Let’s Try this Again

Posted by  on February 1, 2013

A week ago I posted an article I wrote on standing up for victims and breaking free from the auto response of defending the accused. That part went over okay. The part that people got stuck on and pushed back hard on was this:

So here is a new reality check: We must find a way to accept that people who do offend are more than the crime. The result becomes one where both the perpetrator and the victim can be held within the community.

Offenders should always be held accountable for their behavior while still being part of the community with safe parameters. The victim can be supported and held in love for the maximum opportunity for a return to health. If we can accomplish this, healing becomes possible for everyone, including the community itself.”

A lot of you obviously don’t like that idea and cannot go there. You don’t have to! As I read your comments and had some new cases come up this week that are close to home, I totally understand the anger at this concept. One of the cases was a minister I knew, that on one hand was an amazing spiritual leader known and loved by thousands. On the other hand, it turns out he was a serial perpetrator of kids. Does one validate the other or conversely invalidate the other? He was in fact both. I think it is important we recognize he was both and then each of us decide how we feel about all he did.

I’m sure lots of people think my abuser was, and is, a great guy who just made a mistake. Not me. He was a great man to many including me at one point in time. For now I don’t much care about the good he did, what impacted my life was his crime and perversion. That’s what’s important to me. I just want to unwind his tentacles so I can reclaim my good memories without his distortions.

But this is not about forgiving or forgetting or whether offenders are thought of as good or bad. I know some feel offenders should be castrated, locked up with people that will abuse them and then shoot them. I must admit I have had those thoughts too, but I do not believe the long term solution to child sex abuse lies in that direction (except in rare cases!). I believe that often the crime is not reported because the victim does not want to “destroy” the life of a family member, or someone close to them. A couple of points I want to clarify here. I think the victim should ALWAYS be consulted and approve sentencing. Next is the victim need never see or speak to the offender again, nor should they be under any expectation to forgive, nor should the community.

What I am saying is for us to heal our communities we need to find space for everyone, even those we dislike, despise, or even just disagree with. There are some we need to keep locked away for everyone’s protection, but once an offender has answered for their crime and paid whatever penalty the law imposed, it is incumbent on society to find a place for them, with safe parameters. You can choose to not break bread with them if you don’t want to. That’s fine.

So I want to make clear that I feel my number one responsibility is to support survivors in their recovery and seeking justice. The close second is to find effective solutions for prevention of child sex abuse so there are less victims to start with. So as you are able, please explore possible solutions with me and keep letting me know how all this makes you feel. I hope you have a good day today and find something to make you laugh.

Randy Ellison

6 Responses to Let’s Try this Again

  • Kerry Howard says:

    Dear Randy
    I did not read your first article but let me begin by saying this on is very eloquently written.
    I am a mother and 2 of my children were sexually abused by my brother. Their disclosures have split the family with my parents and brothers standing behind my pedophile brother and myself, husband and children with the victims. Your question has been raised recently, with statements like he has been so generous to you and it will ruin his reputation! I hear what you are saying and although it is immensely difficult I agree that anyone who has served their sentence has a right to a place back within the community. The point is that many, many sex offenders and abusers do not serve their time nor are they brought to justice and I have a very hard time leaving them in the community without recognition or supervision. My brother continues to deny all his actions and my parents threaten disinheritance to me if one of my children go ahead and bring charges. Kerry

  • faye harris says:

    I really liked your previous article, but didn’t comment as I didn’t feel there was anything I could add. But probably the part I liked most was the part you quoted here.

    I think there is great danger of thinking of people in black and white terms – that sex offenders are all “bad”, the rest of us are “good”. The danger is that it makes it nearly impossible to see someone we perceive as “good” as an offender, and so most people’s response to the accusation of someone they know is denial. The same dynamic makes the abused less likely to make an accusation. And I believe this good-bad position actually supports the offender. I’m not sure I’ve expressed that well, I hope it makes some sense.

    By making space for offenders in society, and not using a few that are caught to scapegoat the many that aren’t, I believe we can find greater justice for the abused and maybe even protection for children today.

    On a personal note, yes, a part of me would love to see my abusers burn in hell, but I’m not sure how much that would really help my healing, or anyone else. If I look deep inside me, more than revenge, I want to see them held accountable for their actions, not shamed, but held responsible, and for the community to help them face up to what they did and the immense pain they caused.

  • Carol Hogue says:

    Well said, Randy. It takes a tremendous amount of work and healing to get to this point. I appreciate the expression of these ideas and could not agree more. I’ve always said that relentless compassion works both ways. Much of what you’ve touched on relates to choice and personal power as defined in Stewards. Thank you for making people think!

  • tammy clyse says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the basic premise. I struggle with forgiveness on behalf of my daughter for the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her dad…and is still being subjected to. She disclosed abuse by him when she was 3 and then at 5. The 2nd incident left her with physical trauma…hospital doc’s show trauma to her genitals and lists cause as “digital and foreign object penetration” and male DNA/saliva found in her undies. Fast forward to the end result: Dad gets SOLE CUSTODY of this child and I, as her advocate, am left with supervised visits for an hour a week away from my home. My dtr disclosed to myself…I was an EMT/FF for yrs and know not to question her in any way so as to affect investigation…she also disclosed to her teacher whom she gave more detail than me…and she told her therapist ‘my dad touched my private parts’. Social worker told me the DNA happened in the LAUNDRY(???!!!) and therapist told me what she said isn’t ‘enough’ to do anything about.(???!!!)
    There is still an open investigation on this man for kicking his then 10 yo son and his 13 yo son has refused to even lay eyes on him for the past 2 yrs and wrote a letter to the Sheriff detailing abuse done to him and what he witnessed to the younger 2. In court, the GAL for my dtr brushed off this incident and the letter as ‘just a little boy being mad at his dad’.
    How the hell do we, as parents, protect our children, promise to keep them safe when the very system and agencies we go to for help turn around and do these kinds of things???

  • Randy, I thank you for getting people to think about survivors and what do do about perpetrators. I blog quite a bit about prevention myself, having been a victim of CSA myself. In fact, I am a facilitator at D2L and was one of the “Oprah 200 men”, who famously came forward to tell their story a couple years back. I’d like to present more Stewards for Children seminars, BTW.

    Anyway, I think the idea of a boogey man, stealing your kid away at the playground is a legitimate fear, and precautions definitely need to be taken. I don’t think convicted perps have any business living near or working with kids.

    But I also believe the real key to prevention is in preparing our kids to deal with situations as they arise, because the fact is, we as parents and care-givers will not always be there to protect them. I know I was extremely vulnerable to CSA because “I did not feel validated and loved by my parents.” If children don’t need to seek this validation they will not be easy marks for predators, who are experts at picking out the kids who are looking for attention and validation.

  • Ken Garrett says:

    Hi Randy, Thank you for this insightful, well-written post! I’m new to the legal side of the issues, just experiencing the heartache of seeing folks I love being failed and re-victimized through our state’s tragic statue of limitations laws… Working through it!
    Ken

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