Victim gives impact statement in Abril case

Published 5:09 pm Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The issues that the court is addressing today began when I was 10 years old. I had the mind of a ten year old, I had the body of a ten year old, but because of this defendant I was given a knowledge of life that no little girl should be exposed to.

My life before the defendant crossed that line was simple, it revolved around my pets, my stuffed animals and days spent riding skateboards with my best friend, my cousin Monica. The life I had before was one of a fairly carefree child.

While my childhood may not have been perfect, it was by most accounts normal. The harshest thing that I recall having to face was a bully at school that was around my age. I had dreams of what I might want to be when I grew up. I believed that I would make something of my life, that I would have a family, a career and be happy.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

All that changed in the summer of 1988 when the defendant introduced me to a way of life that I did not know existed. I did not fully understand, at only 10 years of age, the importance of what he was taking from me during that first encounter that day in the cabin. He made me feel important, and I believed that I was special.

I felt that I had some control over what was happening. What I did not know was that in the years to come I would see my virginity as a gift to be shared with someone that I loved and that loved me. I did not understand that by allowing him to draw me into agreeing to do things that no 10 year old should be engaging in, I would result in not having as much control over my life. For the next 21 years and beyond, I would have very little control over my life. As a result, I made a series of bad choices that have not only hurt me but those closest to me.

His actions had an impact not only on myself but my family as well. My parents were at a loss as to how to deal with me, let alone help me. Even to this day, my husband doesn&squo;t know how to help his wife open up, and my children all but lost their mother to severe bouts of major depression. My children do not know who their mother is without this dark cloud over me. I cannot just step over the damage inside me to be the mother and wife that my family deserves.

I had always felt comfortable with Chris ‐ I didn&squo;t feel that he saw me as some pesky kid. He made me feel like a buddy; he made me feel special and grown up. He would laugh with us, and even involve himself in our games and jokes. I was never afraid of him. I remember feeling that we shared secrets that no one else should ever find out about, especially his wife.

In looking back I now realize that I have felt guilty for the majority of the past 21 years, even now knowing this was not a choice that a child could make. I felt guilty because I knew this would hurt his wife. Even at that young age I felt like he was cheating on her with me. Over the years, anytime that I wish someone had listened, I would think of how his family would suffer and I did not want to bring them pain.

Years later it became painfully clear that I had to accept responsibility for hurting myself. I think back and see where I should have run from him, from the cabin. I should not have been paying attention to him or giving in to his advances. I should have told someone immediately and not waited. Instead I stayed, I wanted to be there. I could not see what my choice then really meant and what the adverse consequences would be from accepting his attentions.

Shortly after that first time, in the summer of 1988, Monica and I started to drift apart. I had always thought that she was upset with me because I had exposed that he was having an inappropriate sexual relationship with her as well. I lost my closest friend when I lost her.

On October 4, 1989, the world crashed down around me. That was the day that a phone conversation with Chris set up a meeting between us for later that afternoon.

My sister Lisa lived next door to me. My parents had gone to the store thinking that I would be fine home alone with my sister home next door to watch out for me. Chris came to pick me up in his truck and we ended up in the woods not far from his home.

Going by Lisa&squo;s house, I was hiding on the floorboard of his truck but Lisa had seen me get in the truck. As soon as she was able to get transportation she went to the Polk County sheriff&39;s office to report what had happened.

While in the woods that afternoon with Chris, we again engaged in sexual activity. Afterwards he got into his truck and drove away. I walked up the hill to my aunt&squo;s house where I was later picked up and taken to the sheriff&39;s office.

I remember being angry and scared. I didn&squo;t want to be there. There was so much tension in the air, so much yelling from behind a closed door. My parents were there and they were very angry. I was so confused as to what to feel. I didn&squo;t want Chris to be mad at me. I had hurt my parents and they were mad at me. I didn&squo;t want his wife or her family to be mad at me. I knew what I had done was wrong and I was now in big trouble and felt trapped.

That night was the first time that I had ever run away. I didn&squo;t know what else to do, I could not handle all the tension and stress. I was caught within a few hours but I would run away many times after that.

Nothing seemed to happen after that day, I tried numerous times to be heard. I tried to slip a note to someone at the sheriff&39;s office asking that it be given to someone who could help me.

