How It Feels To Know He Is Behind Bars

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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.

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24 comments

  1. I feel lucky to be connected, if even by a virtual thread, to a woman of such valiance and bravery.
    In life’s great tapestry, Jane, you’ve woven strength and durability with your own moral fiber, your willingness to advocate and truth-tell, your encouragement of others to do right.
    Thank you.

  2. I have missed hearing your voice. I don’t always comment because often I need time to process what you have said and an immediate comment is just not possible other than I was here and read your words.

    I am so saddened to read this. To know that this is the world that exists even when we are not thinking or reading about it. To realize that there are people who have suffered much and the scars remain.

    I don’t really have words. Just many feelings but…

    I was here and read your words.

  3. Jane,
    I am thankful you feel strong, alive and lucky. I am thankful that you shared your feelings of guilt, anger and hopelessness. I am thankful that you are far removed from the abuse, grateful and relieved . I am thankful that I can relate to your story and that I share those feelings, in fact I am thankful to have any feelings at all.
    Never stop talking about it Jane. This horrible sad reality thrives in the quiet.
    Peace and love

  4. oh Jane, my heart is hurting. Yes, like many I am aware and horrified by this unfathomable act perpetuated with such frequency, but putting a face on it is worse.
    Your ability and courage to speak the unspeakable, and write of the dark corners amazes. I feel blessed to have found your voice.

  5. Well said.
    Bravely shared.
    Keep speaking out.
    And maybe giving others the courage to do so as well.
    You are brilliant at shining the light into dark corners.
    It’s the only way to foster change.
    Thank you.

  6. i have been on many sides of this….as an child victim of molestation, the daughter of a prison guard who herself was attacked and held hostage behind the walls of a penitentiary, and as a counselor to perpetrators. the later being the most difficult, heart wrenching thing i’ve ever done. i had moved to Vegas to open a teen center when an juvenile parole officer came to me. he said he had a small group of young men that were in desperate need of a group and no one would have them. their personal stories were beyond horrific and these young men vacillated between sick thoughts and the most intense self loathing you can imagine. you are correct, Jane…most are victims of abuse themselves in which the system only offers them more violence. others are pathological and also require special handling. but the truth is, no one wants to deal with them so they all get bunched together. you know why prison sentences are so small? they cause such strain on the system because they are separated from the gen population otherwise it would be like a death sentence. i say like, because they are tortured mostly and again, cause a great strain to the medical system. (it’s all about the tax dollar, you see)

    what is most disheartening is this country will throw gazillions of dollars at the financial system so the latest billionaire CEO can go through with his $87,000 office remodel…..where is the accountability?

    why are children so disposable?

  7. I used to run a treatment program for adolescent sexual offenders in a federal juvenile prison. Good news, run properly and adequately, such programs can actually work.

    While the “cure” rate for adult pedophiles is the same tiny fraction as the margin of error for any study, if those same people are identified and given proper long-term treatment in adolescence, the majority can actually be stopped from offending further.

    Bad news is that the program I ran no longer exists and funding for such programs is next to nil. Many of the few programs that do still exist that are supposed to treat young sexual offenders are staffed by people without adequate training and are too short to do any good. Some of these may only succeed in creating more skilled adult perpetrators.

    The public, law enforcement, judges, and, sadly, the majority of my colleagues in the mental health profession are woefully uneducated about adolescent sexual offenders. It takes a lot of skill and training to properly identify and treat those young people who are simply “experimenting” without healthy guidance, those who are acting out their own abuse on others, those who are well on the road to forming the patterns of adult rapists or pedophiles, the tiny percentage that are true sociopaths, etc…

    Do we really want to wait until adult pedophiles have 100-1000 victims (what some studies say is the average when finally caught) before we try to address their problems and the hideous carnage they leave in their wakes?

  8. Such a powerful post. I want to reach back in time and protect you from that guy. When I think of the possibility of my 14-year-old daughter experiencing something like that, my eyes start to roll back into my head and I fully understand how normal, mild-mannered people could easily be capable of murder. Some of the sentences meted out to child rapists are outrageous. Thank you for speaking out.

  9. Jane, your love for kids has always impressed me, and everytime you write of your young experiences, I am reminded of why you are so passionate about protecting them. I also think that some strength that was always in you turned to writing as a way to fight, and if words alone could win the war on abuse, you’d win.

    I’m also thrilled to know he’s behind bars!

  10. Powerful. And I feel sad about your experience. I had no idea that the sentences could be so lax for such crimes. Why do you think there is such a wide range of sentences? Do you think society as a whole looks away from this more so than other crimes? You can get a longer mandatory sentence because something is considered a hate crime.

  11. Oh man … that was very intense, very visceral, unspeakable … yet spoken. Leaves me without words for what you experienced, but equally happy the perp is behind bars.

    I hope he rots there.

    D~

  12. I am glad he is there, Jane, I believe he is a scociopath. I hope he has been there a long long time, and will stay there. You are doing your part by telling your story and encouraging others to tell theirs.

  13. TFraser – I know what you mean about being thankful to have feelings. It’s a long road from numb. Thank you.
    Doris – Seeing pictures of the perpetrators makes the news stories more real, for sure. For me, seeing his prison pic didn’t evoke much but a sense of satisfaction.
    SusanS – I don’t know that I could give anyone courage, but I’d like to think so!
    Kris – there was recently a $1M remodel, and my thoughts were almost exactly like yours. What a waste.
    Little Sun – I wish we could take a vote on your last question, because to hear our lawmakers tell it the answer is yes.
    Danny – those light sentences never cease to enrage me. In 1970′s Nevada, one man got five years for raping and then chopping the arms off a teenager. I’ve been mad ever since.
    Barb – thank you.
    Neil – plea deals and poor judicial discretion both play a role. I would like to abolish the plea deal system, but it will never happen because it saves states a lot of money.
    Donna – me too!
    Ann – I agree, he is a sociopath. I wonder how many victims he had in a 30+ year history of sexual violence.
    Kate C – Way too many children are in the same position now. It breaks my heart.

