All my novels have happy endings, but happy endings aren’t always possible in real life, especially where the legal system is involved.
Last fall, I was finishing my daily walk. As I neared home, a car pulled up beside me and the young driver began to ask for directions. Trusting my instincts, I kept my distance, moving only close enough for him to hear me. I began to direct him, but when I took my eyes off his face and looked down, I saw that his jeans were pulled down, exposing his genitals and he was masturbating. Stunned, I yelled, “Shove off!” and headed in the opposite direction.
I was too shocked to memorize his license plate number, but later I realized I could identify him, and I remembered enough about his car to know it was an older-make, faded, red sedan. I called the police, thinking that very little could be done to locate the perpetrator.
I didn’t sleep well that night. I kept seeing the man and thinking about the incident. I felt violated. Then I felt ridiculous for reacting that way. After all, he hadn’t touched me or threatened me, but I kept thinking about the children on our quiet streets. What if he had exposed himself to one of them?
Since that experience, I’ve researched Exhibitionist Disorder and learned that my reaction was normal and that the desire to shock their victims is exactly what motivates exhibitionists.
As disturbing as the episode was, it resulted in a positive outcome, a happy ending, if you will. The police officers were respectful and attentive to my complaint, following up numerous times and keeping me posted as the case progressed. As it turned out, there were other reports about this individual, and he was apprehended three days later. After that, he spent six months in jail awaiting trial. I began to put the occurrence behind me.
A few days ago, I received a call from a witness/victim’s advocate asking if I wanted to attend the trial. When I said, “no” she assured me that my witness statement by phone was sufficient. She asked how I was coping and what I would like to see happen to the young man. He had a juvenile record of non-violent misdemeanors and several more recent DUI’s. I said I hoped he could be rehabilitated since he appeared to be in his twenties. I hoped he could be helped and could have a productive life.
Next, I heard from the prosecuting attorney who explained in detail how the trial would proceed. She said the young man intended to plead guilty and that there were mental health concerns. During his incarceration, a psychologist had evaluated him and recommended treatment for substance abuse, anxiety, and depression.
After the trial, the victim’s advocate called again and informed me that the judge sentenced the accused to time served, license revocation, and mandatory treatment for alcohol addiction. She said he stated that he was sorry for his actions and wished to apologize to his victims. According to her, this remorseful attitude in perpetrators is extremely rare. He must attend AA meetings and regular counseling sessions and will be monitored closely. Both his mother and his fiancée agreed to drive him.
In my opinion, this is how the legal system should work. Like the characters in my novels, this young man’s story can have a happy ending, if he chooses to make the most of his second chance. As for me, after this experience, my faith in the local police force and legal system is rock-solid.
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Diary in the Attic, Unrevealed and The Dark Room. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com