Saturday, January 25, 2014

I am a Fighter!

I was married to a pedophile and did not know it until the diagnosis was made after his arrest for possession of child pornography.  But early in our marriage, the clues were there; I just didn't know enough about pedophilia to see it and he was so very good at providing explanations for his behavior that made sense.  The old adage "hindsight is 20/20" is so true.

Some people assume that wives of pedophiles always know and that we are somehow complicit in our spouse's criminal behavior.  Some even go so far as to insist that we should be prosecuted for our spouses' crimes.  We are seen as weak women who are co-dependent on our perpetrator spouses and it is assumed that we look the other way while a child's innocence is robbed and their lives forever altered.

Very shortly after our honeymoon, my husband introduced me to a child who lived with her mother in the island
community we had moved to just after our wedding.  She was 8 and he wanted her to spend time with us--lots of time.  It was confusing to me and I didn't understand why this was so important to him.  We were newlyweds and I wanted to spend time alone with him, so I objected.

Three years later we were living in a rural area of the United States when I walked into a room where he and a friend's child were.  Immediately, I knew something was wrong--very, very wrong.  Nothing looked out of the ordinary, but everything inside of me screamed DANGER!  I invited the child to join me in my dinner preparations and waited until we were alone to confront my husband

Nothing, absolutely nothing I had ever experienced in my life, believed or knew about the man I was married to, or expected to hear could have prepared me for the words that I heard him say.  He admitted to molesting both the friend's child as well as the island child.  Like his child victims, my world tilted and spun and was never the same.

For a very long time, I have been so afraid to share my entire story because I feared the judgment sure to come.  After my husband's confession, I chose to stay in my marriage for several reasons:  his explanations made so much sense, his remorse seemed genuine and I was pregnant with our first child.  But I made a solemn vow to myself--that I would stand watch and do everything that I could to make sure that no other child was harmed in any way by the man I was married to.

The shame that has silenced me for many decades is that I didn't call law enforcement and report the abuse and in that way, I didn't stand up for the victims.  I understand why I didn't--I was afraid, shocked and he seemed genuinely repentant.  Plus, I had another child to be concerned about--my own.  And realistically, there is no guarantee the police would have been able to do anything about the crimes.  One occurred in another country and I had no proof that either crime actually occurred.  This was over three decades ago and police departments were not prepared to deal with victims as they now are; there wasn't the public awareness on child sexual abuse that we now have.

But the reality is that I did stand up for the victims.  To say that I "objected" to his "friendship" with the island child is a huge understatement.  It was the issue we fought about the most during those early months of our marriage.  I did not gently acquiesce to his insistence on spending time with her--I fought it vigorously.  And I continued to fight when he shamed and blamed me and tried to coerce me into silence.  I did not give up; I did not stop.

And three years later when I walked into that room where he was with a friend's child, how did I know something was off?  Why did I confront him?  Why did I get the child away from him?  Because in my gut, I knew but didn't know what it was that I knew.  I knew and I didn't turn or walk away.  I stayed in that arena and fought like a lion, like a mama bear.  I was tenacious and didn't give up.  I did fight for his victims and I fought valiantly and for a very long time.

So it is time to reframe my story--to lay down shame and see the reality of what happened.  It is time I tell myself the truth about what I did rather than cower in fear and shame over what I did not do.  I did not bury my head in the sand of his lies and deceit.  I was not complicit in anyway but instead I fought hard to protect his victims.  I fought with everything I had and then some.  I am a formidable fighter and he quickly learned that.

Every time we had a conflict during our marriage, he berated me or blamed me because he said he was afraid of how I fought.  For damn sure!  He had reason to be afraid and it's good that he never forgot it.  Because I am a fighter and a victim's rights advocate--I truly am and always have been.

So the next time you are tempted to judge a woman married to a pedophile, remember that you do not know what goes on behind closed doors.  Remember that if she knows what he is doing, and that is a huge "if" because pedophiles are such good manipulators and deceivers, she may be fighting, just not in the way you want her to.  And she may be doing all that is within her power to protect children while she works to get herself free.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Remorse, Repentance and Recovery

Three videos and a blog have been meaningful to me this week and have provoked some thought on what it means to be in recovery from a sexual compulsion or addiction.  As the former spouse of a pedophile who, for all intents and purposes is not in recovery, this is an issue close to my heart.  Unlike substance abuse and addiction, a sexual compulsion or addiction is easy to hide and pedophiles as well as other addicts become quite skilled at hiding their disease.  The risk to innocent children is too great if we are wrong when we determine that an individual has fully repented or been "rehabilitated."

