A Victim Impact Statement (VIS) is an opportunity to provide information about the impact of a crime upon a victim. A VIS is a part of the” right to be heard”. In most states, a Victim Impact Statement becomes part of the permanent record of a case. Prosecuting Attorneys , Victim Witness Coordinators, Private Attorneys, and Victim Advocates from various groups are available to help compose a Victim Impact Statement. When writing a VIS consider including ; the financial, physical, emotional/mental, social, and spiritual losses/changes due to the crime. The victim impact statement should focus on the harm you have suffered.
(this is not an exhaustive list)
Prosecutors, Judges, Juries, Probation, Parole, and Society benefit from as much information a victim is able to provide. Ask the prosecutor if you will be allowed the right to be heard via an impact statement in the event of a plea deal. You may also want to ask the Prosecutor if your right to be heard may be delivered via submission of the VIS in written, verbal, or video format. Feel free to ask the Prosecutor if the VIS is going to be part of the sentencing phase or if you will be subject to cross examination by the defense. Feel free to request state and national laws pertaining to how and when victim impact statements are delivered.There are Supreme Court rulings on victim impact statements. Consider asking at what point the defendant or the defense attorney will see the VIS. Victims may not want to provide a VIS. If a victim wants to provide a VIS, ask the prosecutor about the right to be heard. Also, feel free to ask if you may submit a VIS in the pre sentencing stage.
(We are not attorneys, this is not a substitute for legal advice.)
The National Crime Victims Law Institute does great work educating and providing the legal knowledge for victims. Below you will find a link to their "Quicktools" - a series of short videos about victims’ rights and how to protect those rights. As Boutros Boutros-Ghali stated “An essential element in protecting human rights [is] a widespread knowledge among the population of what their rights are and how they can be defended.” From knowing which rights exist to learning how to exercise them, protecting victims’ rights starts here with NCVLI Quicktools!NCVLI Quicktools
The rights of every victim begin before the trial. However, the trial itself isn't where they stop. In the link below the National Crime Victims Law Institute offers wonderful education as to what victims rights exist after the trial and how to utilize those rights.Post Trial Rights
This is an Example of a Victim Impact Statement
In one night, my life changed forever. I will never be the same person I was before Vasquez Hayes violated and terrorized me. He forced me to look evil right in the face, and I came away scarred and broken. All it took was a few hours with him to sever my life into two distinct halves: before and after.
There isn’t one part of my life that has not been affected. What he did to me has been extremely costly, in every sense of the word. I have suffered financially, physically, and most of all, mentally and emotionally.
He wrecked my car with me in it. I did not damage others’ property. Yet I am the one who had to pay.
I lost the contents of my car. Among other things, he threw away my graduation regalia and the pricey leopard heels I had splurged on as a gift to myself for years of hard work. He had evidence of my future and dreams in his hands, and he callously discarded them as if they were trash.
I never want to see anything that was in my bedroom ever again. I would never be able to stomach the sight of my bed, let alone sleep in it. I don’t want the dresser or the nightstand that he pawed through, or anything else that he touched. Consequently, I had to get rid of it all.
I also lost my home. Because of what he put me through there, I had to move. It cost me over $1000 to do so.
I was unable to return to work for weeks. My salary had to be docked, and the loss of pay was a hardship.
I used my graduation gifts to cover these losses. Money that was lovingly given to reward me for my hard work was instead used to repair the financial damage that Hayes caused.
Hayes left me with bruises and marks as a result of his force. I was sore from having his gun jammed against my head and my body so many times I lost count.
The violence of his rape caused bleeding that continued for days after the attacks. My injuries were a constant reminder of how violated I had been and how dirty he made me. They told the story of how I was still not rid of him. It is a vivid memory of how he was somewhere he was never wanted and should have never been.
I have trouble articulating the emotional and mental impacts of his crimes. They are so profound and far reaching; it is impossible to fully describe the effects of seven crimes in the space of this statement. However, I will try.
Following what he did, I had to submit to an exam by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. My injuries made it excruciatingly painful. Enduring the collection of evidence was another assault on a body that still felt like it was no longer mine, despite the fact that I could feel every invasion to the core of my being. I had no choice but to allow my body to be trespassed, probed, and scrutinized to prove what Hayes had done to me. It was not a choice; it was a necessity.
