Note: This victim impact statement was written by Kristin T., for the sentencing of Deonte D. Lawson, who was convicted of raping her.
The last 19 months of my life have been an uphill battle – not only for me, but also for my family, friends and others who care about me. For more than a year, I lived my life paralyzed in fear and anxiety. I had panic attacks any time I wanted to leave my apartment, and had flashbacks any time I got into a car. I slept with a knife next to my bed, and had nightmares almost every time I fell asleep. I lost all desire to do anything or see anyone. I took a leave of absence from work, withdrew from my social obligations, and neglected my friends and family, and myself.
I am a very ambitious, outgoing person, so losing that drive and motivation and positive outlook on life flipped my world upside down. I completely lost my sense of self and became a shell of the person I once was. I stopped taking care of myself because my depression made it difficult to even leave my bed, much less try to eat well or exercise. I stopped participating in my volunteer and networking groups and activities – things that once brought me so much joy – because my anxiety and post-traumatic stress made it impossible to be in crowds or public places. I missed out on career opportunities and important responsibilities at work while my concussion healed, and even today I still don’t feel like I’ve ever regained the sharpness and focus I once had.
I’m very lucky to have had an amazing support system through this whole process, but I felt like all my problems were an unwelcome burden on my friends and family. I have lost friends and strained even some of my strongest relationships because I pushed people away and often didn’t have the energy to maintain conversations. Even now, I now have trouble trusting anyone, and I am never comfortable being around new people. I’ve missed out on many important events, trips, birthdays and holidays, because there are just some days that putting on a happy face – even for a few hours – just isn’t possible, even around people I love the most. And one of the hardest parts of this all is knowing how much lasting pain this situation has caused my family, and having to see the heartbreak across my parents faces. I struggle every day with the fact that all of this has brought pain and terror to everyone in my life – not just me.
Today, I am healing and taking every day in stride. Some days are good, and some days are bad – and a lot of days are still really bad. I still have difficulty with a lot of the challenges I mentioned earlier, mostly my heightened anxiety and PTSD symptoms that make it difficult for me to feel and act like myself and live a normal life. But I am proud of myself for how far I have come in the last year and seven months, and I have amazing people standing by my side every step of the way, so I am motivated to keep moving forward.
The physical and emotional scars I have from my attack will never go away, but they will always be there to remind me of how strong I have become. Everything I have gone through will always be a part of me now for the rest of my life, but it doesn’t define who I am and it won’t dictate my future. I am smarter, braver and stronger than Mr. Lawson ever counted on. I am a survivor. And I know I am not his first victim, but I am going to make damn sure I am his last.
Mr. Lawson is nothing more than a monster. I looked him in the eyes during my testimony, and I saw the cold, evil lifelessness I remember seeing in October 2017. The way he acted during trial confirms that he has no empathy or remorse for the things he has done to me or anyone else. His heart is filled with hate and anger, and he thrives on the damage he inflicts on others. I always try to find the good in everyone, but in this case, I came up short.
I debated for days whether or not to be here today to read this in person, but I ultimately decided not to. Mr. Lawson has already taken so much from me, I don’t think he deserves even another second of my time. Going through this legal process and having to relive this nightmare over and over again has been longer and more difficult than I ever could have anticipated, but I would do it a thousand times over again if it means he is finally put behind bars for good. I highly recommend to the judge that Mr. Lawson be given the maximum sentence he is facing and spends the rest of his life in prison.