I victimized someone to come to prison. There is someone out there who feels about me similarly to how I feel about the man down the hall right now. It is not lost on me that I received a taste of what it feels like to be in the victims shoes. There is a helplessness in knowing a system failed you, that people have failed you and that they continue to fail you. It hurts, it jades every thought you have and every situation gets filtered through those experiences of helplessness.

I often lay awake at night thinking about what it would take to feel safe again. How could I make the victim involved in my case (I only say victim to protect the identity of the person, otherwise, I say their name, they are a person, not a victim) feel safe once more? Is it possible to relieve the anxiety they feel about me, the anxiety I caused, the trauma I caused.

It is ownership and actual change. I would want the attacker in my situation to say something like, “There is no excuse for what I did, I am sorry for what I did to you and I have been working on serious changes, here is how…”. There would be something in his eyes, sincerity and/or remorse that I could identify. Him telling me that he would never do that again to anyone on top of that, that would help. I could get behind that, begin to forgive.

I don’t know if that would help the person in my case, I just know that they at least deserve sincerity and to feel safe. At least.

This guy wasn’t even done unpacking his things before someone went to staff and told them that this person shouldn’t be around me. I wasn’t ready to confront him. As much as I wanted to get this whole thing behind me, fear has a way of crippling you and confronting fears has never been humanities strong suit. I sat and spoke with our prisons on duty Lieutenant, this man sat patiently and listened to my fragmented hysteria, he had no report to read or infraction to consider. Just my fear. The original person in charge of my attacks investigation never investigated, never even filed a report.

The Lt. understood that what I needed was to be able to move past this. Also, I believe in second chances, if this man really dropped out of his gang, really made internal changes, how could I preach the things I preach here and not give him a chance to apologize, at least? I wanted to give him that opportunity, if he wanted it. So with some careful positioning a meeting was arranged with the two of us.

He apologized, informed me that he was a different person. He was done with his past and moving on. Then he lied about why he did what he did, even went so far as to say that what he did was merciful. You see, he had been accused of throwing his excrement into staff’s food. Last night he tried to shift that on me, saying that everyone thought I did it instead. Which isn’t true on any front. Everyone knew he did that, everyone.

I didn’t get the heartfelt apology I wanted. I did get the heartfelt hand of help from people like the Lt. and my peers that I needed though. The man still lives 20 feet away and I don’t feel safe around him, if it were me and him alone anywhere I would run. But I did get to see how given the opportunity to make amends to someone I hurt, that I would make it about them, I would let them know that I was holding myself accountable. I wouldn’t downplay what happened or make excuses as to why. Just pure ownership. They deserve that.

At the end of the day this is prison. There are dangerous people here that sometimes find their humanity and make changes in their lives. We want to make amends for what we’ve done, some of us. I shouldn’t feel as if there is no danger, that’s foolish folly on my part. But you should know that some of us are changed people who have made serious decisions to dig inside and become different people, period.

So while there is one who doesn’t take responsibility twenty feet away, there are 50 just as close who have and who care and who refuse to allow anyone around them be violent or bully anyone or allow anyone to feel fear at the hands of someone else. We hold one another to standards that don’t allow room for victimization of others in any way, true change.

Maybe we can influence this guy to do the same?

So, how do you face your attacker, the person you fear? With your head held high, with whatever emotion you feel and feel it unapologetically and openly. Sitting face to face with someone, even if they don’t say the right things, even if they don’t apologize can take away the monstrosity image they wanted to leave you with and replace it with one of a pathetic man-child. They might just be sincere and it might just be the healing you and them need, the catalyst of change. The Lt last night gave me some advice that I already knew and practice, but it was worth hearing and repeating over and over again: be the bigger person, keep doing good.

The world needs more good and our fear, our bitterness and unforgiveness only holds us back and perpetuates communities of separation and anxiety. Make it stop with you, because it stops with me.

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With Love
Jeff aka Ruth Utnage

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Jeff aka Ruth Utnage 823469 D-610-2
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Name: Utnage, Jeff (though I am legally Ruth)