I was made to wait for hours with full, glaring knowledge of the disgusting filth on my body. I will never forget it. After having to deal with police and detectives, I had to sit in a cold, harshly lit hospital room feeling the stickiness of my blood and his semen down my legs and in between them. It was thoroughly humiliating to have to interact with so many people in that soiled condition. I felt like my filthiness was the elephant in every room. Being forced to remain so dirty for so long was torture. The trauma the hospital inflicted is so scarring that it feels like another rape.
I wanted to claw my way out of my own body. All I wanted to do was indulge my overpowering urge to shower until all the water in Texarkana was gone. I wanted to rid my body, my mind, and my soul of every last trace of his ever having invaded. I felt like ruined, worthless trash. I still do.
No matter how many times I shower, I still feel dirty and stained. I have actually scratched off skin just trying to feel clean again. Nothing works. I am trapped in a body that feels foreign; disgusting; damaged; broken; violated; used. I can’t ever leave the crime scene. I AM the crime scene.
Not one day has passed without tears. There is no rest; there is no escape. I think about what he did to me every single day, no matter how hard I try not to, or how much I want to be free. Constant triggers won’t let me forget.
Graduation day came not three weeks after I was attacked. A day that I had worked tirelessly toward for YEARS was taken away from me. In the aftermath of what I had just gone through, all of the happiness and joy I should have had was stolen. There was nothing but numbness, shock, and grief.
I can’t even look back at the pictures without breaking down. Pain is written across my features. You can see it in my eyes. Every single picture clearly depicts how deeply I was hurting. That is what I have to look back on for my college graduation for the rest of my life.
The holidays were a blur of sadness and more pain. Thanksgiving and Christmas used to be my favorite times of year. Now they are marred by memories and reminders of what he did to me.
I received a fellowship to the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. I attended the month before Hayes’s assaults. At that time, the word future used to represent dreams and promise. Now it stands for fear and uncertainty. I had hoped to seek a Master’s degree there. All of that came to a screeching halt after I was raped. I can’t even think of moving to College Station alone now, where I know no one. I had to give up that dream as a result of his crimes.
The ways in which Hayes committed these acts deepens the wounds. He attacked me in my home. He raped me in my own bed. My safe place, along with my body, was violated. Security, safety and peace were stripped from me. Mere feet from the very church he attended for his entire life, he hurt me in unimaginable ways. Despite the memories and ties he should have had to that place and to me, he was able to commit these horrific crimes without one bit of hesitation.
All night I was terrified. The stress, fear, and anxiety were crippling. I never expected to survive. I wondered if those painful moments were my last.
Each person I love crossed my mind. It hurt too much to think that I might never see any of them again. My thoughts settled on my best friend of 20 years and her children. Her toddler thinks his Aunt Amy hung the very moon. He would not have understood my disappearance. She had just had triplets. I wondered if I would even live to meet them. I thought of all the pain my loved ones would have to bear if I did not escape Vasquez Hayes alive.
I never sleep well. I am tormented by constant nightmares. For the first time in my life, I have had to use prescription sleep medications to get any rest.
Flashbacks make me feel the same panic, disgust, dread, fear, shame, and humiliation all over again. Sometimes I can still physically feel his touch. I feel his hands on my skin, which leaves me nauseated. I feel his arms restraining me and his gun at my temple. I am forced to experience it all repeatedly in an endless loop of agonizing memories, despite my desperate desire to forget.
I used to love people and being social. Now, I am afraid of strangers. Everyone is a potential threat. Crowds, even of people I know, overwhelm me. Often, I find myself isolated and alone because of fear, anxiety, and pain.
I was a very affectionate person. Now, I can hardly tolerate being touched. I find myself reflexively jerking away. For me, touch now symbolizes pain, and control.
Debilitating fear has an impact on every part of my life. I never feel safe. Never.
Wooded and rural areas make me think of being murdered and dumped there, as I did when I was kidnapped.
I used to love water, but because of his threat to throw me in the river, it now holds a dark meaning. I cannot see water without thinking of his words. I see images of drowning and death.
Guns bring fear and a sick feeling of dread, no matter who it is that has one; even police. Seeing guns at all is extremely scary and painful.
Being in a car, especially at night, is terrifying. No matter how hard I try, I can’t forget being held captive by him.
Letting my dog out is very hard. I can’t even approach the door without terror setting in. I feel as though there will be another man standing there when I open it, ready and waiting to hurt me, just like Hayes was.
