This is one of the men who raped me when I was a teenager. He was 19 then, he’s 51 now, and he is still a rapist. I look at him and see a life gone wrong, but I feel no pity. I imagine that at one time he was a little boy who liked action figures and riding his bike, but that something (or someone) terrible happened in his youth that robbed him of his innocence and his conscience. Still, I feel no pity. I wish him only a long life behind bars, where he will never again have the opportunity to lay his hands upon a child.
I feel guilty. It would not have been safe for me then to tell my parents or authorities, so I told only my older sister, who earlier that day introduced me to him as her friend. She didn’t tell, either.
I feel pride in the young girl who braved whatever circumstance she was in to tell her story to family, law enforcement, attorneys, and then in court. Giving the details of a rape, over and over again, is uncomfortable for adult victims — for children it can be excruciating. Whoever she is, she did something that likely saved other children from knowing the same kind of pain she experienced. I wish I could have done that, but I suspect it wouldn’t have ended up the same way. It was a different time and place.
I feel angry at the never-ending cycle of child abuse and neglect — at the society that helps perpetuate it through weak social services and laws — and at those who continue to bear children they don’t want, or can’t love and care for properly. It is likely that this rapist, like so many others, was sexually, physically, or otherwise abused as a child. It may also be that he is a sociopath, and would have been one regardless of his upbringing. In either case, it seems to me that there were opportunities to derail his sexually violent tendencies before he began victimizing children while he was still a teen himself. The recidivism rate for molesters and rapists is extremely high, the cure rate near zero — but I can’t help but wonder what might happen if we turned more of our attention toward preventing the causes.
I feel hopeless in a way. We live in a time of such desensitization that child abuse and rape have become cliched topics. The victims are getting younger and younger. The rape of infants, once a horror story limited to third-world countries and sick child pornographers, is becoming more and more commonplace. The sentences for child rape can range from one year to five to life in prison. All rape is heinous, but those involving prepubescent children should be especially repugnant in a civilized nation, and there should be long mandatory sentences in place to protect society from poor judicial discretion and the plague of repeat offenders.
I feel gratefully far removed from the abuses in my own youth, but connected to those who are experiencing the same now. I wish I could do more. I wish I could change the laws, right all the wrongs, and make every child safe. It’s an impossible task, but I’ll never stop talking about it, no matter how many people refuse to listen.
I feel relief knowing that, at least for now, a serial rapist who once affected my life is incarcerated.
I feel genuine joy for every child and woman left untouched by this crime. I feel blessed for knowing that there’s innocence left in this world.
I feel strong, and alive, and lucky.
I feel like I can tell now, so I do.