The week before my birthday, I received a bill in the mail from AT&T for phone numbers I did not recognize. Then a letter declining “my” application for a store debit card. Someone had gone on a spending spree in my name. Reviewing my credit report, four more stores were revealed—including a shop I had never heard of—and nearly $3500 spent on stuff I will never see. I am oddly grateful for the identitytheft.gov website outlining exactly which steps to take when someone gets a hold of your information. The companies, for the most part, made it easy to contest the fraudulent cards. The most difficult challenge was simply getting through to a human being. Truly, automated phone trees are a work of the devil.

In the pages and pages of forms that have since followed, there is one question that arrested my attention. It has come up twice already, and may come up again, causing me to really think about this strange ordeal. “Are you willing to press charges and/or work with law enforcement if charges are brought against the person(s) who committed the fraud?” Yes or No.

How am I to respond to this violation? Aside from placing additional protective barriers around ‘my identity’ am I willing to work towards prosecuting the culprit(s)? Put another way, am I willing to participate in churning another individual through an exceedingly broken system of (in)justice? What does it mean to press charges? I certainly do not want another person to be violated as I was, yet what assurance is there that if I were to press charges someone else would be ‘saved’?

In the midst of mind-numbing legalspeak, this question requires more exegesis—parsed out and reframed, it is more than a question of wanting to see justice. It becomes a question of active participation even beyond complicity. Parsed out and reframed the meaning emerges from a different angle. “Are you willing to work with law enforcement” is a very different question from “are you willing to press charges”. If I cannot say yes to one, how can I say yes? Even my willingness to provide what information I can prompts me to wonder to what extent am I now participating in the (in)justice system?

Receiving a bill in my name for merchandise I did not purchase is infuriating. I feel responsible, like I have somehow done something wrong. And while I have now begun the process for ‘correcting’ my information, I have no idea what all this will impact in the future. Will I regret not pressing charges? I don’t think so. I don’t know what hand life has dealt the perpetrators that incited them steal—which is not to claim them to be Noble Savages in today’s economy. I simply don’t know. So, I pray protection over others from becoming victims, and I pray that the thieves encounter Jesus in a life-changing way, and soon. In the meantime, I’ll continue to fill out forms and monitor my information.