VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT – PRIMARY VICTIM
Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999, Section 30
1. Name of Victim: Kiara
Name of Offender: Name removed for legal reasons
Charges to which this statement relates:
2 x Aggravated driving causing death
1 x Causing grievous bodily harm
Sentencing Court: Newcastle Local Court
Sentencing date: 1st August,2008
2. Details of Personal bodily harm suffered as a direct result of the offences:
I was a passenger in the vehicle when it slammed into the telegraph pole. My body was smashed, literally from head to foot. I had three fractures of my skull and a serious traumatic brain injury. I was in a coma for some time, and cannot really remember the details of being hospitalised for seven months. I do recall being helpless, having no power at all, not knowing what was going on, and a lot of pain. I was completely paralysed down the right side of my body for seven months.
I had a tracheotomy where the doctors put a breathing tube into my neck. There’s a large scar at the base of my throat, and because of the damage inside my throat, I now have difficulty swallowing, drinking, and it causes me a lot of pain because I have to continually cough to clear my throat. My voice is completely changed. I used to love to sing and really enjoyed Karaoke nights with my friends. Now my voice sounds coarse, dry, husky and crackly, and sometimes it fails me when I speak – it cuts in and out. As for singing I cannot hold a note at all and could not imagine singing in public anymore.
I suffered extensive internal injuries. My jaw, neck, and back were broken. My ribs were fractured. My diaphragm was torn and my pelvis was broken. The liver was damaged.
I suffer back and neck pain, have very sharp pains in my stomach. I get migraine type headaches that are disabling. I cannot carry or lift things, even every day things so I feel weak, frustrated and helpless. My shoulder remains painful. My pelvis ‘clicks’ when I straighten my legs or cross them. My injured bones ache especially when it is cold.
I love children and wanted to train to work with them. That’s hard to imagine ever doing now as I couldn’t run after them. And instead of looking forward to the day I become a mother to my own children, now I am terribly fearful of falling pregnant as now my pelvis does not have room to expand.
My right hand was reconstructed with wires and my left wrist has a metal plate in it. This has completely impacted on my fine motor skills. My hand is very weak, despite physiotherapy. My writing is absolutely altered – it is hard to read as I cannot write either neatly or very much due to restriction and pain. My hands gets shaky quickly – I have no power. My reaction time is slower on my right side. It affects my typing skills and writing. I used to work as an office administrator but I can’t do that anymore. I can’t move fast. I get fatigued easily, I can’t lift and hold simple things. My memory and speech are affected if I had to speak with clients, and even in general conversations.
Physically I am in no way the girl I was – once young, energetic, full of life, physically fit and active and excited at the beginning of a new start in life, with new dreams, and new friends in Newcastle. Now I feel old, broken, clumsy, unattractive, scarred. Once I did gymnastics, loving my flexibility and skill and I liked being admired for my talent. I loved playing all types of sports and I really loved to swim. I was also a runner.
That’s all been taken from me now. My body is scarred, and my injuries mean I have to take things very easily to try to maintain my mobility or I have to ask for help. I have to watch where I walk, how I turn my head, how I lie down, how I use my hands, because they are so vulnerable to a wrong move.
It’s so frustrating not to be able to swim, ride a bike, jump, hop. To skip just because I feel like it. I can’t walk up stairs without real difficulty. I have no balance. I can’t get a job. I have to wear enclosed shoes as I’ve lost the feeling in my right leg and foot. It’s not until these things are taken from you that you can know what that’s like and how you have to scrutinise every move but how you still hurt yourself. The fact that I may get a little better over time is small comfort to me, with all that lies ahead.
I can no longer socialise as a normal nineteen year old, or be a carefree teenager. I no longer have the choice as to if I will drink alcohol, or if I won’t. I can’t. That makes me a bit of a social outcast, because my friends do enjoy drinking, and I can’t. And I can’t go dancing anymore – I can’t dance and I might get knocked. I feel so abnormal.
My future is unknown. I don’t know if I’ll be able to have children, or whether I could then attend to them. I certainly won’t be able to roll around and play with them, and teach them how to run. They say I will get arthritis, early, in the damaged joints and bones. This is now my life’s reality. I am disabled
Details of mental illness or nervous shock:
Since I have been both physically injured so comprehensively, and also suffered a brain injury, the psychological impacts on me are profound, and I’m still just beginning to comprehend what they are.
For example, I have no memory of the crash itself. Two friends were killed and I missed their funerals. I feel apart from the crash – almost as if I wasn’t part of the whole thing. I am worried about what will happen to me if I do remember.
I have to rely on other people’s versions of events and since that varies over time, I become confused and angry because I just ‘don’t know’ what the truth is. The period in hospital is a blur and I find myself grasping at wisps of memories that are just out of reach. Again the ‘not knowing’ is a consequence for me, and I may never ‘know’ my own history in this life-changing event.
There are many occasions where I realise my short term memory is affected. That upsets me, but I try to manage. It’s my long-term memory that has been really disturbed. There are so many things I’ve forgotten, important things.
I don’t think I was irrational at all before the crash, but now I often am. I don’t realise it at the time then I’m terribly embarrassed. I’m forever saying sorry for something I can’t control. It is awful and so are the mood changes I experience. It is like I can’t even tell what I’m going to be like, so neither can anyone else. That makes me feel I am a bother to others. And then I get angry with myself. It’s the lack of control. I feel as though I’ve lost the right to ‘be who I am’ and then I have to apologise or make up for something wrong I did or said that was not the way the nice Kiara would have acted, before.
For example, people are often ‘stare-ers’. They will stare at me, and look at my trachy scar. Some will say ‘what happened to you’, or what’s that? It reminds me of my ordeal, but makes me feel like a freak-show, as if I have this great big awful scar that is what I have become. So instead of explaining for the umpteenth time, sometimes I glare at them and say ‘someone stabbed me in the neck!’ That makes them back off, and I don’t have to explain. I know my scar has healed well, but people do stare. But it makes me feel different, in a bad, sad way.
Sometimes I have frightening thoughts – I find myself plotting a terrible revenge on someone who is tormenting me. Then I regularly think of suicide – to kill off the rest of Kiara, because being this new, damaged person with the ugly body and a brain injury is too hard. People tell me I am pretty, but I can’t believe them. All my interests have changed. I do not know what my future holds. It all makes it very hard for me to have a normal relationship with my boyfriend, family and friends. I don’t even know what’s normal, yet.
I missed my eighteenth birthday. That mark in time that makes us an adult. I have no memories, no party, no mementoes, no photos to mark the occasion. I often wonder whether I will ever have normal milestones again.
I cannot cry. Perhaps I fear what might happen if I did, if I remembered, if I really began to know and to feel the enormity of what happened that night, in the aftermath, and to me, and what lies ahead, then it might be so awful it might destroy me.
Every day I am trying to find the will to go on, to respect and honour the people who loved me and those who saved me and the work they did on me for so long. They have built a new me – just a shell of the old me, but I am determined to use my challenges to try to prevent any other person having to go through what I am, and have. I am determined to be my best self, despite this terrible crash that killed and maimed.
To be completed by the victim:
This statement is true to the best of my knowledge and belief
Signed …………………………… dated
I wish this statement to be read to the court
Signed …………………………… dated