” nor feel either of them in me. I did not want to feel so completely and utterly helpless. Yet, I did. I did because I wanted to survive and now I live in a life completely turned upside down. I had to move. I can’t even recognize myself in the mirror. I don’t know who I am anymore. I have been labeled a victim. I have been told that with time things will get better. I have been told just to keep going. I don’t want to keep going. I don’t want to live with the horror that has been instilled in my being. I don’t want to feel fear every day. I have been dragged through the mud because I was given no other choice. Since that night, I have not had any options. My options that night: be willing or die. Call the police or let him and his “friend” potentially do the same to some other poor woman. Have a sexual assault exam or potentially let important evidence go (as well as risk my body being raided with STI’s or pregnancy.) Let Hennepin County decide his fate while I wait for the day I come in to be completely revictimized and at what expense? For him to not be on the streets?
As I sat in the hospital room, I started to feel like a case example from the numerous feminist articles I read about rape during college. I joked with the SARs nurse, as dark humor was the only thing that kept my sanity intact that night, that wow, I am a victim and those articles were not kidding about the SARs exam and how traumatic it is. I knew from those articles what I was in store for, but there was no way to emotionally prepare myself for it. After having my most intimate parts of my body exposed to strangers, another stranger was reexamining every inch for bruises, abrasions, lacerations, taking swabs, taking photos of every indication of trauma on my body. The nurse reminded me to take deep breaths as she examined my vagina, my legs shaking and refusing to open for another stranger. I briefly fell asleep on the table, and I woke to be given a handful of pills and apple juice, given gray sweats to wear. I had to leave a message on my boss’ phone saying I was not going to be into work until late, that I was robbed and was in the hospital. I did not return to work for a while and still pretended that I could return to work, that everything was fine. I kept telling my friends and co-workers, I am fine. I am vertical and breathing. I am okay — Reassurance to them and mostly to myself. I had to wait for a police escort back home and as I sat outside the hospital all I could think is “everyone knows what happened, the standard gray sweats are a give-away.” I panicked as every car passed by, thinking that he had returned to make good on his promise to kill me if I called the police. I cried as the officer took me home. It was 8 in the morning; I had been awake for over 24 hours and was completely drained. He was probably sleeping while my world had only just begun to unravel.
He has had the luxury of sitting in a jail cell with his basic needs met. I have had to get up every day and go to work, pay my bills, exist in a world I don’t know anymore. Yes I have my freedom and my life but at what expense? For him and his “friend,” as he said, to get their “dicks sucked?” For him, again in his words, to try to “bust a nut.” For him to proudly high five over me, and say “gang brothers.” He wouldn’t even give me the common decency of giving me their names, I asked and he laughed. I am a naive person to have believed that in this world that we would only be gone those promised five minutes. That he would only want cash. That he would be grateful. That he would show remorse. I have never been more scared in my entire life. I have not felt safe since that night. For weeks after, once it started getting dark, I would start crying. And now if I am in an unfamiliar place at night, I completely panic. I can’t even begin to tell you how much my life has changed. All I have ever wanted for my life was to be happy. Now all I have felt is this need to leave. What friends I have left, tell me they are surprised I am still here. That I have not moved home to the safety of my family because, “no one would blame you, if you did leave.” I have lost almost all of my social life. My ability to go see my friends is determined on many factors such as location, time of day, and perceived safety of the area. I cannot trust strangers. Every person I see, that I don’t know is a potential robber, a potential rapist ... I don’t want to be a victim again; being revictimized throughout this process was enough to last a lifetime. Having to relive every moment of this incident, first to the responding officer, then to the SARs nurse, then an official report, then all the prepping for a trial I thought would never happen, listening to my 911 call hearing my voice, feeling the heartbreak all over again, actually remembering the feel of the concrete parking lot underneath my shaking body. Feeling the tears on my cheeks ... reliving every moment of that night through every fiber, cell, and atom of my being.
I wanted to live in Minnesota or at least make the best of it; I wanted to be at my job, I wanted to work with the diverse population at the nursing home. Since my encounter with him, I have not been able to be fully present for the work I do, nor can I find satisfaction in being in a “caregiver” role anymore. This is heartbreaking to me, because I value my work and I used to find satisfaction in giving but I don’t have much to give these days. Minnesota, unfortunately, now represents this incident and him to me. All I see now are triggers and any hope I had of staying has long since faded. I know I am doing the best I can and that I am doing everything I can to get my life back on track; but what happened was not fair. It is not fair that my life has been uprooted and disheveled. It is not fair that my identity has been shaken. It is not fair that the people close to me have had to watch me go through this.
My co-workers constantly ask me “How are you doing” with those undertones of how is this situation affecting you? I did not want this situation as a part of my history. My story. I slept for months with boxes in front of my door because that was the only way I could get something resembling sleep. I still have nightmares and sometimes I think death is the only way to escape it all. How can I go from being completely grateful to be alive after our encounter to thinking that now I need to escape? The first nightmare I had was the next night. I dreamed that him and his friend were chasing us down the street with guns and I hid in the bushes, I woke as I felt the gun on the back of my neck. And perhaps I feel that I am still being chased in a sense. This is not something that will go away with conviction or even sentencing. I will have to tell this “story” to every new physician or therapist that enters my life. This incident will haunt me or at least leave a lasting impression with that promise of time.
The worst part, was telling my family what happened. They did not pry for details; however, I could hear how helpless they felt perhaps more than I did. My mother cried on the phone telling me, “you are my baby, I am supposed to be able to protect you.” When I saw my dad, he hugged and apologized profusely. My sisters took time away from their own busy lives to help me get through the initial shock and help me find a new living situation and help with the initial medical visits. Not only has my life been affected but my family’s has as well on a financial and more importantly emotional level.
I lost part of my soul that night. As I reread through journal entries, I see how much pain I am in. Asking the universe what karmic sin I have done to deserve this all, tormenting myself with the fear that he would not be found guilty. Feeling the need to breakdown and not be strong. Feeling that it does not matter how many negative STI tests I have because I feel tainted. I know this situation does not reflect on who I am as a person but it does affect every aspect of my life, I have this incident as a red letter on my chest and as a sordid part of my story. The overall event lasted what two hours? And yet, here I am almost a year later mending the pieces.
I am so incredibly thankful that he won’t be able to do this to anyone else.
Today I stand here almost one year later; I am a shell of who I was. I may look exactly the same but I am not the same person. As I said before, I am grateful to have my life but the spirit of that person he met that night is no longer alive.
Thank you to the court for listening to my statement today. I appreciate you taking the time to recognize the reverberating effect of one’s man’s actions on not just an individual but on a whole system of people expanding from myself, my family, and to this courtroom.