It seems always that the stories make the meaning for me. Facts, numbers, logic, statistics they all matter. They all make sense. I value them. But it’s the story that gets me, hooks me, stays and gives the numbers flavor, effects.
Since I was abused as a child, and since I have always been fiercely protective of others, I had a really hard time lending dignity, grace, or love to persons who abused others (as though those qualities are mine to give). I did what many do, I relegated “abusers” to the “other” category. There were people, and monsters. There were sinners, and those people. And never the twain shall meet. I wasn’t ready to engage the idea that evil could be an attribute inside of a person, rather than the sole attribute they embodied.
Could I see the person inside an abuser? Could I value them?
No. Not as long as they were a they, dog-tagged like soliders known only by rank: ABUSERS.
As tragedy would have it, I got my story-to-change-my-mind when I was in high school.
There was once a boy born to young, drug-addicted parents. His parents had themselves not been very well parented, and one may perhaps see where these things usually lead. The boy has an artist’s eye and a sensitive heart, neither of which were nurtured. He had siblings and cousins and friends and family who loved him, but often from a place that was not enough for what a child needs. They boy had no stability and little control. He bounced around caregivers. He made poor decisions. He ran away. He expressed the accessible parts of himself because he was just a child, and what else was he to do? Whether because of his physical health issues, his family of origin, or the chaos continually going on around him, the beautiful boy in the broken world lost his lustre for life, and followed the pattern set before him.
At 17 years old, the boy did a horrific thing. He hurt someone else. A stranger. A life whose path had no connection with his own was forever altered when the boy used his strength and desire to abuse, violate, penetrate the will of another. He was given a prison sentence meant for an adult, but he was 17.
To me, he was still that beautiful boy. A boy I grew up with. A boy I love. A boy who never stood a fucking chance.
The boy is now a man who has spent nearly half his life in prison. Though we were born in similar situations, in similar places, sharing blood and childhood moments, we have very different lives. But he is still mine, because though blood links may be shunned or ignored, they do not expire. In this case, I would never want them to.
Sometimes I pause and consider: What if I met her? The one whose life was forever changed by his night of selfishness, lust, aggression? Could I look her in the eyes? Could I love her and love the one who caused her such pain? Because him I cannot, and would not ever choose to, abandon.
It is his story that first and constantly reminds me that no amount of beauty in a heart keeps it from being capable of great evil. It is his story that causes my desire to intervene early and often for children in at-risk situations. It is his story that I think of when I encounter stories like hers.
There was once a girl with a attitude like caustic fire. The younger sister of the beautiful boy, her style of adaptation was every fight he did not have. With little sense and no fear, she stormed through life, as gentleness is trait reserved for those given far more resources than those afforded to her. Her story is far less familiar, her heart far more upsetting to mine. But when she grew up and found herself held captive by her partner, it was only me close enough to come get her from he police to whom she was eventually able to flee. It was only me, the heart-distant cousin, with a desire to love but little affection to give, who took her to a SANE exam. And it was her, in those moments -turned-days-turned-excruciating-weeks of clarity that our “justice” system would give her no heed, it was her that reminded me of the desire to hurt those who hurt the ones I love.
In music, there are these markers called “repeats.” They signify that at the end of a piece of music, the musician is to return to the beginning of section and replay. It looks like this:
But there are all these signifies to tell the musician how, when, and why to repeat. Things that (always in latin) say “do it the first time, but not again” or “do this only at then end” or, in a move that I find very efficient “repeat this part, but at the end, change to this one.” Because without that signifies the song would be on loop around just this section of music. Like musical pong. Back and forth. Back and forth. Again, again, always again. The musician needs those markers or the song will have no end.
Patterns of abuse, neglect, and violence are like this. They have built-in repeats. Survivors do not just get better. Children do not just learn their own way. Abusers do not turn over new leaves. At least not without the symbols, signs, or interventions to get them off the pattern of repeat. The song of our lives is a song without end. Our children see, and grow into, the spaces provided them. The exceptions of those who rise above of their own accord (which, i believe, may always be attributed in part to some intervention) are just that: EXCEPTIONS.
So, I’m thinking about what it means to love abusers. I’m thinking I want this song to end. I want a new song, a better one. I want a endless cannon of new songs sung on voices of delight and innocence and forgiveness. Because, how can I love my cousin, an aggressor, a convict,
and hold only aggression and anger toward the nameless, faceless perpetrators of violence I’ve never met?
I can’t. It’s incongruent. My heart won’t let me anymore.
Maybe they each grew up beautiful l boys and storm-hearted girls with no chance. Maybe loving them, (the specifics of which I hope to write about soon) is the only chance for the next round of boys and girls in the world.