Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"I'm Sorry" is Enough

He had learned how to play the game. He knew what the therapist wanted to see and hear, and he gave him everything that was expected. "Ask lots of questions and be involved", he had told be after a session a few weeks before. "That's what he (the therapist) is looking for. It will look good when he writes up his reports on you", he added.

"So, what are you going to tell your victim when she asks you why?" he asked the man sitting across from me. He has been talking about his family and wife and past for more than 30 minutes and was telling the group how his stepdaughter/victim was doing.

The man didn't have a really good answer, but who could. He didn't want to tell her that it might be because he was harboring anger issues at her mom because she was bisexual and it was common for him to be a part of a three-some with his wife and her friend...though it was mostly hands-off for him when it came to the other woman.

The entire conversation had started tonight because he was sharing how insightful his stepdaughter was when she asked how he could do what he did and still say he loved her mom/his wife. It had led us down a long conversation about sex and love and questions left unanswered.

Then the therapist turned to me and asked me what I would want those who victimized me to say. Talk about being put on the spot. It was a great question, but not one I was very ready for. I hate questions like that because I'm a high achiever...and I struggle internally when I don't have the ready answer at hand.

I sat and thought for a few moments, really searching for an answer. What would I want them to say? What would I say to any that I had victimized in various ways throughout my lifetime?

My first thoughts went to my dad. I don't know if he sexually molested me or not. Without hard evidence I won't accuse, and much of my childhood memory is foggy at best. But he was my source of pornography growing up, even though I know he was an unwilling/unknowing contributor. (Maybe he should have wondered why he stopped receiving it in the mail, or why the 8mm movies had burn holes in them, but I'll never know.) I have thought about how he might feel today if he were still alive to see what I did that sent me to prison. I truly believe that he would be heartbroken to know that he might have somehow contributed in some way by having pornography in the house...never mind that it was often locked behind his bedroom doors. If he had known and had a chance to do it over, I believe he never would have brought it into his house.

When I first got married, I had pornography that I had collected while I was still single. I kept it in a box and had it stored deep under our bed. One of the teachers I knew from another school had even given me some porn VHS tapes that he had recorded. At the time, none of the kids were living with us...it was just Paula and I. But our youngest would often visit and it haunted me that he might somehow in his curiosity come across my hidden cache. One day when no one else was at home, I took it all, put it in a double garbage bag and took it about ten blocks away and threw it in a dumpster that I was sure that he would never go diving in. For a reason I couldn't explain, I just didn't want to be the one that might expose that young man that I love so much to that kind of material. I didn't know at the time what kind of a hold it had on my own life, but I knew that I didn't want my son viewing it.

The neighbor boy who molested me when I was just a little kid...not even ten yet...was just a kid himself. While he was in his teens, there was no way he could know what impact his actions would have on me. No way of knowing how it might mold me. Perhaps he had been a victim himself, I can't even guess. I'd be surprised if he even remembered the event today if he was asked. I can't excuse what he did, but I can't blame him either.

The adult men who victimized me had to know what they were doing was wrong with a capital W! Even though child molestation and exploitation weren't the buzzwords they are today, fondling and engaging in sex with any pre-pubescent child is against the norms of nearly every civilization in the world, let alone the fact that it was with a small boy...me.

I haven't thought a lot about those men. One I had blocked out of my mind for most of my life, but that probably had more to do with the threats he made than the sexual act. The vague memory that I do have has absolutely no pleasure associated with it. The other man simply fondled me...no strings...no threats, and it was pleasurable. There was no pain nor guilt at the time.

Psychologists tell us that is one of the biggest struggles that victims of sexual abuse face. At a young age, they are the recipients of something that "feels" pleasurable and good to the physical body, but there is something deeper inside that conflicts with the pleasure. Somehow, even without being told, you know that it's simply wrong. The body wants it but the mind and heart don't. I know that tension was present in my body and mind from a very early age.

"I'd want them to say 'I'm sorry! I never meant to hurt you or cause you to be impacted by those things. If I could undo it, I would. I'm just so sorry!"

The words finally found their way to my lips. I really wouldn't want any more than that. I wouldn't want any of them to go to jail. I wouldn't want any of them to face the shame and ridicule of reading of their poor choices in the local newspaper or hear their names as the lead story on the 6:00 news. And I wouldn't want any of them to experience the pain and confusion that I've endured. Just to know that they didn't know...that they didn't intend any harm, would be enough. Simply "I'm sorry!"

1 comment:

Deb said...

You have an amazing therapist! The perfect question asked at the perfect time.

I know you are just at the beginning of your remembering and really looking at the impact the too early awakening of your sexual self had on the adult you were all those years. I'm so proud of you for being willing to be so open to yourself, and so grateful you're in the skilled and compassionate hands of this therapist.

I'm thinking about whether "I'm sorry." is enough for me. Since Daddy was my first abuser and the most significant, I think what I would want more than that is for him to truly want to know me and to let me know him. To want a relationship with me that had nothing to do with sex.

I would want him to be sorry enough to change what he was doing with his life. I guess I would need to see actions that showed me that sorry was real.

Knowing that all of that is impossible leaves me with accepting that what happened to me cannot be undone, nor can the choices I made as a result of that. All that can be done is to forgive and accept and seek to find my light, the light of God in me, and to release that back into the world.

Your writing just gets better and better. Keep going -for both of us and for all those people who don't yet know that they need your words.

I love you.