The first video is a movie on recovery for sex addicts, particularly from a 12-Step perspective.  Thanks for Sharing depicts the lives of three men and their significant others as they struggle to remain "sober" and to fully recover from the damaging effects of an out-of-control sexuality.  Pedophilia is not depicted in this film, but rather addiction to adult pornography, excessive masturbation and of course sexual acting out.  The 12-Step fellowship provides a more functional "family" for the addict as well as support, accountability and tools to use in combating the addiction.  Additionally, participants are encouraged to own and feel their emotions rather than numbing them by their "drug" of choice.

I have personally participated in a 12-Step "Anon" group for family members of sex addicts.  The fellowship and camaraderie of my group has been an anchor for me during the storms of the past months of recovery.  So, I resonated deeply with the depiction of love and support among the group members who learn to share their struggles and victories honestly and receive compassion, acceptance and encouragement as a result.

The second video that has stoked a fire in my core is a short film a church in Alabama created to feature the "apology" and "repentance" of a church member convicted of sexually abusing a child.  The video features a pretty, blond-haired young woman sitting on a park bench, smiling broadly as she repeats the apology that she had just presented to the judge in her criminal case moments before.  She uses all the right words, however, her affect seems to betray her--she seems way too happy for an individual who has just been sentenced for child sexual abuse crimes.  And she glosses over the more painful parts of the story.  For an excellent analysis of her "show" from a former prosecutor of child sex abuse crimes, see Boz's Rhymes with Religion blog.

The third video is one that has gone viral.  It features a young woman confronting her former teacher about her sexual abuse.  I have listened to the conversation several times and I am impressed that the former teacher is quiet, somber, and readily admits that she committed a criminal act.  She does not try to whitewash her actions or hide behind carefully crafted words or phrases intended to minimize the horror of her actions and their impact on the victim.  She appears to be horrified at what she did to her victim and at a loss for why she acted the way she did.

Remorse is easy to fabricate and addicts are quite adept at appearing "repentant" when they need to.  But true recovery is harder to identify.  All we can go on is their behavior over time so we need to allow the recovering addict a lot of time to demonstrate consistency and steadfastness in their recovery before we highlight them from our pulpit or from a video screen. Individuals who are really recovering will demonstrate these characteristics:
  • Their words and behavior will match at all times.
  • They will readily enter into full accountability with at least one other individual, preferably with a group of individuals and a therapist.
  • They will understand and accept that others will need to verify their recovery from time to time, which may include a polygraph exam and/or full disclosure of all compulsive behavior.
  • They will be completely committed to their recovery program for life.
  • They will strive to avoid deception in every relationship and situation, revealing a commitment to truth-telling, even when it brings negative consequences.
  • They will work at understanding the devastation their actions have created for others.
  • They will accept full responsibility for their actions, not minimizing, denying the other's reality, gaslighting, or blaming another for their behavior.
  • They accept the reality that they will always be an addict; their choice is whether they will be a recovering addict or an acting-out, offending addict.
  • They will work hard to humbly  make amends to all they have offended or hurt.
  • They will acknowledge that they cannot control their disease without the help of their Higher Power.
  • Their lives will be marked by humility, serenity and emotional growth.
  • Their lives will consistently reveal a deep commitment to no more compulsive behavior and no more secrets.
For you see, recovery is far more than words of remorse or pseudo-repentance.  It is a life-long commitment to personal sobriety and transformation.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

An Arrest is an Act of Violence

An arrest is a violent thing--by virtue of the power that we the people invest in the government, agents of the law are permitted to forcefully detain an individual, to restrain or restrict their freedom--it is an allowable violence.  The fear of arrest keeps most of us in line--we obey the law of the land precisely because we fear the consequences if we don't.

When an arrest occurs, an individual's day and life comes to a violent stop.  One minute they are going about their business--be it legal or illegal--and the next they are being placed in handcuffs, forced into a squad car and carted off to jail.  They are deprived of freedom to come and go as they please and unwillingly enter the dark and frightening world of the US legal system.

For the victim of a crime, the criminal's arrest is a good thing--it means that they can feel safer and hopefully find justice for the wrong committed against them.

But for the family of the individual arrested, it is a far different story.  It is a violent thing, a very violent thing.

As a volunteer in correctional facilities, I have seen many individuals walk through the sally port of the jail in handcuffs to be processed into the facility.  I have witnessed their questioning, examination by the medical staff, and interminable wait for the intake to be completed--crowded into a small cell with 20 to 30 other inmates, forced to sit on cold, hard benches, pee or defecate in full view of others, and finally be led away to shower and change into their prison or jail uniform.  This was all very familiar to me--what happens on the correctional facility side of things after the arrest.  But I had never witnessed an arrest occur until it happened in the foyer of my home.

Barely 24 hours after breaking down the front door to my home and executing a search warrant/raid, detectives returned for the target of their investigation--my soon-to-be ex-husband.  They called me first and ordered me to open the door, which I quickly did.  I didn't want them to force it down yet again.  My soon-to-be ex was in his office trying to assemble another computer from spare parts since the police had confiscated all of his working computers the day before.  The detectives quickly went down the hall and escorted him to the foyer, where my daughter and I stood in shock.

