My name is Rachael Venters. This year I will be 37 years old. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois in a poor farming community. Illinois is where I first experienced domestic violence as a teenager at the hands of a boyfriend, whom I later married and divorced. This is also where I met the perpetrator who moved me to Northern Idaho where he tortured me and almost ended my life. I now live in a violence-free home with my two children and our pets.
Can you describe what it was like for you as a crime victim in the Idaho court system?
The legal system was another way that my perpetrator controlled me. I had to defend myself and my actions, turning over medical records, phone records, bank records, contact information for friends, acquaintances, and coworkers. He stalked me and took pictures that were allowed as evidence at trial. My ex was able to use his criminal trial to declare war on me. By the time that trial was over, I felt like I had lost my place as the victim of his crimes and had somehow become the perpetrator.
What did you find to be the most frustrating aspect?
My voice was not heard in the court system. When I asked why he was still allowed to control and stalk me, I was told it was because he had rights as a defendant. I did not have those rights as a victim, I wasn’t protected. The trial took over two years and it was devasting to relive the trauma over and over. I was not allowed to heal or to move on because his rights as a defendant were more important than my rights as a victim.
How do you believe Marsy’s Law for Idaho will most help crime victims in the state?
I believe it will give other crime victims’ rights to use their voices and have those voices heard. I relived those painful memories over and over as I had to defend every action and was terrified day and night because I never knew when he would show up. Marsy’s Law for Idaho will help protect victims from being revictimized through the court system. It will allow victims the strength to keep pushing through because they know that their rights are also protected.
Do you have any words of encouragement for other crime victims?
Keep your chin up and keep pushing through. I want other victims and survivors of crimes to know that no matter how bleak their situation looks now, there is always hope. One thing that has stuck with me stems from when I was first tinkering with the idea of leaving the perpetrator. The night before he had strangled me until I passed out. I had shown up to work that morning with bruising on my neck, and my manager who was helping me clean up at work looked me straight in the eyes very seriously and said, “Sometimes you have to make a mess to clean up a mess.” I knew exactly what he meant. And every time I was in court (which was a lot) I reminded myself of two things: It only takes one, and sometimes you gotta make a mess to clean it up.
I want to tell my story so that it can help others who are currently going through, or who have survived a domestic violence situation. I want them to know that they are not alone. I also want to help those in positions of power directly related to domestic violence victims see how their decisions and actions affect victims and survivors.