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Hanging frames around shame, neglect, and more..

Friday, June 20, 2014

Justice is a question

Our sense of justice is that the appropriate punishment for an act of injustice should be that all aspects of life are slightly or severely hindered. In other words punishment is for the perpetrator to be controlled by others, to lose autonomy. If you tend to lose control and hurt someone within a particular dynamic and you find yourself within that dynamic regularly, how much control-as-punishment should be exerted over you entirely? If you find yourself in that dynamic only once, again, how much punishment do you deserve?

One time as a child around the age of 8 I found myself alone in the house with my twin brother. I thought it would be a good idea to grab some change, hop on my bike, and purchase some penny candy at the drugstore just down the road. My twin imagined the potential punishment if we were to get caught and declined to come with me. Still desiring some candy he handed over his change without hesitation. I biked to the drugstore without a hiccup in the operation. Tootsie rolls were my decided purchase and I bought as many as my pennies would allow. To get home I had to cross back over the street before heading home.

As I waited for the crosswalk light to change I watched terrified as my father pulled up in his vehicle and stopped at the red light. I met his intense, cool, emotionally suspended gaze - and pedaled home quickly. Not a rushed pace but a steady, resigned pace. I was able to get home before my father so I threw my bike down on the grass (I don't know what became of the candy) and ran up the stairs to my bedroom. My father soon entered the room with a similar steady, resigned pace to match my pedaling. For a moment I thought I detected a smile inch up the right side of his face. No. It was more of a pinched straight line. Without any words he whipped off his leather belt in routine fashion and began hitting me over and over the back side.

I don't care to go into more detail at this point. The terror that I felt then pervaded into every active and passive aspect of my life. My punishment for risking my safety by going out alone without a guardian was to be beaten by my guardian. It was a normal aspect of life to be healing from red welts on my back and backside. Taking this line of thought further, I was simultaneously and routinely punished in a different way. My punishment for being a small and impressionable little girl was to be raped and molested by a much older, stronger, and manipulative sibling.

What had I done to have my autonomy robbed from me? Why was justice being dealt so harshly to a 5 year old? A 6 year old? A 7 year old? An 8 year old? Why were all aspects of my life hindered so severely? As a child I wondered what I had done to deserve this life but looking back I know better. I deserved none of it. The tragedy is I have to wake up every single day and remind myself that I didn't deserve what I was dealt.

So what sort of justice should my father endure for his hands-on way of teaching me a lesson? What should my sexual abuser face for the injustice I endured at his hands. What kind of control should be exerted over them, robbing them of free will over their time and daily activity?

My sexual abuser has passed on. He is dead now. He died at 30. Is this justice?

My father lives in a big house, drinks alcohol in ample amounts, attends church daily. Is this justice?

Should something be done?

I spent a decade of my life attempting to rehabilitate my abusers by explaining how they hurt me, how I did not deserve that pain, how it did permanent damage to my psyche. I asked them to sit down and talk to me and to listen to me. See that's what I think justice should be within my personal circumstances. My abusers should have to pause their existence and devote their precious time to listen to me until they are changed by what they hear. This is not a type of justice you can force. My father has shown time and again that he will not show me justice. There is no hope of that from my sexual abuser now.

In the absence of justice I have offered myself space away from abuse and abusers. I speak up now when I feel my control is being taken in a way that brings me harm. It will always hurt that justice was never served - that I was not heard in a way that changed my abusers into safer and better people.

I can't focus for too long on their refusal or the impossibility to bring about justice. I have my own listening to do for those that I have hurt and bring harm to. So I move forward. Still, it is important that people know it will always hurt. Never receiving justice will always hurt.

1 comment:

  1. So eloquently written, Mary. You put me there, therefore you helped me to see the issue through your pain. Justice is a forceful word to use in this context. It makes me think about what it would take to balance the scales in such a harsh, unbalanced assault upon such a vulnerable victim. I will think about this for a long time. So thankful you shared it.