As they placed the handcuffs on his wrists and informed him that he was under arrest, all I could think about was the fact that he had no shoes on.  They were going to take him to jail without shoes.  As my daughter wailed, he maintained his composure and silence.  She hugged him and then they were gone.  Just like that.  One minute he was assembling a computer and the next, life had taken a dreadful turn.

I have been haunted in recent days by the memory of that arrest.  After all that has happened since that day, it still sometimes seems inconceivable to me that my ex-husband was actually arrested--that I witnessed it--that it happened in our home, in our family, in our marriage.  Things like this happen to other people, not to people like me.

Today my daughter had to help a mother explain to her children that their father was going away for a very long time because he had done something bad.  Her tears mingled with theirs because their story is simply too close to her own.  A dad, a husband, or maybe a wife or mother is arrested.  They are there one minute and gone the next.  It is is hard for my adult brain to comprehend this act of violence, how much more difficult for a young child?  An arrest, while often necessary, is a violent thing, a very violent thing.  And when it invades a home and a family, it creates unimagined trauma and pain.  Simply unimaginable.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Three Words for 2014

Shortly after receiving the worst but best gift  when my former husband asked for a divorce on Christmas Day, I decided to do something uncharacteristic for me:  I gave the upcoming New Year a name.  "Never Alone 2012," was the moniker I chose, never imagining how meaningful it would become to me in the days ahead.  Through months of grieving alone in an apartment far removed from the home we had shared, these words provided comfort and a powerful reminder that though I was very much alone, I have never been and was not then, alone.  In my internal world, I am not alone because my Higher Power is ever present and my external world is filled with family and friends who have been anchors for me in the storms of the past months.

In December of 2012, I gave a name to 2013 in response to hearing God whisper, "Will you trust me to be your provider?" in church one Sunday morning.  The name I chose was "Provision 2013."  And God did provide over and above what I needed in every area of my life.  By the end of the year I was employed, had full health benefits and had moved into my own little piece of real estate.  I am beginning to climb out of the financial devastation my ex-husband's arrest and subsequent termination from employment created.  And I am learning that provision for my needs does not rest solely on my shoulders--I have someone greater than myself who continues to prove Himself completely capable of providing for me.

Now that 2014 has arrived, I've been thinking of what I want for this new year and three words keep rattling around in my brain.  The first word is "Prosper," which is usually thought of in terms of succeeding materially.  And certainly, I desire to prosper financially.  But more than financial prosperity, I long for emotional, physical and spiritual prosperity.  I want to flourish, thrive and do well in every area of my life.  I am beginning to reap the rewards of working on my internal world and I anticipate further growth and progress.  But beyond mere survival or barely scraping by, I want to prosper.  So I recall what the prophet Jeremiah  wrote so many centuries ago--my Higher Power's plans for my life include prosperity.  I want to see that applied to my internal and external worlds in the next 12 months.

The second and third words are keys, I believe, to truly experiencing fullness and blooming in life. "Transform"refers to a thorough or dramatic change, a metamorphosis, overhaul, remodel or reworking of the form, appearance or characteristic of a person or thing.  If I am to prosper, then my thinking needs to be transformed, according to Paul and "The Big Book" (Alcoholic's Anonymous).  One area that is in dire need of thought transformation is in my view of self.  One of the consequences I am discovering of my long-term involvement with a narcissist, is in the very negative way that I view myself.  Before we became engaged, my ex-husband expressed concern that my physical appearance would hold him back in his chosen profession.  I was too young, naive, and broken to see this as a narcissistic ploy but instead internalized his criticism and vowed to make myself indispensable to him to compensate for my physical deficiencies.  I see now how I set myself up for many years of pain and if I am to prosper, then this thinking pattern has to change.

My self loathing needs to change to delight.  To "delight" in something means that we take great pleasure in it or that it is a cause or source of great joy.  Contrary to what many of us have been taught, loving self is key to loving others.  A healthy self-love or delight is a preventative measure--it will keep me from being seduced by yet another narcissist and will inoculate me against the daily onslaught of media messages that equate my physical appearance with my worth or value.  My body does not meet that standard of perfection and never will.  But it is good enough--it is healthy and has served me well.  It has carried and nourished three perfectly wonderful human beings.  It is worthy of delight just as it is.  If I am to prosper or blossom then I need to delight in the blooming, beautiful person that I already am.

So my three words for 2014 are Prosper, Transform and Delight.  They do not rhyme and are not set to a catchy jingle. But they form the backbone of my desire for 2014:  that I prosper in every area of my life; that my stinking thinking be transformed and that I learn to delight in the woman that I have become.