He Chose Revenge, She Chose Forgiveness

911: “What’s going on out there?”
Witness: “Well, I’m not really sure. I just pulled up. There’s a woman here. I’ll let her tell you.”
Sharon: “I don’t even know where I am. He just said he needed a ride a few blocks down the road. We got in the car and he kept saying go straight, go straight. He grabbed me and he pulled a knife out of his bag.”
911: “Just stay on the phone with me, okay? Sharon? Sharon? Honey, are you there?”

Attorney Sharon was leaving her office late one Friday afternoon when a man she didn’t recognize asked for help with his wife’s will. Then he asked her for a ride.

“And so I’m thinking, ‘Okay, the man’s wife just died, and you’re really going to make him walk home in the rain?’ You know, I just. I felt like I didn’t have permission to continue to say no,” says Sharon.

Once in the car, he became violent, forcing her to drive to an abandoned farmhouse. There he slammed her head into the console, pinned her down, and ripped off her blouse. Then he pulled out a knife.

“And I can see this long, steel blade coming towards me and he’s leaning over and he says, ‘This is for those years in prison.’”

Sharon finally realized that her attacker was Hank Smith, a client she had represented in an arraignment years before. He was later convicted and spent six years behind bars. Now out of prison, he blamed her, and she knew this was the end.  

“He’s pushing the blade into my throat and I can feel it. I can feel the cold steel down here and I can feel this pressure, like pushing and pushing in here. And he says to me, ‘Take your pants off.’”

Sharon firmly told him “No”. Then suddenly, she says Hank was pulled off of her as if by some unseen force. Somehow, the knife jammed into the dashboard, breaking the blade.  Now she was able to fight back, and escape.

“I pop up to the ditch and spread eagle stand in the middle of the road. My breasts are exposed, there’s blood running everywhere. Chunks of my hair hanging out of my head. I’m screaming, ‘Stop, stop, help me, help me!’”

A married couple stopped to help. By then, Hank had reached the road. The wife shielded Sharon while her husband kept Hank at bay. They called 911.

Sharon: He ripped off my bra. He tried to take my clothes off. He was going to rape me.
911: Is he still there?
Sharon: Yes! Please tell them to hurry! Get away from me! Please tell them to hurry!

Hank was apprehended at the scene, where police found he was carrying duct tape and a hammer. Sharon learned that he intended to rape, torture, and kill her. She knew God had saved her life.

“There’s no question that God showed up that day and He fought for me. In my mind, it’s like I know that God is huge and God is everywhere and He can be everywhere with everyone. But it felt like nothing else mattered and all of heaven just drilled down on that spot and He fought for me. He was like not today. You’re not taking her today.”  

But her ordeal was far from over. Even though he was behind bars, Sharon was in a constant state of high alert.  Etched in her mind were those horrific moments, and Hank’s vow that he would never rest until he killed her.

“There were times that I would just shake out of control, I would grind my teeth. I never slept, my weight would plummet, then I would gain. My hair would fall out. I had an antique dresser and I would push it in front of my bedroom door every night. Then I would call the jail to make sure he was still in. And then I would try to sleep.

Sharon lived on edge as Hank’s trial was delayed because of mishandled evidence and technicalities.  Meanwhile, she decided there was only one way to keep herself safe.

“I had my license to carry within two weeks of the incident. So if I killed this guy who already tried to kill me, that’s not murder. I was like, ‘That’s self-defense.’ Proactive self-defense. Because logically why would a person wait around for someone to come back and torture you and rape you and stab you? Because the truth is, the life that I was living wasn’t a life worth living. It would’ve not been that different than going to prison. Because I was already in a prison.

Sharon knew when and where Hank would be transferred for trial and waited for her chance. But before she could carry out her plan, she accepted an invitation to attend a church retreat.

“Well, at the retreat, they ask you to walk up to this area when you’re ready. And they have pieces of paper and pencils. And they just ask you to write out your sins and your struggles. And to really think about what is keeping you from that sweet communion with God.”

Sharon says God began to speak to her about Hank.

“And He’s like, ‘Oh sweet girl, you are swirling in a drain and you don’t even know it. You’ve got to let him go. He has hurt you and it hurts. And he has wounded you and he has taken from you and taken from you and there is no excuse for that. But it is eating you alive and I need you to forgive him, not because he deserves it, not because he’s earned it, but because I’m forgiving you and I will give you the ability to forgive him.’”

Sharon wrote her forgiveness on a piece of paper and nailed it to a cross.

“I physically felt different. When I stood up from that –I’d been kneeling and praying -  and when I stood up I felt like I was 20 pounds lighter.”

Sharon knew God had saved her life a second time.

“The first time He physically rescued me in the car. And at this retreat I feel like He spiritually rescued me. I thank God that He is so much bigger and more loving than I had ever imagined and He saved me from that. I can’t imagine if I had actually gone through with that.”  

Sharon braved two trials over the next five years. Hank was convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to life in prison. He is eligible for parole in 10 years. Sharon still deals with moments of fear, but chooses to forgive him every day.

“To think that God loves him and is pursuing him and wants to bring him in and do everything for him that he’s done for me, I’m thankful that we worship a God like that.”

Today she is restoring her family’s horse farm to offer other victims legal advice, self-defense training, and a place to heal.

“There is nothing, nothing that is worth holding onto that could possibly replace the peace and the joy and the freedom that you get when you let that go. Because you are not letting them off the hook. They will answer to God and God will take care of them. You get to just enjoy your relationship with God and tap into all that power that you need to heal from the hurt they’ve caused you. I’m happy. I smile a lot. I laugh. I’m back. I got my life back.”

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