Friday, July 04, 2008

A Victim of Child Abuse Speaks

Political Satirist Barry Crimmins has posted a powerful blog entry that discusses what a victim of child abuse feels about punishing the perpetrator. In his own words:
Unfortunately the ominously shadowy Alito either doesn't care or knows nothing about what looms over child rape victims or he'd stop carrying polluted water for neo-cons and use his power to help shape a less oppressive and less brutal society. Child abuse thrives when authoritarians rule -- authoritarians like Samuel Alito. Abused kids are already freaked out enough without having bloodthirsty men in robes boohooing their inability to take a life for an eye. Alito has inveighed against compassion at every turn but now we're supposed to believe that this pro-torture reactionary is thinking first of children? To employ a term Sanctimonious Sam despises, spare me.

Many people are so overwhelmed by the thought of child abuse that they'll do just about anything to change the subject when it is mentioned. The most common device these subject-switchers utilize is the ultimate decree. They'll say, "I think if someone gets caught abusing a kid, they should be rounded up and killed! Case closed!" Once you proclaim that you're in favor of executing pedophiles, what else is there to say? You have advocated sweeping them under the ultimate rug and that's that. Problem solved. The problem, that is, of having to discuss child abuse.

Pronouncements of lynch mobsters notwithstanding, I wouldn't have wanted my rapist put out of his own misery and into mine. I started life without blood on my hands and I aim to keep it that way. Had the man who raped me on numerous occasions not died in prison while serving his third term for sexually abusing very young boys, I might have gone to see him. My personal revenge would have been to show him that I did not become what I resisted, that I hadn't grown into a cruel and heartless man. I would have told him that he inflicted a burden upon me that almost killed me, and not just when I was nearly asphyxiated during his savage assaults. I'd have told him of the encumbrance I dragged along with me for decades that, through hard work, I had managed to lighten. In short, I would tell him that although he inflicted a lot of pain upon me, he had not succeeded in ruining me. Then I would tell him that I was sorry that he had such a miserable and wasted life. Finally, I would ask him why he thought he had ended up doing the things he did. Maybe I would have discovered some context for the man, even if I had to sort it out of the manipulative lies for which pedophiles are deservedly notorious.

I couldn't do any of this because by the time I figured out who had raped me, he was dead. The news of his demise did not cheer me. I just thought of the end of his awful life in a cruddy jail cell and wondered what led to such a waste. At least I didn't miss my chance to confront him because he had been killed in my name.

People who support executing rapists of children fail to consider a crucial issue-- the age of the victims. The victim in one of the cases the Supreme Court examined was eight years old when she was raped. That would make her twelve or thirteen right now. She has enough of a challenge in front of her without having the state presuming it should kill on her behalf. When I finally dealt with the horrors of my childhood, I had enough brutality to reconcile without adding an execution to the list. Unlike the poor child in the aforementioned case, the perpetrator of the crimes against me was not a member of my family. I can't imagine what it would be like to have to deal with having had one of my parents' siblings killed to settle a score for me. I can imagine that such a state action could cause a very large schism in a family, a schism that (to one extent or another) would trace back to the victim. This would place yet another burden on the child -- in large part because adults wanted to make a grandstand play that would help distract everyone from considering how such a crime might have been prevented in the first place. Sorry we left you alone with that evil man but to make up for it, we had him killed!

Almost everyone wants to avoid this subject and who can blame them? Breaking silence about child abuse is so damned disquieting. When, as an adult, I began dealing with what happened to me, I talked to close friends about it. A very few were just great and couldn't have been kinder. Numerous others had the same question for me. They'd ask, "Are are you talking to anyone about this?"

I'd think, "Yeah, I thought I was talking to you. But clearly you believe I should only speak to people who are paid $150 an hour to hear about this shit. I guess you don't understand that it's tough for me to trust strangers -- particularly strangers who sit there and only say 'hmm' every 15 or twenty minutes. It can be kind of nerve-wracking. After you do that, it could be kind of nice to speak to a trusted friend."

The "are you talking to anyone" people were a bargain compared to the lynch mob advocates, particularly for me. I'm hampered by prejudice because I oppose the death penalty for anyone. Even if I were to be murdered, I would not want my killer executed. You can't kill someone without making someone else into a killer. I cannot see how anyone could ever justify that.

Even if I supported the death penalty, I wouldn't want child rapists killed simply because they were once children themselves. In all likelihood they were abused children. While most victims of childhood sexual assaults don't grow up to become pedophiles, the vast majority of pedophiles were sexually abused as children. Who knows what would have happened to me if I had been raped a few more times, or a few years later, and had been tricked into believing I'd been acting on my own initiative? Would my social contract have been completely voided? I can't say. Life gets pretty damned nuanced when you can consider yourself a lucky childhood rape survivor.
I encourage everyone to read the entire piece by following the link. In a world of flotsom and jetsom, the courage and wisdom of this piece deserves and demands your attention if only for a moment.

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