When he gets out - the timeline.

I've put off writing about this situation. Maybe it is because I am completely and utterly frustrated by the fact it is something I've had to tackle head on.

Before I explain first there's a need to point out something; the next time you wonder why a woman, or for that matter anyone, doesn't leave an abusive situation remember what you are about to read.

It pains me to admit this as my friends see me as a strong woman - vocal, independent, and confident. For the most part I am - however, despite that, I have had days where I have wondered if it would have been easier to just shut up and deal with the nightmare known as domestic violence.

It has been one hell of a tough road, a road I've worked hard at navigating the turns and jumping over the ruts. An 8 year long journey of going from middle class to poverty overnight and then fighting for every penny to climb out under being food stamps to just barely making it paying my own way.  Doing so during a time when society has felt a need to place the burden of being poor and needing assistance as a scorn on single parent homes - lumping every single one of them under the label of "lazy."

I've worked hard at providing the best possible situation for my children, as much stability as one parent can after walking away from Hell battered and worn. Quite frankly I am pretty damn proud at the outcome.  I've kept them safe, happy, and healthy despite the odds working against us.

Eight long years that have come and gone too quickly. So quickly that it didn't
allow enough time to prepare for what is about to come. The day my abuser is released on extended supervision after serving 8 years of initial confinement for crimes against me when he physically, emotionally and sexually assaulted me in front of our two children.

I don't care how much counseling someone goes through, how many friends there are to confide in, and how "safe" you try to make yourself and home be - the emotional roller coaster ride for that inevitable release date cannot be prepared for enough to calm the fears brewing inside. I am not one to sugarcoat things and add flowery speech just to sound good. It sucks. Then to top things off resources for survivors this far out from the "abuse" are basically null and void.  That concentration of assistance (if it exists where you live) is towards the beginning of leaving the abuse - at the start of navigating the path to freedom and the justice system.  If your abuser was convicted, when it comes time for them to get out, most (if not all) the concentration of resources and assistance is geared toward them as part of an offender reentry process. At least this is what I am finding out.

I started learning this about 18 or so months ago when I contacted the probation agent then assigned to my ex husband. I wanted to know what happens and where he would go when it comes time for him to be released on extended supervision.

This is what I was told - (for the record this is in Wisconsin)
About a year or so before he would more than likely start the transition and be placed at a minimum security facility where he could do a work program, and receive services - work towards things like employment and a driver's license.

Then around 6 or so months prior to release on extended supervision they start looking at a plan, and where they will be living.  For instance, if approved he could have a plan in place to live with family and friends...including in another state. However - if there was no family or friends to live with (where it would be approved) he would be placed back into the county of his conviction or last known residence. In my abuser's case....that would be the same county I live in.  It would be around 4 months out that they will have that plan in place.

Now, this is where it gets very interesting - probation would place him in a Temporary Living Placement (TLP). In my rural county there is one TLP residence...6 blocks from my home.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up.  I prayed a miracle would happen.
I tried not to think about it too much because to do so would immobilize me. Moving for me is not an option as 1) I don't have the funds and 2) That would mean pulling my youngest son out of a unique charter school in his senior year. A school where he has experienced so much success and would be nearly impossible to find another like school. It would also mean walking away from the job I've held for almost 9 years.

Yes, so I tried pushing it out of my mind so I get through the days taking care of children, and earning a living.  Then something hit - the year mark - one year before he gets out. That was last summer.

Being that I do tend to be an activist I decided to make some calls to double check on resources for survivors when their abusers are released -

Department of Corrections - They were very nice, however the only thing they could offer was to call my local Domestic Abuse Advocacy Agency - I called them and the only thing they could offer were numbers to low income housing placement agencies in other counties and maybe a "support group on empowerment" - Seriously?

I searched the internet and the only things I could find were other survivors wondering about the same things I did, but to no avail. I did manage to find one resource from The Office of Victims of Crime - American Probation and Parole

It is a rather long document explaining why it is critical for victims to have a voice in offender reentry and how to involve an entire community in supporting those survivors. 

Being that I am an advocate, and already quite involved in my community, I approached my county's CCR - Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence Coalition.  It is a coalition that I have taken part in over the years.

I explained the situation, my situation - and my dead end search for resources. I also explained my fears surrounding the possibility of my abuser being placed so close to my home when he is released on extended supervision.  Present at that meeting and meetings following it were - Local law enforcement, Human Services, the local DV and SA Advocacy Agency, Probation and Parole and other representatives from local agencies. 

Probation confirmed what I had been told and stated that the information I gave was in fact accurate.

The CCR formed a subcommittee to work on identifying resources for victims/survivors during offender reentry. I sat on that committee with local law enforcement, probation and parole, the DV agency and a rep from the UW Extension. 

