We continue our series of excerpts from the MVFHR panel of families of the executed at the Third International Women's Peace Conference in Dallas this past July. See the original post announcing this series, the current issue of our newsletter with more about the peace conference panel, and MVFHR's report about families of the executed.
More from Melanie Hebert (see Friday's post for the first excerpt from Melanie):
When my uncle was sentenced to death, I was just entering high school. For a young girl who is not dealing with any kind of issue, the transition to high school is still difficult, so you can imagine how it was compounded by the fact that I was from the same town and shared the last name with my uncle who had just been sentenced to death, and it was a very big news story. I was really taunted at school, and I went into a deep depression for the first two years of high school. I had a very tough time going to school every day. There’s so much shame attached to it.
Of course now, as a competent adult, I look back and say why didn’t I stand up and say yes, he did do that, but I didn’t do anything wrong, I shouldn’t feel any shame. But I was young and naïve and embarrassed and I felt like nobody would want to be friends with me because my uncle had done something terrible.
Certainly I wish that the adults at my high school had had more knowledge and awareness about how to help a young person in my situation, and I also wish that they had been more proactive in coming to me. I didn’t know what resources were available to me, I didn’t know to go to the counselor or if this was something it would be appropriate to go to her about. I wish that people in the school system had come to me and offered more support.
When he was executed, I was grown up, I had been through college, I thought I had put all this behind me, but it kind of all came up again. By this time I had an entirely different circle of friends and peers, and people weren’t as direct in their shaming of me, but I still definitely felt it.
One of the most difficult aspects was taking time off from work. I knew that I would be visiting with Spencer and essentially what I felt forced to do was to lie. I said I had had a death in the family and I needed time off to mourn. In fact that death had not yet occurred, but I didn’t feel comfortable disclosing that. When I returned to work I remember seeing my boss with the newspaper opened to the story and I thought well, she does know now.