I felt as though I didn&squo;t matter and no one really cared. I was overlooked and stepped over and life went on. I was brushed off and made to appear as just a &dquo;kid with problems.&uot; I could only push things down inside myself for so long. I soon became cynical and very angry. I lost trust in everyone. I did not trust the law enforcement officers, nor did I trust the court system.

I rebelled against everything and everyone. I didn&squo;t want to feel that anyone had control over me or anything I did. I felt that no one really cared what happened to me, so why should they have the power to direct my life?

During these periods of running away I engaged in conduct that was very harmful and destructive to me personally. Sex was an act of attention for me. It wasn&squo;t an act of tenderness and intimacy between two people who care about each other. It became a physical act by which I measured my self-worth. In my mind from that moment on, if a grown man didn&squo;t show any interest in me physically, then there was something wrong with me. I wasn&squo;t good enough. I didn&squo;t see that the ones that did show interest were the ones that were wrong.

After numerous times of running away from both home and school, it finally came down to a last time when I was taken into custody. I was sent to the juvenile detention center in Buncombe County wearing handcuffs and leg shackles. At age 12 years old I spent an entire week there and afterward I tried to get a grip on things in an effort to straighten out my life.

At the age of 16 I tried one more time to be heard. On February 25,1994 I had a letter to the editor published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, in which I expressed my despair over not being taken seriously.

The effects of what the defendant did goes beyond sex. I remember I heard the word &dquo;potential&dquo; a lot in school. There were a few very special teachers who cared enough about me to try to encourage me and push me to do better. I was told that I had such potential if only I would make use of it. I was never able to get past the anger and confusion and self doubt enough to repair my school life or my personal life.

My personality had matured beyond my age and I just didn&squo;t fit in at school. So at age16 I quit school and married. I am not shifting all blame for the way my life has turned out, because at some point the decisions were mine to make.

However, the course was set when Chris Abril crossed the line and induced me to do things no child should be exposed to. I do with all my heart believe that my life could have and would have been so much different had the defendant not been a part of it and had I not given in to his advances.

It is more important to me now that this person who harmed me when I was a child is finally taking responsibility for his actions and admitting his guilt. Maybe for the first time since I took the note to the sheriff&squo;s department seeking assistance and no one paid attention, and even when I wrote the letter to the Tryon Daily Bulletin so many years ago, naming the defendant and telling what happened and having no one pay attention. Now that we are in court and this matter is being adjudicated perhaps people will know that I was telling the truth the entire time, and that for the first time I can see that there will be a measure of justice from the court system and there will be closure to this chapter of my life.

Though I do not feel there is any remorse from Mr. Abril for his actions I feel the need to offer my forgiveness so that I may be that much closer to moving on from my past.

Hopefully, I can move forward from this day in a more positive manner and become a productive and complete person. I want to feel hope for the future once again, I want to have ambitions and I want to finally begin to heal.

Thank you, Judge Guice, for allowing me to share these thoughts with you.

‐ Wendy Forrester Garner

November 17, 2008&bsp;Statement by victim made after sentencing hearingEditor&squo;s note: The following letter was written by Wendy Garner, one of the victims in the trial involving former Polk County Sheriff Chris Abril. Garner wrote this letter following the sentencing of Abril on Monday.

I want people to stop and think before they open their mouths. Even now, I continue to hear that (the case against Abril) was all political. If that is what you have to tell yourself to help you sleep at night then so be it, but I want these poeple to think about the damage done to everyone involved instead of only about Chris and his family.

Three generations of my family have been affected by this and I pray to God that it stops with only those three.

My parents suffered, sitting up nights, searching the streets wondering if their 12-year-old little girl was safe and warm when I started to rebel and run away.

I think the damage done to me pretty much speaks for itself, and my children have suffered because I haven&squo;t been able to function at the level they needed me to in order to be a good mother to them.

I want to have hope for a better future. I want to make progress in my own recovery. I also want this community to recover as well.

Because of his position in law enforcement, when these charges were filed, something that was very private and personal was fair game for anyone on the street to pick apart. If he had not been a public figure, it would have remained a private matter between the courts and the ones involved.

I never wanted the general public to take sides and argue amongst themselves. The judge has ruled on this issue and with that there is hope for a better future.

Once my children are all able to return home, I want this community to be one that I feel confident to raise them in. Please, let&squo;s all come together for the good of this county and work to make it respectable once again.

‐ Wendy F. Garner