author: "One More Day: A powerful true story of suicide, loss, and a woman's newfound faith"

why 28 years matters

It was also a Thursday. It was also sunny. I was also running.

On this day 28 years ago -- TWENTY EIGHT -- I was kidnapped and raped while out running in a neighborhood park at 9 a.m. There's a lot I've put behind me; there's a lot of fear resolved. There's fear that remains every day I step outside. I don't live in that fear, but it's always there. What if.

Today, the rapist is in a behavioral-type hospital after violating parole last year. Three days ago, I learned a judge denied his release and that he won't be eligible for release again for another full year.

This comes after serving 19 years of an 18-year prison sentence. That's not a typo. He served an extra year because he wasn't deemed eligible for release. He was sent to a behavioral hospital for further treatment for several years, released, violated his parole, and returned to the unit.

Victory is first credited to my God. The Lord God is my strength and my song; He has given me victory -- Isaiah 12:2 Then, the justice system in Virginia, where the assault took place. Today comes after years of fighting to keep him in prison. It comes after years of writing letters to the parole board year after year pleading first for him to not be released because of my deep-rooted fear, and then if he was released, to make sure he was ready.

He never was ready.

He. Was. Never. Ready.

Imagine that. Imagine your life, emotions and well-being put in the hands of a criminal justice system that actually cares about what they're doing. A system that believes in doing the right thing year after year. Decade after decade.

Imagine it being 28 years later and never in your wildest dreams think he still wouldn't be on the streets. Imagine that feeling of safety.

Imagine things going right for you, and in favor of any other woman he might come across because of a "desire to have sex" like he did on July 18, 1991.

Like he did when he saw me exercising in the park. Like he did when he handed me a note that read, "If you keep quiet, you MAY live."

I'll never forget that.

I'll never forget the way he made me feel. I'll never forget the fear embedded in me. I'll never forget the way he looked in court. I'll never forget reading his statement to police and saying "she never resisted."

Yeah? Well, I'll never forget him holding me at knifepoint. I'll never forget the woods he led me to. I'll never forget the black garbage bag he set me on and that I thought he'd place my body in. I'll never forget him asking me if I knew any Christians.

I'll never forget him.

I forgave him a long time ago, but I'll never forget.

That's why 28 years matters. It matters because of the fight. It matters because of the hard work I had to put in to get my life back. It matters because I am still a part of a criminal justice system that stands by what's right. What is just. What is true.

I give a standing ovation to the state of Virginia. I applaud their hard work. I applaud them continuing to work with him to make sure -- again -- that he is ready to be released. I don't know what his parole violation was, but it doesn't matter.

What matters is that 28 years later, I ran. And I was free, and not afraid. What matters is that I have my life.