TRIGGER WARNING: SEX CRIME.
I’ve been asking myself this since November when I heard that someone who was in my wedding party, who was part of my circle of good friends was hauled up in court and found guilty of 18 counts of sex attacks on children. Yesterday both him and his partner were sentenced to decades in jail and that’s all I can really think to say about that.
I am slightly embarrassed to admit that my first thought on hearing of the sentencing hearing back in November was one of utter disbelief and at least partial denial. Not to excuse him or to say that these traits would automatically render one incapable of such things but this was someone who I had known to be a hard worker, someone who behaved appropriately at whatever party and outing we all attended (including his own wedding which I attended with my now husband. That relationship ended a while back mind you) and was, by all accounts a doting dad to his own kids and a reliable friend to us.
While I felt little doubt that there was fire behind this smoke back in November I could not understand how this person, this ‘normal’ person had come to a point in his life where everything could be thrown away, a life sacrificed for a few moments of pleasure. His pleasure. I think, at that point I was somewhat numb to the reality of the victims and was busy trying to re-calibrate my own ‘safe’ radar. To look for lessons so that I might keep my own children safe, to tell them something comforting, that not all adults (this was a crime committed by my friend, a male and his girlfriend – someone who I’ve not met) have unsavoury intensions. But how can you say that truthfully when someone you classed as one of your former close friends, someone in your circle of trust does this?
Granted both myself and my husband have had little to do with him in the 13 years we have lived here other than what we see and ‘like’ or comment on on Facebook. We had stopped by at his work on our trips back to England every two years and tried to catch up as best we could, feeling that we were indeed keeping in touch with and keeping alive a friendship that was as it was when we left.
But it is likely we only saw what we wanted to see or what we were shown – after all not many people advertise this sort of activity on Facebook…….
I feel sick about what has happened, sick and confused.
I pause, hold my head in my hands and breathe.
I know that this is not about me and how I feel, that I’m the least affected by this. That somewhere out there sit many girls whose lives have been re-scripted in the most terrible way. I know that there are family members including children who have to carry this. There are co-workers and community much closer than me and us here over the other side of the world. At the end of the day I’m just someone who knows of someone who is now in prison for sex offences of the type we all fear most.
I wanted to write this, to write something to say something about the confusion of finding this out in the hope that it touches someone who knows someone who is in the same position. Sex crimes, especially those against our most vulnerable including children are unimaginably horrible. Nobody wants to think of ‘that’ type of person living in their community, preying on their children, loitering in their public spaces and making them feel unsafe. I totally and utterly feel the same but now I know one, have trusted one, liked one and spent time with one.
That a man who was once a friend of mine is now in jail as a sex offender.
For what ever reason he has chosen to make a series of terrible, disgraceful, un-excusable and degrading choices that have ruined the lives of too many people to count. I do not in any way condone that, we always have a choice in how to respond and the man I knew had the capacity to choose differently.
My point is that this person wasn’t born a monster or an outcast he has become one (at least in the eyes of society).
Maybe anyone can face the choices that my friend faced, maybe anyone can choose this? That potential truth is what I take from this and that is what I’ll teach my children. That we are all capable of making unspeakably horrible, seemingly evil choices and that we must always be alert to that potential.
My heart goes out to the victims of these crimes. I am and always was just a sideshow.