Saturday, January 26, 2008


(Because my mind and emotions are still sorting through this topic, I'm not going to edit this post. It's out there, raw, rambling, and real. I want to remember how I'm thinking and feeling right now.)

I don't understand, and yet, I do.

Pockets of evil thrive behind closed doors, or out in the air for all to see. Beatings, rape, incest-rape, the torture of the innocent, of children, sometimes by family members - the protectors!? - catatonic drunkenness and drug abuse, violence of all types, unspeakable terror, murder.

Children born and raised in unsafe environments learn to cope, and yet they are haunted, twitchy, nightmare-ridden, and sometimes imprisoned. How to survive such horror, is it possible to rise above? Truly?

I've lived a sheltered life. That's the first time I've ever said it because I've found it embarrassing.

I'm not embarrassed anymore. I'm on-my-knees grateful.

A book has been teaching me just how fortunate I've been. (Yes, Angela, it's that book. I'm not enough of a drinker to find anesthesia sufficient to narrow my widened eyes and soften the shock. But it's good I am encountering such as I am. Still braving each chapter, hoping to make it to the end. Thanks.)

Decades ago, a woman I know of was raped by a total stranger while walking home from the library. A nice lady who had a kind husband and sweet young children, a safe home. Wrong place. Wrong time. Her violation changed her, took years to battle in her heart and mind, bruised a large portion of her soul, and became her identity. "Raped." Nearly losing her husband, distancing herself from her children for far too long, it was the grace of God and her still strong belief in him that carried her through to other side. Grace for courage. Grace to deal. Grace to forgive. That last one was the stickler.

Not to diminish the stark invasion of her life - physically and mentally - she was raped once. One time. She had an incredible support system. She was lifted on gentle, nourishing, tender-loving wings. Yet recovery was excruciating. Understandably so. An experience like that should happen to no one, ever, at all.

Like a phantom, this brave woman hovers in my mind as I read about Vonnie who suffered innumerable flesh-tearing rapes from the time she was four when Grandpa 'needed' her. Eventually so did cousins, classmates, men she met in bars (Why repeatedly return to bars, I keep asking myself? This I don't get except that old habits die hard, or the benefit outweighs the trauma.), strangers in the dark, cops, boyfriends, brothers, and yes, dear old Dad. And I'm only halfway through the book.

Her mom, sisters, and cousins know this is going on. It happens to them, too! They don't talk about it much, they say it's just the way of men, no support, nor organized rebellion except to fight back like wildcats. But men are stronger - most of the time.

And so are parents who hurt little kids, tiny trusting beings whose salty tears mean nothing to the possessed adults who inflict things better left unspoken.

While suicide is high among the abused, somehow quite a few of the persecuted survive, even know beauty in their lives. The birth of children, kindness, honest-to-goodness love.

The processing of such profound evil, a systemic violence so all-emcompassing it's considered 'normal' to its victims and perpetrators, is an exercise in confusion and disorientation. There are no pigeon-holes in my mind fit for raw ugliness of this capacity. I hesitate to create a bright, clean cubicle for slimy, gruesome behavior, the likes of which I'd rather not know.

But I have to put it somewhere. Otherwise it'll rattle around infecting my thoughts indefinitely. It needs a place to settle, to become a reference point.

Or maybe it should never settle. Maybe it should keep me stirred up because when I realize the devastation such behavior causes I wince, I writhe in my soul, and I consider that any person has the capacity to, under certain conditions, commit horrendous evil. Even me. I don't know if there is a hierarchy of sin, if little white lies are lesser and sadistically violent crimes are at the top of the list. It certainly would seem so. But I know that the source for them all is the same. The human heart. The same heart capable of enormous compassion and beauty.

I don't understand, and yet, I do.


tshsmom said...

"I'm on-my-knees grateful." AMEN to that!

I don't think we've lived a sheltered life as much as we've lived a LOVED life.

I became immersed in the sordid side of life when I married into L's family. L had escaped this life and found me. The rest of his family were still wallowing in tragedy. We've managed to make a bit of headway with his family, especially with one nephew, but not much.

I'm always overwhelmed with helplessness when I encounter stories like you've described. I want to comfort every one of those victims.

We've done what we can, but it's never enough. 4 out of 6 of our daughter's best friends were raised in horrific conditions. We were there to hug, encourage, and go to bat for those kids. We even let one of them live with us for a time.

I think the best thing we did was to show these kids how a normal, loving family functions. Two of the girls applied this knowledge in raising their own children. The other 2 have disappeared from our lives. They have chosen to cower in the corner of abuse. :(

Cherie said...

Yes, you put it better, Tshs, a loved life. I'll never doubt it again.

You sound like us, helping the friends of kids and other acquaintances along the way. I've never encountered anything quite like this woman went through, though - and to know it was common to an extended family and beyond. Bothers me. I guess I should be upset if it didn't bother me so heavily.

Thanks for sharing your experiences. As always, it helps to hear from someone who understands. :)

Anonymous said...

What a powerful post Cherie. That last paragraph is a poignant wake-up call. "I wince, I writhe in my soul....But I know the source of them all is the same. The human heart. The same heart capable of enormous compassion and beauty." Eloquent, disturbing, challenging, thank you for this.

Cherie said...

You're welcome, Annie. I would add 'draining', too.