Along my healing journey, I came to realize about six months ago that I needed to somehow confront my perpetrator. My story is not unique, by today’s standards it may even be trite, but in any case, that doesn’t really matter. I am now fifty two years old. When I was about five or six years old my mother divorced my father and met a man a short time later who is a pedophile. Over a period of ten years he recruited me to engage in sexual intercourse with him on hundreds of occasions, and ultimately I myself began using sex with him as a way of negotiating my freedom as an adolescent. At the beginning I went to the usual suspects of family members to get help, but for reasons that I will refer to later, no one was willing to help me. I went disbelieved, and from my perspective, was emotionally abandoned. Finally, either through irony or divine intervention, my mother found proof which was sufficient for her to believe me, and in September of my senior year in high school, he was gone. I immediately proceeded to live my life with the relief that it was over, not wanting to look back, or relive the pain.
Quite out of the blue a few years later while I was attending law school, my brother informed me that he too had been sexually abused by this man, and told me of his belief that he was complicit with this man in being able to perpetrate me. It was an earth shattering realization, and caused an anger and hatred in me toward my perpetrator that I had not had before. What he had done to me was one thing, but to know how he had hurt my brother was an entirely different matter.
Many years went by, and life “took over.” Marriage, career, children, divorce, and then serious health problems. Even still, the shadow of my childhood experience continued to envelop me. Fortunately, I was able to get on a healing path, and as a result much joy and goodness began to manifest in my life (or should I say my ability to see it was cultivated.) Even so, about six months ago, I identified a pattern in my work where I was repeatedly taking on responsibility for other people’s problems, and recognized it to be a direct correlation to having been a victim so many years ago. I decided the only way to break this pattern was to take some action to stand up and confront my perpetrator. Up until this time, I had convinced myself that this was an unnecessary measure because it was all in the past and nothing would be gained, taking the high road as it were. My brother and I went to the authorities where we had lived, and even though the statute of limitations had run, we told our stories. Then I became aware that this man was going to be attending a local convention in Nashua, NH. I began to fantasize about hand delivering a letter to him at this event a few weeks ago.
This is the part of the story that I believe is the most powerful and I hope that I can convey it in a way that will help bring understanding. Perhaps the most challenging part of the process of trying to come to closure with this individual was the concept of forgiveness. I knew, and believed that in order for me to truly heal from the situation I would have to find forgiveness. I also had some kind of understanding that the forgiveness would have to begin with myself. Quite honestly this was emotionally and psychologically confusing for me on so many levels. From my perspective, this man was evil beyond evil, and the idea of opening my heart to forgive him was not a reflection of my true feelings. And, if I tried to look at him and think, oh you poor person who must have been so wounded in life to have done what you did to these children, felt like I was taking it on myself, and there I was again that little girl going along because he was more important than me. That didn’t work for me either.
But the thing that put me totally over the top was when I was at Kripalu for a workshop two weeks ago. The instructor conducting the workshop is a high profile yoga teacher who is very direct and tells it like it is. Part of the program involved healing and forgiveness. The topic of the letter came up again, this time referred to as an “f” you letter. She told me to write the letter, even if I did not give it to him. Then she told me that everywhere I wrote “you” to cross it our and replace it with the word “I.” That the experience with him was to teach me something about myself and that I should turn the mirror on me. I was mortified.
The idea sent me reeling. How could it be that this experience was to show me something about me? Did this mean I should be looking at myself to see that I was really a pedophile, a liar, a manipulative, deceitful human being? Now I was more confused than ever, and found myself emotionally where I had been so many years ago, that somehow this was all my fault, and I am the one who was responsible. Oh shit, is there no way out?
The past two days I was at my son’s college for parent’s weekend together with my parents and ex-husband. While on my way home last evening, I saw Stephanie’s email about William, Steven, Quinn and Chris. There is was again, the question of forgiveness. I was feeling so sad, as I often do after being with my family, and was feeling very alone on the ride home. I started to cry, and then pray out loud. I prayed for God to help bring me to an understanding about the concept of forgiveness. I prayed to God to provide me with guidance and answers to help diminish the pain of loneliness, abandonment, and just not being important enough to have been helped by my family as a child. I thought about my grandmother, grandfather, aunt, and others, who I asked for help but did not help me. I expressed feelings of anger and resentment.
Once the emotions were expressed I started to say the following (in my car by myself). With respect to my perpetrator, I acknowledged that if I were honest with myself, there were no thoughts and feelings inside of him that weren’t somewhere inside of me too. That as a human being, I could recognize the sameness. However, the exercise of free will is what made us different. I did not, nor would I choose to act on the things that he did. And then I looked at my various family members, and told them the same thing, that there was nothing in them that wasn’t in me too, fear, shame, guilt, etc. The difference once again came in the exercise of the free will.
I realized that I had previously been coming at this from the point of view of self hate. My fear around seeing the sameness in me and my perpetrator was that it would mean that I was as bad as he is. But by accepting my shadow side, and forgiving it, I can recognize myself as the loving, caring human being that I am. Om namah shivaya. I can also recognize this in others.
Finally, due to the ability to exercise free will and choose, we are all held accountable for our choices. So, although I have empathy for what people experience, they must still be accountable for their choices.
I can only tell you that this process has brought me great relief and calm. I anticipate having this conversation many times again in the future, but as I have already said to myself, at least I know it has a good ending.
Thank you so much for listening. With the deepest of love.
2 responses to “Free Will”
That’s the way it should be. Hopefully things are going to be changing soon because we can’t take much more of this.
“Finally, due to the ability to exercise free will and choose, we are all held accountable for our choices. So, although I have empathy for what people experience, they must still be accountable for their choices.”
So many times in this chaotic world we still think in terms of “opposites”; either you are ’empathetic’ OR ‘holding accountable’. I appreciate, through your story, seeing the possibility of BOTH/AND.
The hardest thing is letting go of the drama in which we have a starring role. I am grateful for your open sharing and I wish you continued freedom from forgiveness.