As I begin to find my foundation, I have truly embraced the journey of life and become thankful for every part of my path. Occasionally, though, something stops me in my tracks and makes me ask if there is something fundamentally wrong with my thinking. That's when it helps to write through my thoughts and sort them out so I can look at them.
So, clearly, I had one of those "stopped in my tracks" moments recently when I was signed on to Facebook and saw that one of my friends had posted a link to a list of sex offenders in her county. The local sheriff's office had posted the names, addresses and pictures of registered sex offenders in the county. There were a few comments that made it clear that people felt safer knowing who the sex offenders were who lived around them.
Those who know I was molested as a child probably could reasonably think I think it's a great idea to expose all those "perverts." I suspect a few people might be aghast that I actually cringe at the notion of shaming people in this way. But it's not my job to think for anyone else. I'm just trying to think for myself.
As I looked through the names and faces, I saw men and women, old and young. Some of them even looked like the "typical" sex offender, if there is such a thing. But a few of them looked like exactly what they were before they got a big red label pasted across their foreheads that said "SEX OFFENDER." They looked like local grocery store clerks, fast food and factory workers, business professionals and teachers.
My sexual behavior, which was at one point outrageous by any definition, was a part of who I was. For a long time, I let the shame of that behavior and the shame of my past define all of who I was. I think differently now. I know that it is only by God's grace that I am not on a list of sexual offenders in my county -- not because I ever got anywhere close to a child (even the thought of that repulses me) but because in my county if a person gets caught engaging in public sexual activity then you go on the sex offender registry. I never got caught, but I certainly engaged. That's not something I'm proud of, it's just a fact. In a world where sex is the drug of choice, parked cars often become the "party room."
So, as I think of this fact -- I never got caught. My stepfather never got caught. There are people recovering from sexual addiction around the globe who have never been caught committing a crime. Then there are those 37 people on that Facebook page who did get caught. For every one of them, with terms after their names like carnal abuse, sexual assault, rape, solicitation, there are dozens more who are using sex in dangerous, inappropriate ways that never got caught, whose names will never be smeared, whose families will never feel the burning shame of their "outing." But these people, like me, like my stepfather, like the fathers and mothers and uncles and neighbors and teachers of so many of my friends and loved ones, have horribly hurt other people. Had we made it to those registries, we would have been looked at with total disgust too, because no one would understand or care that we were more than sex offenders.
I've been thinking of my stepfather recently. He was more than my abuser, more than the sum of all his horrible attributes. He was creative and talented in his vocation and avocations. Given the chance at an education, he could have been a very successful designer and engineer. Before my sex addiction took over my life, I was a glowing professional, filled with confidence and ability. It's taken me a long time to reclaim the parts of myself that are still useful. Embracing them is still difficult.
Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating that we should let people free because there are far more sex offenders than will ever be caught. In fact, I don't think I'm advocating anything. I am just typing out loud, trying to sort through these feelings of sadness and confusion about the people whose names and faces I saw on that Facebook page, and show up in one too many I Phone apps for sex offender registries.
At times when I've considered future career options, I've thought of pursuing a career that would allow me to help women who have survived incest. It took me only a very short time to realize that it is not the victim we should focus on helping. Once the abuse, the incest, the violation -- whether covert or overt occurs -- it is too late. The damage that will take years and years to overcome has been done. It is the fear of what will happen as a result, just how fucked up one will become as a result of what has happened that is the worst damage of all. But what if more was done to help those "would be" sexual offenders to begin to live lives they could be proud of, lives of self-awareness that prevented them from making that first move to ruin the lives of others? I don't know what help -- other than therapy -- there might be, but I know there must be something more helpful than this horrible shame.
3 months ago