  14. When I was a news journalist, I covered pardon and parole hearings at the state’s maximum security prison. I’d be given copies of the prisoner’s files to read as prep and to reference during the hearings.

    I was stunned not only by the crimes that put these men in prison but by the way their lives of crime, assaults, and hatred continued behind bars. The victims were permitted to address the pardon and parole board too, and it was wrenching to hear their stories, share their pain.

  15. Thank you, Dana.

    V, it seems to me that prison has never been a deterrent for those prone to violence, and unfortunately what limited rehab programs there are largely fail once an inmate is on the outside. It’s a frustrating situation, and I can’t imagine being one of the victims at those parole hearings.

  16. Jane – thank you for speaking out and having a voice for us. I wish too that I had been more brave (and my family as well) to speak out about being raped. But you are right – it was a different time and the self-protection was a much needed cloak. I, like you, won’t be quiet any longer. And, I am so glad you are here….safe…to tell your stories. All of them.

  17. I was fondled repeatedly by a cousin for a number of years when I was about 7 to 11. They lived in Colorado and I hated it if they would fly in and we would have to pick them up. He would put his hands in my pants and mine in his as soon as we were in the back seat of the car. He would sleep in the livingroom floor and we couldn’t even watch cartoons without him trying to touch me. I have never publicly talked about this, but you gave me the courage to do so. I told my mom years later and am still not sure if she believed me. I know he is still a creepy man as an adult and I hope I never see him again. I hope he never touched any other children in his lifetime—

  18. Jane… I’m so sorry. For any child to be robbed of their innocence is horrific. When I first started volunteering at a shelter for battered women & abused children something stuck in my mind as being unbelievable. It’s a story about a little girl named Mary Ellen Wilson. Physically, & emotionally tortured and held captive inside a little apartment for years. What is additionally horrific about this story is how a missionary woman by the name Etta Wheeler & the President of the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to ANIMALS (ASPCA) had to speak out on her behalf. Here’s a link to the story of Mary Ellen if you are interested: http://www.americanhumane.org/about-us/who-we-are/history/mary-ellen.html and the account of what happened by her rescuer:
    http://www.americanhumane.org/about-us/who-we-are/history/etta-wheeler-account.html

    It just blows me away that there was first a group to protect animals before children. It additionally blows me away to see crimes of finance punished at greater lengths than crimes of violence. Every time I think about Martha Stewart going to jail when so many rapists & child abusers are set free it just makes me sick. I honestly don’t care if she did it or not. My point is that how can we call it a “Justice System” when the punishment for crimes is not balanced at all.

    It’s really late as I write this but I guess what I really want to say is, if you feel “called, moved, or driven to” (sorry I know you hate the cliches) to do something for these kids I really think you should! Who better than you to speak on their behalf? Actually we should all speak on their behalf!

    Julia
    p.s. I agree with you totally about BRAVO to that amazing little person that was able to speak their truth and put that guy in jail. Now that they have him perhaps they will be able to keep him there! Have you thought about contacting the parole board?

  19. I don’t know what the protocol is here in regards to commenting on another response, but I can’t keep this to myself.

    Anne, you said yourself the person who abused you is a ‘creepy man’, he was never punished for what he did to you; why would he have stopped? The chance that you were his only victim is slim to none. The chance that he is still handing out his own little form of recreation on other little girls is very great.

    These monsters don’t stop on their own. They seldom stop even after being caught and incarcerated. Removing them from society permanently, is the only way currently available to prevent others from suffering at a monsters hands.

    Also the boy who was bold enough to touch you right under the nose of those who should have been protecting you, tells me he has probably moved on to bigger and more heinous acts as he matured.

    ““““““““““““““““““““““`

    As a child who’s family was rocked by a sexual predator, I am all too aware of the damage these monsters wreck and the lax laws that allow them to strike again and again and again.

    My sister was molested repeatedly for three years between the ages 6 and 9. The perpetrator, a repeat offender, was given 12 months in a state hospital. My sister and many others like her were handed a life sentence.

    The only way to stop this form of child abuse is to remove the offender from society. Permanently. First offense, no second chances.

  20. There’s no protocol, Cathy. Welcome to the site. I agree with you about light sentences. I just read a case where a man received five years for raping and impregnating his 10 year old stepdaughter. Another case where a mother pleaded with authorities not to sentence the boyfriend for beating her two year-old because she needed him. I don’t think society will ever accept life-no-parole for every first time offender, but I do think they would accept a better monitoring system for those who have been released. I would also like to see a law that makes it illegal without special court dispensation for a sex offender to live with children. If we had such a law, things like this may not happen as frequently:

    http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/met…ing_death.html

  21. I have to say that it just amazes me that crimes that involve embezzlement and money are given such hefty sentences but crimes against children are not equally sentenced. But then children don’t vote so?? I had a sociology professor one time that said something along the lines of when a child gets a vote then maybe things might begin to change. That didn’t sound very hopeful to me. As adults I think it is our duty to speak up when we see or hear of a child that needs protection. I truly believe it’s going to mainly be up to the mothers and women in our country to make this happen.

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