Banks and ATM’s are especially triggering. All of the fear, helplessness, and desperation I felt as he held me at gunpoint come rushing back. I was certain that after he robbed me, he would kill me. He had already done everything else.
Medical facilities and personnel terrify me because of what I endured at the hospital because of him. Just the sight of someone in scrubs is enough to make me want to run and hide. I am afraid that my health will suffer because of the unbearable fear and anxiety that now comes with medical settings. I have avoided care since his attack because of it.
These are only some examples of the scars that I am left with. I find new triggers and obstacles to overcome every day.
Vasquez Hayes, everyone who loves me, from my family to my coworkers, has been deeply affected by what you did to me. You have made people you don’t even know cry.
You have affected your own family. Your son will grow up with the painful knowledge that, to you, he wasn’t worth it. You would rather have raped me than raise him, and one day, he will realize it. Your selfishness in seeking your own sick gratification: that is the legacy you have left to your child.
I will never, as long as I live, understand why. What most people only see in horror movies, you brought to life for me in vivid detail. It hurts more than I could ever express that the masked gunman who became my living nightmare was someone I know...someone who should have had enough respect and decency not to injure me in unthinkable ways.
Your pleasure in the midst of my suffering paints your cruelty. I will never be able to understand how you could viciously hurt me, knowing who it was that you were destroying. You looked past my heart and soul and ignored even my basic humanity. You turned me into an object that you could use for your own satisfaction. You betrayed me in the most personal of ways.
I will never forget the way you made me feel. You had no problem with saying degrading, crude, and humiliating things to me. The way you cursed at me, called me names, and dismissively referred to raping me as “f-ing,” will never be cleansed from my mind. Your threats to kill me still ring in my ears.
You have heard me describe all of the deep pain you have caused me. You have heard me tell the jury how I am still suffering. I also want you to know a few other things.
I am continuing with my life from this day forward, and because of that, I WIN. Rae Smith once said, “The enemy doesn’t stand a chance when the victim decides to survive.” You made me a victim. I am making myself a survivor. You broke me. You took priceless, precious things from me. You took my worth, my self-esteem, my dignity, my confidence, and my peace. You stole things I cannot even put a name to.
Yet, I refuse to live my life as a shadow of who I once was. I will use this life-changing pain to help others and to make a difference in my community. A translation of Genesis 50:20 says, “You meant to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” God will indeed use your evil for good. I still have a hope and a future; you forfeited yours when you planned and chose to attack me.
What you have done to me will not define my life. Though I will always live with it, I will not live in it. This will not become my identity. My identity is in Christ, and that, you can’t touch.
You dishonored and mistreated me. My body doesn’t feel like mine anymore because you forced me to share it with you. God did not design sex to be used this way, and you know it. You took something that is supposed to be a representation of love between consenting adults and you perverted it. You made it into a weapon.
Rape is not the same thing as sex. I will continue to say that I have had one partner. I have had one partner and there has been one rapist. You do not get to be on the same level as my ex-husband, whom I chose to be with. You are, and always will be, only a rapist.
You have burdened me with so much as a result of your actions. The profound shame, humiliation, guilt, and blame belong to you, and here they will stay.
You abused me, and you enjoyed it. You controlled me, and it gave you power, except that because of your cowardice, you had to hide behind a mask and a gun to do it. I couldn’t fight you physically, but I could mentally, and I did. I did all that I could to survive and gather evidence that would put you away where you could not harm anyone ever again.
There is a vast difference between justice and vengeance. Vengeance is God’s business. Justice is what I seek. I only want to see you brought to justice for the brutal, heartless things you did to me. There is not much worse you can graduate to from here except murder. I need to make it so you cannot hurt me, or any other woman, ever again. I don’t know if I am your first victim, but I will be your last.
I have paid an astronomical price to ensure this justice. You put me through an additional year and a half of pure hell. The start of healing has been delayed that much longer all because you selfishly refused to admit your guilt and take responsibility for your actions. From reporting to the hospital to the trial process, I have been retraumatized at every turn. I have been dragged through what no one should ever have to endure because of the things that YOU did. You’ve continued to victimize me, long after that November night.
Your crimes against me have put me into a prison cell that is no less real than yours. You gave me a life sentence by inflicting untold heartache, suffering, and scars that will be with me for the rest of my days.
I hope and pray that your sentence and my knowledge that you cannot ever hurt me again will give me the strength to become the survivor I hope to be.