Victims share their stories with offendersMore than 40 drunken driving offenders attended a Victim Impact Panel at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in New Richmond July 18 in an effort to regain their driving privileges.
By: Emily Miels, News intern , River Falls Journal
More than 40 drunken driving offenders attended a Victim Impact Panel at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in New Richmond July 18 in an effort to regain their driving privileges.
Victim Impact Panels are monthly events throughout St. Croix County sponsored by the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Center, which began in 2001.
According to Executive Director Kris Miner, this is just one of the steps that those attending have to complete to regain their license.
“Everyone is coming to restore their right to drive again,” Miner said.
Upon arrival, attendees have to pay a fee and take a breathalyzer test before being allowed in the room. Once in the room, participants listen to the selected speakers.
Miner said they have six to eight speakers that are victims, offenders and community members. Generally two or three speak at each panel.
The goal of the panels is to reduce people’s desire to drink and drive as well as give survivors a chance to share their stories and “give some meaning to what happened,” according to Miner.
“We work with people to tell their stories so it’s healing for them and healing for the audience,” Miner said.
The first speaker on July 18 was Kim Anez, a victim of a drunk driving crash in 1977.
Anez said the crash occurred right before Christmas. Her car had run out of gas while she was on her way to a party. Two young ladies had gone to the station to get her gas.
Once they returned with the gas, Anez said she was standing on the road putting the gas in her tank when it happened.
“I remember the sound of the crash, the tinkling of glass,” Anez said.
The drunk driver hit her and both her legs were broken and her hands were smashed. She was lying in gas on the side of the road.
Anez said it was obvious that the men in the vehicle were drunk. When they attempted to move her from the gasoline they lifted her by the broken legs, causing immense pain.
Eventually, the men left her alone on the street, unable to move and freezing. Anez said the next thing she remembers was being surrounded by EMTs, police and others.
“I was surrounded by my personal heroes,” Anez said.
Anez said both her femurs were broken and she lost a lot of blood. That night she had a complete blood replacement and another one when they operated on her legs a few days later.
Anez was in the hospital for two months and was disabled for two years.
Anez said that she still struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder today and has difficulty watching car crash scenes in television shows and movies and doesn’t like pumping gas, though she does it to be “normal.”
“I wish he’d said he was sorry,” Anez said.
The second speaker of the evening was Bruce Schulze, who was a passenger during a drunk driving crash caused by his friend who was driving.
Schulze said that he and his friends were heavy drinkers and smoked pot, but he never listened when his family and others tried to help him.
“I had my first beer at age 16,” Schulze said. “At age 17 it was pretty apparent I had a problem.”
On the night of the accident, Schulze had been spending time with his girlfriend before he went off with his friends.
“I’ll never forget what she said,” Schulze said. “’Have a good time. See you tomorrow.’”
Schulze said he was basically passed out in the back of the car at the time of the accident, and didn’t feel any pain.
When he woke up in the hospital the next morning his mom was crying and he heard them talking about transferring him to a hospital in the city.
“I realized I’m paralyzed from the neck down,” Schulze said. “Broke my neck in two places.”
Schulze said he spent two months in the intensive care and rehab units, during which time he fell into a deep depression.
“At the time, I’m actually praying I’m not going to make it,” he said.
Today Schulze has regained much of his ability, but still struggles. He is a below-the-knee amputee on his left leg and also wears a brace on his right due to a condition called drop foot. He is able to stand and walk using crutches.
Schulze said that he also gets Botox shots four times a year to help relax the muscles in his hand, which is only able to grip with two fingers.
“I can see a male and female walking down the street holding hands and sometimes I think, man, I wish I could do that,” Schulze said.
He also struggles with severe anxiety and depression due to numerous falls and injuries.
“Anxiety will really kick in late fall and last all winter and it completely takes over my life,” Schulze said.
Schulze told the crowd that he put himself in that situation because he did not understand consequences. He just assumed bad things would happen to “the other guy” and not to him.
“Guess what?” Schulz said. “I’m the other guy. Somebody has to be the other guy.”
Anez and Schulze stayed around after the panel and talked with a few of those in attendance. Participants at each panel also fill out an anonymous survey, as a way to share their thoughts about the panel with the Restorative Justice Center.
According to the Restorative Justice Center website, the survey results show that 98% of attendees indicated this program made them realize the consequences of drinking and driving and 98% were convinced to not drink and drive anymore.