Yesterday I struggled, all day in fact I struggled. My emotions raged and I didn’t want to do what I had committed to, truthfully I wanted to pick up the phone and call my friend and say, ‘Hell no, I am not making that drive and standing up to tell that story’.
That is what I wanted to do.
Yesterday, I woke in the morning with Victim Impact on my calendar. Not just any victim impact but the hardest victim impact, Sexual Offender Victim Impact. Yes, they are juveniles, they aren’t hardened and terrible molesters and in many cases, they are young men who are being criminalized for having consensual sex with their girlfriends, but not always. In this case, this was the parole group, their parents were there with them. I had forgotten, it wasn’t just the kids it was the adults too. Yesterday I woke up and all I could think, I wasn’t in the space head or heart to do what I had promised.
Yesterday, was hard and I didn’t know why. The truth is, I believe what I do is good. I believe down to my bones and my soul, if we can we should. If we have the strength to stand up and tell our stories, we should. If we can reach these young people, tell them who we are, show them our faces and the impact of their actions but also that one mistake doesn’t have to define their entire futures, we should. If we can reach them, if we can show them the face of compassion, perhaps we can also change the trajectory of their lives, maybe we can change the inevitable outcome so many of them face, from classroom to prison cell. I have always said, as if it is a mantra, give me just one and it is worth it, one out of every session that I reach and who hears then it is worth it, every one after one is a gift.
I have spent ten years standing up, telling my stories, staring into the faces of young people and adults alike. Sometimes, like yesterday it is hard as hell and I don’t want to do it. Some days like yesterday, my heart falters, I stumble and feel bruised and battered. Yesterday, yesterday though it was worse than normal, I don’t know why or maybe I do. It was bad because I am more battered by everything and am feeling a bit less hopeful than normal, a bit less strong, a bit less like I can conquer the world. I hate that, I hate not being strong, not being fully in control of my emotions and my world. In fact it pisses me the hell right off.
Yesterday, I reached out to a friend who I love and respect for his ability to cut through the bullshit, in spare and simple words, after a short back and forth about what I was feeling this was his response:
“Maybe what you are doing with this victim impact with sexual offenders is a good thing, but just maybe you are not now, at this place in time and your life, ready to do that. Maybe at a later time you will be strong enough to do this victim impact with sexual offenders and not experience the turmoil you now feel. Maybe you need a break, after all you are human, and feel things.”
I hate he is right, it would be easier if he weren’t right , easier if I could ignore his analysis and find some different answer. The truth is, I was in turmoil. My heart was fighting me all day because I simply didn’t have the emotional strength to do what I had promised. I did it, not because I wanted to save that one young person, because I wanted to storm the gates but because I had made a commitment and there was no one else. I wouldn’t let people down who depended on me, I did it out of obligation and long-standing relationships.
I did something else though, I took myself out of next quarter for all Victim Impact for Sexual Offenders. I can’t do it. I know there are so few of us in the state, taking myself out leaves them short but my friend is right, I am human and I need a break it is hard and I don’t have to prove I am strong I have to heal from what has broken me. I have to get my own house in order before I can return to saving others, no matter how much I believe, heart and soul, part of why I do Victim Impact is a mission of hope and compassion. If I am going to bring that into the room, I have to feel it and show it to myself.
Last night I stood up, I told the story of a brutal rape of an eleven year old child, I stared into the faces of teenagers and their parents and told them what happened afterwards. How that rape changed my life and the lives of my family. I watched as mothers winced when I used the words;
- Whore and Ho
I watched as young men wanted to fight when I asked them what the difference was between calling their mother a bitch or calling a girl on the street a bitch. I thanked a mother who in tears blessed me for my ‘testimony’, while acknowledging I did not speak from a Christian position she told me I had touched her spirit and she would remember, her son approached me afterward shook my hand and thanked me also. I spoke to a young man who told me he wanted to be an engineer but was afraid he wouldn’t make it into college now, because of this because he had sex with his girlfriend; all I could tell him was to work with the judge and his parole officer to find a way.
Yesterday was hard. Before I walked in the door I called my friend, I need a voice beside the one in my head. Maybe what I needed was to hear my own voice out loud, saying why I do this;
‘Because despite everything I believe in hope, I believe in love, shit I still believe in knights on white horses who slay monsters. I am not naïve I know the monsters exist, I have met too many of them; but I still believe in hope and love and I think they might be part of the same thing.’
Yesterday was hard. I need a break. I need to take care of myself. I need a little bit of tenderness and care. So I won’t do these, at least not the Sexual Offenders, for the next quarter maybe not any of them. I think my friend is right and I will listen because there is no sense in doing what is that hard, no sense in brutalizing myself.