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Much of our focus and derision rests upon the violence inflicted by adults against children. That is easy enough to condemn, to call for blood, to clamor for justice. In that situation, there is no question about fault, no confusion about who is victim and who is predator. Our discourse uses loaded language in this instance to emphasize a terrible, damning point. The words we use blast away at injustice in the hopes of reaching eventual fairness. Fairness is a worthwhile concept, but in particular circumstances, fault is difficult to discern.

If a child knows only violence, violence is often the byproduct. The shame, anger, and humiliation internalized has to go somewhere, even if it rarely goes anywhere productive. As a society we are hesitant to prosecute children as we would adults except for the most heinous of offenses. We give them the benefit of the doubt, for a while at least. Juveniles may never serve a single day in jail, but they may experience the indignity of being separated from their families. Leaving a toxic atmosphere might be good for the short term, but the behaviors already learned do not subside easily. Reversing what has taken hold already is the really hard work, and it can be intensely difficult.  

A few weeks ago, the notorious R&B singer Chris Brown shared in an interview that he had lost his virginity at age 8. Subsequent commentators have correctly deduced that if his story is to be believed, Brown was, in fact, raped by a woman twice his age. He views it with a kind of macho pride, one more notch in his belt of sexual conquests. Although most perpetrators of sexual abuse are men, women can commit similar crimes. Boys can be molested by their mothers, or, as is the case here, by women substantially older than them. The stories of male K-12 educators who engage in sexual conduct with their underage female students are commonplace enough. From time to time, one finds a woman guilty of the same offense.

Although many cases of sexual assault are relatively open and shut, crimes committed by minors against minors are harder to prosecute. Adults should know better, we reckon, but by that logic the same cannot be said for children. Even hardened criminals often have a soft spot in their hearts for children. We would like to believe, as a society, that the possibility for reform exists for those who have not yet been corrupted. By implication, adults have fully formed ideas of right and wrong, whereas children do not. At least that is what we think and rationalize.

I am not a violent person. As an adult, physical violence runs contrary to my definition of morality and to my religious convictions. But, for a couple of years during childhood, I became a major behavior problem. I lashed out at whomever got in my way, with force and with conduct that intended to wound. In time, other boys knew to keep their distance, but what I really regret is the way I treated my sister. All siblings fight, but my conduct towards her was especially vicious. Neither of my parents knew what to do, so I received a daily dose of Dad's leather belt. It never stopped me.

I was exhibiting multiple warning signs of sexual abuse, but my parents missed them entirely. They couldn't understand why my behavior was now so contrary to my usually peaceful, shy disposition. It is fortunate for everyone involved that this period of time was relatively short in duration. At most, it persisted for two years, after which time my family moved away from the source, which had been four houses away. But, nevertheless, the damage had been done. The two of us have been dealing with the consequences ever since.

If my family life had been dysfunctional from the start and if I had no access to help, who knows where I might be today. We may have the ability to make personal choices in our lives, but none of us picks our parents, nor the environment into which we are born. What happened to me was tragedy more than criminal act. My sister has chosen to forgive me of her own volition and without anyone's insistence, for which I am greatly appreciative. I never again raised a hand against her, because I felt no need. I was no longer being abused. But the memory of this painful interlude rarely leaves my thoughts for long. The two of us will share it for the rest of our lives.    

Originally posted to cabaretic on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 07:39 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you for a very insightful diary. (12+ / 0-)

    The right of the women of this State to be secure in their persons against unreasonable searches shall not be violated by the State legislature.

    by Mayfly on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 08:02:44 AM PST

  •  Blessings to you and your sister for peace (10+ / 0-)

    You've very beautifully stated something incredibly difficult to voice.  May having seen and voiced it help you find freedom.  What you've written may inspire others to their own brave, self-discovery and and healing.  

    There are pieces of my childhood for which it took me decades to come to clear understanding of what took place.  It's been more difficult to quiet the pain which still smolders from those earlier fires, even for the insight.  I struggle with the anxiety and frustration they brought about and I have to constantly strive to find peace through that.

    "The plan is to allow those things that had been proposed over many years to reform a health-care system in America that certainly does need more help..." ~Sarah Palin

    by MsGrin on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 08:28:32 AM PST

  •  Thank you for sharing something so very hard to (5+ / 0-)

    talk about. May you and your sister have continued peace of mind and forgiveness for each other. May others find solace knowing they are not walking the road alone, we are to your side, in front and behind to help support in the road to recovery. Self inflicted pain can be the hardest to overcome, sometimes it is easier to forgive others than to forgive ourselves. Your sister has forgiven you, you should follow her lead and forgive yourself.
    Just my opinion...
    Peace and Blessings!

    United we the people stand, divided we the people fall.

    by Penny GC on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 08:47:48 AM PST

  •  What a beautifully written, powerful (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    diary which offered us a glimpse into a part of your life which is still so obviously capable of causing you emotional pain.  You are a brave soul.

    I can only echo Penny GC above:

    Your sister has forgiven you, you should follow her lead and forgive yourself.
    May you find peace before too many more moons pass you by.

    Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

    by Ellen Columbo on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 08:01:52 PM PST

  •  Thanks, well-written (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I especially like the use of the term "violence" in the title.  I have fought for years with colleagues in the child welfare system who use the terms "child abuse" and "sexual abuse."  I do not like them because to me it appears to imply there is a proper way to commit violence or sexual contact with children.  Calling it "physical assault" and "sexual assault" is accurate - the other term is a whitewash of it.  

    People in your situation most likely never had any contact with any of us (child welfare investigators) especially if you are or grew up middle class and above.  Primarily our function is policing the poor, though, theoretically, we have power to investigate all families.  However we of necessity tread lightly when dealing with people with access to lawyers and money.  I once investigated one case of a wealthy family in a small high income town where the allegations were sketchy but accepted for investigation because the offender was a stay at home twentyish hipster uncle of six year old twin girls.  The three generations lived in a decaying mansion that could have been out of "Dark Shadows".  In the neighboring big diverse city sometimes I'd see the same cops on two different cases twice a week - but here, the enclave's police assigned a veteran officer who never before had done a child welfare investigation, but he remembered the family from working security for the Mom's high school graduation party.   The case was unsubstantiated but if the alleged offender hadn't had a high powered lawyer, I wonder how a similar case against a low income family would have gone.  Probably with someone browbeating the twins to make an outcry.  Because the  stakes are so high, few do.  

    Thanks again.  I appreciate the insight you've shown.  

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

    by Kangaroo on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 10:24:46 AM PST

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