|The Linsday Family|
In late September of 2005 a war of words broke out in the pages of the Eugene Register-Guard. The debate was over the performance of the 2005 Oregon Legislature in regard to DUII and other criminal justice issues. During one of the battles, State Representatives Mitch Greenlick and Chip Shields wrote an op-ed which included this:
"While the Pratts are considered nice people at the Legislature, Crime Victims United and its president are well known throughout the Capitol for their bullying tactics. Cross them and pay the price."
This passage caught the attention of Shelley Linsday of Ashland, Oregon. She came to know Crime Victims United President Steve Doell when he helped her through her battles with the person who sexually molested her children. The salvo from Representatives Greenlick and Shields caught her attention. Shelley Lindsay sent her views to the editors of the Register-Guard. The Register-Guard did not print them, but we present them here.
I am a mother of thirteen children in Ashland where my husband and I own a general construction and development company. I have worked as a child advocate for the past 22 years. I would like to tell you what Steve Doell of Crime Victims United has done for my family.
In 1998, our eight youngest children, all diagnosed with developmental and physical disabilities related to prenatal substance exposure, were brutally raped and sodomized by a teen-aged neighbor. The victims were 7-12 years old at the time of the crime. After a year long, excruciatingly painful investigation and eight day trial in 1999, Ryan D. Smith was found guilty of nine 1st Degree Sex Abuse counts and three other sex charges. Had Mr. Smith been a few months older at the time of his crimes, Measure 11 would have allowed a judge to sentence him to as much as 71 years, instead of 10 years in the Oregon Youth Authority facility. However, our traumatized family breathed a sigh of relief. We truly believed that justice had been served. We thought we had several years of safety and healing ahead of us.
Mr. Smith and his attorneys, however, have been busy. His case came before the Oregon Appellate Court where it was unanimously affirmed (the convictions upheld, in other words) in 2002. The case was rejected by the Oregon Supreme Court in 2004. By this time, Mr. Smith was turning 21 and our children were terrified at the thought of him returning to Ashland. We were relieved to learn that because of Steve Doell's diligent work with Crime Victims United, violent juvenile offenders can now be held until the age of 25. We could look forward to four more years of safety. This was the first inkling we had of the impact this organization and this man would have on our lives.
Late last year, Mr. Smith chose to move forward with an action called Post Conviction Relief. I've since learned that Oregon is one of few states where this action is quite liberally applied but is rarely successful. The process does succeed, however, in re-victimizing and re-traumatizing the victims of violent crime. Mr. Smith, you see, has subpoenaed 12 of our family members to be deposed (as witnesses for his defense!!) and to re-examine these abuses. The depositions are ordered to take place in his attorneys' offices without a judge present and with no support for our children. Can any of your readers imagine just what a nightmarish experience this would be for a disabled rape victim eight years after the crime? I can personally attest to the ever present pain and agony our family is being subjected to as we attempt to protect our children. Just this week, we have had the heart-wrenching experience of responding to yet another suicide attempt by one of our very fragile children as he anticipates dredging up his horrible memories of this crime.
From the very day we were subpoenaed, Steve Doell, has stood by our family. He has tirelessly researched our case and advocated for us. He has helped us work with the media coverage and tenderly listened when we cracked under the pressure. Your recent guest writers, Representatives Greenlick and Shields, called Steve a "bully" and I must take personal offense. I certainly realize that Steve can be bold and intense. He can be driven and outspoken. But I've also seen tears form in the man's eyes as he reads yet another victim's impact statement. Let's please remember that fighting crime and cleaning up its mess is gritty, nasty, emotionally draining work. Only a person who has experienced the horror of crime can speak forcefully enough for those of us who are victims and are buckling under the weight of navigating our confusing and often brutal justice system .
I'm proud to be a life-long Democrat with liberal views on foreign affairs and social welfare. However, being the mother of eight rape victims, I find myself coming down hard on crime and often agreeing with my Republican friends on issues of crime and sentencing. No longer naive enough to truly believe in full rehabilitation, I now know that many criminals will almost surely resume their offending when released back into the society they harmed. God help those who unknowingly cross their path.
It has been my observation that drug and alcohol addiction and the often associated crime of drunk driving share some unfortunate characteristics with sexual offending. Without continuous and aggressive support, intervention, and treatment, the addict or offender will quickly fall back into old, highly dangerous practices of impaired driving or sexual violence. This vitally necessary treatment is rarely sought without pressure from the court and is often ineffective.
Steve Doell and Crime Victims United are working tirelessly to assure that even as we work towards reformation with each offender, we also assure that Oregonians, especially our most vulnerable and precious children, can benefit from the safety we purchase with every single day a criminal stays behind bars. Steve Doell is not a "bully". He is an advocate. Remember his name. If you or someone dear to you is wounded by a criminal, you will need his help.