Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Unseen Victims

Six weeks has passed since the sentencing, since the case was made public. That in itself was a huge victory, because that meant the door would be opened should other victims need to come forward. I've thought about that many times; what would it be like for me if another victim comes forward. What will it mean? How will it play out? What will it feel like to know that someone else was abused by the same person who abused me?

But truly, even if no one else comes forward, 

there are other victims in MY case.

In the days following the sentencing, while the news story was active,  I read (and responded to some) comments online. A majority of comments were supportive of me, most of them calling me brave and strong. I appreciated those. A few of the comments were extreme in the way they voiced support, in that they wished something bad to happen to the defendant, which I do not wish to see happen. Those are the ones I addressed, hopefully making it clear that any vigilante style violence against the defendant would not help me in any way.

And then there were a couple supporting the defendant

Here's the ugly truth; perpetrators of sexual assault have friends and family who love them. It's true. Like it or not, they have likely lived lives that enabled them to have friends, get married, have children and grandchildren, and be productive members of society. They have experienced joy and happiness. For as much anger and disdain we as victims may feel toward these perpetrators, there are people who love and admire those who have hurt us. There are people who know them to be upright members, pillars even, of the community, and cannot fathom them to be the monsters we know them to be.

Online I read the words of friends, even his daughter as she staunchly defended her father. In court, I see the anger on his wife's face. I'm not stupid, I know that anger is directed at me. I have disrupted their world. I have brought to light something that the one they love kept hidden from them.   

I am only assuming here, but I imagine that the pain I feel as the victim of sexual assault can not be compared to the pain the families and friends of abusers must feel. I have nothing invested in the one who assaulted me. I have not looked at him as family or friend. I have no conflict in how I feel about him. I have never had to question what I know about him. 

But I believe those who love abusers are as much victims as I am. They have been lied to and manipulated by monsters. There has to be shock as people learn those they love are not what and who they seemed to be. They have been betrayed by someone they love. The anger, the conflict, the confusion they feel must be immense. I can not imagine what it would feel like to find out someone I love had led a dual life, that there are secrets, there he had the capacity to hurt someone. 

I have, since the Bill Cosby story came out, felt very sorry for Camille. The man she knows and loves is not the man who drugged and raped dozens of women over the years. She has been lied to, forced to believe in a facade. All trust is now shattered. Many people have been critical of her, accusing her of being in a way complicit. And while I'm sure it is possible that she knew something and did nothing, it is equally possible that she has known nothing and has trusted and believed in a man she loves.

Identifying the victims of sexual assault is like watching a pebble thrown into a pond.  Both the perpetrator and the victim are in the center of the wake, and all those surrounding both of them will inevitably be impacted by the circular, cyclical waves. 

While it is easy for us to be critical of and angry at those who love molesters, rapists, and abusers; we must keep in mind that they are also victims. Their lives are being turned upside down by the system designed to deliver justice.  Truth is being brought to light, truth that the perpetrators of abuse have tried desperately to keep hidden. These unseen victims did not ask for this. But this is truth that must come out so that EVERYONE can experience freedom.

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