In the middle of the night, my ex-husband broke into my house while I was asleep. He kidnapped me and proceeded to torture me for 55 hours straight. He attacked me, raped me multiple times, slit my wrist, suffocated me and strangled me. Although I was not expected to be found alive, a nationwide manhunt was conducted in an effort to find me. Thankfully, a Walgreens employee noticed I was tied up and managed to get the license plate of the car, which ultimately led law enforcement to find me and my tormentor.
I had just endured a terrible trauma, was still in the midst of custody proceedings for my children and, now, I was being thrown into a criminal justice system that didn’t always put victims on equal footing with the accused in terms of rights. Even though it was upsetting, I knew I wanted to be a part of this process every step of the way and in every way I could.
The passage of Marsy’s Law for Florida four years ago this month, enabled me to do just that. A supermajority of Florida voters passed Marsy’s Law because they believed it was important to have a clear set of enforceable crime victims’ rights placed in our state constitution. I am grateful for my fellow Floridians’ support of this measure and the impacts it has had on my case.
I went to every judicial hearing related to my case. I have probably been to the courthouse more than a thousand times. Prior to Marsy’s Law, I was asked to leave the courtroom and I complied. After this law was passed, I said never again. I was able to invoke my rights under Marsy’s Law for Florida to be present at proceedings and even address the court several times. The understanding prosecutor who handled my case ensured my Marsy’s Law rights were enforced, and I was able to remain in the courtroom.
After my ex-husband started to use stall tactics to delay the trial, including firing multiple attorneys and attempting to discredit a confession he had given, I once again invoked Marsy’s Law for Florida, which provides victims with the right to have proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
Thanks to Marsy’s Law, I was able to be present for the entire trial. I not only had the right to be present, I also had the right to be heard. At the sentencing, I was able to give a victim impact statement along with three of my five children who provided their own statements. I was there to watch him get sentenced to three life sentences plus 224 years.
Marsy’s Law for Florida did so much for me. By being present along the way, it helped me get past my fear of my ex-husband. It helped me start my journey of healing. I want other victims to know these rights exist and encourage them to invoke them.
Alisa Mathewson is a survivor of violent crime. She lives in Tampa.