OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. -- A woman asked an Ottawa County Circuit Court judge to give the maximum sentence to her former step-father who she says sexually abused her.
Jill DeJonge, 27, spoke for herself and on behalf of victims of abuse Monday wearing a necklace that's stamped "Be Brave:" encouraging people to also be brave and report any abuse to police no matter how long ago it happened.
Donald Shriel, 49, was sentenced Monday afternoon to 12 months' probation, three days' jail time, and an undetermined amount of restitution to DeJonge; at that point a woman gasped and walked out of the courtroom. Shriel originally was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct; however, due to a lack of evidence, he pleaded no contest to attempted felony assault.
“What started as criminal sexual conduct in the first degree is now ending with attempted assault," said DeJonge. "And I just have to believe that my story, and a lot of other people’s stories, could be different if more victims came forward.”
In court, DeJonge addressed Shriel and the packed room saying the abuse she suffered haunts her.
"Every day I weigh the pros and cons of taking a shower," said DeJonge. "Some days just the simple reminder is terrifying enough to make the task impossible. When I do shower, I remember how filthy he made me feel and how dirty I still feel."
DeJonge says when she was three and four-years-old, Shriel sexually abused her for about one year. Though this case broke about 23 years after the alleged incident, there are no statute of limitations for first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Michigan. Shriel maintained his silence in court, but his attorney says he denies any sexual misconduct.
"The only thing that’s remained consistent since my client’s been involved in the case was that he did not do what he was accused of doing," said John Moritz, Shriel's defense attorney.
DeJonge asked the judge for the maximum sentence. Although she and her family did not get the justice they wanted, DeJonge is moving forward and continues to urge all victims of abuse to report it. At this point, the prosecutor says there are no indications of other victims of Shriel.
"The justice system, while it may be flawed and disappointing, the people within it have been great to work with," said DeJonge. "So I would just encourage them to find some bravery and some support and come forward, because theirs could be the story that makes a difference."