We had a few meetings which ended with creating a brochure on the few resources there are for survivors/victims - Here is a link to that brochure - The final version created in January of this year also included signs of PTSD in the back white space portion of the brochure in the link.

So, obviously I was making it an issue that true resources are needed, and even more so was the fact the victims/survivors needed to have a voice during the reentry process.  I did so by continually sharing my story with persons in power as well as the general public. 

At the time the brochure came out my own situation was still in limbo. I did not know if my abuser had a plan to live with friends and family or if he would be placed back in my county to live near my home on extended supervision. It would be months before I would receive any word. 

March came around and a friend of mine was in town for a month plus visit. It was a nice diversion from worrying about that August due date that was looming. That friend was here the day I received a message from probation that I should call them back as soon as possible. As soon as I heard the message I knew the news was not going to be good. "If it was good news they would have said he had a plan to live elsewhere!" I exclaimed. 

By the time the message was left it was the beginning of April - 4 months out from the release date...just like I was told all that time ago how the process works. 
My friend was sitting next to me when I finally reached probation back - and yes, I was right. My abuser didn't have a plan in place, meaning that it was looking like him returning back to the county of his conviction. They explained that he would be on electronic monitoring and possibly GPS so that "if one day you see him in front of your house and he has no reason to be there, we will know and have proof." 

The problem with that is I understand how all that works - and it is after the fact. They will know after such a situation occurs and after it is reported through channels. 

I kept my composure while on the phone, but after I hung up I left the room and went to the other end of my house to cry like a baby in privacy.

I knew I had to gather my thoughts and keep pushing on - so, I started countless more hours of research. Research that revealed in some other states victims of violent crimes have a say during the offender reentry. Such as in California they can request that the offender not be placed within 35 miles of their residence...in Texas that request can be that the offender be placed in another county. 
CA Penal Code 3003 -
(f) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an inmate who is released on parole shall not be returned to a location within 35 miles of the actual residence of a victim of, or a witness to, a violent felony as defined in paragraphs (1) to (7), inclusive, and paragraph (16) of subdivision (c) of Section 667.5 or a felony in which the defendant inflicts great bodily injury on any person other than an accomplice that has been charged and proved as provided for in Section 12022.53, 12022.7, or 12022.9, if the victim or witness has requested additional distance in the placement of the inmate on parole, and if the Board of Parole Hearings or the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation finds that there is a need to protect the life, safety, or well-being of a victim or witness.
I knew if I was going through this others have, and will until something is done in the state I live. Victims need to have a voice and they shouldn't have scream to be heard!

Just a day or so after that call I learned that my state representatives - Rep. Ed Brooks and Sen. Howard Marklein would be having a listening session in my county.  It was time to have them learn about this issue.

I gathered my courage and went in prepared. I told my story including how a year before that final attack all those years ago I continually was told by my abuser how he was going to kill me and burn my house down. I played for them the final two minutes of the assault - an over hour long ordeal I captured on an audio file on my laptop. For some reason my gut instinct told me that day to hit record, that I would need it. That audio filed captured everything....the sounds of being hit, the emotional abuse and him sexually assaulting me with my children present who tried to stop it all.

In those last two minutes he told me how if I wanted my life I would have to go through him. That I would never be free. He could go to jail, do his time, come out and it would be that "same ole' , same ole' all over again.

I explained to Rep. Brooks and Sen. Marklein how victims/survivors legally do not have a voice in Wisconsin during the offender reentry process.

I am not a stranger to Rep. Brooks. He knows I am very vocal on topics especially relating to domestic violence and sexual assault.  He also knows my story.

As I pointed out to them, I am vocal and will fight to have my voice heard but I worry about those who don't know how to nor have the strength to do so. There needs to be a safety net FOR ALL!

It is ridiculous that our system even allows for an offender to live on the state and tax payer's dime so close to their victim of a violent crime without the victim having a say.

They agreed. Rep. Brook's office has been working on some possible legislation or policy changes to address this issue.

Evidently this situation is now being discussed with the Dept. of Corrections as probation tells me there may be some other "options" for my personal situation and they are working on them.....however, it will be a couple of weeks before I know.

Like I told them, when they tell me a "couple of weeks" my mind automatically goes to the countdown - meaning that it will be 60 days out of his release, and if there is a two week delay after that it will be 45 days...etc...etc..

That is where everything stands as of now.

I wrote this timeline out for a few reasons -
1) to document my journey in my own words
2) so that the next time someone researches as I have done they will find my path and the actions I have taken. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
3) to show the general public that it is never as simple as "just leave" - there is a far greater/larger picture than you could ever imagine.

The past 6 months has diverted me from a project I've been working on - When I Became Free - The Heartland Project. 

I am a believer in that saying that Everything Happens for a Reason - so maybe this diversion was needed so I could understand the true meaning of "being free"


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