Saturday, December 22, 2012

A picture of a child

As always, this is a regular thought I grapple with - do I forgive the people who have hurt me tremendously, most particularly the young man at the root of much of my trauma? Ian Brown at the Globe and Mail today printed a lengthy piece on forgiveness. He muses that forgiveness is on some level essential to move forward, yet on another level nearly impossible without a range of conditions, generally involving an extent of reconciliation between the parties involved.

Brown's conclusions are ambiguous at best - not the holy grail in this lengthy internal journey. He does raise, however, a critical point near the end of his piece. Why is the onus on the victim (oh, I do hate that word), on the person wronged, to forgive? Should it not be on the perpetrator of violence, or broader wrongdoing, to seek forgiveness? Why must I forgive someone who might be in a position to commit the same violence to another person as he did to me, to hurt others once again? In my mental imagery, this "someone" is a monster who cannot be forgiven in a million years; a person of true evil, who has done unspeakable wrongs.

And so I went to my high school yearbooks, which I dug up the other day. A person who has done unspeakable wrongs? Well, that is unquestionable. I have never given details on this blog as to what happened, and have always been vague, not just because it hurts me to speak graphically and anatomically but also because it is too disturbing for most anyone who might read this. There was more wrong done on that day than there is room in my mind to process it. But a monster, a person of true evil? I found his picture in with the grade eleven students at my school, a few pages ahead of my grade nine photo. I never knew what he looked like, as I had very little vision when I met him, and not much more the day he raped me; I've closed my eyes each time since then that I've seen him, so I could not be triggered. The picture I found was of a child. In my flashbacks, his face has aged along with me, such that he became an adult. But in his picture, taken a few months before that day, he was a grinning boy, trying to grow a mustache, possibly, in a shapeless school uniform. A monster, and yet, a child. Evil, and yet, a child. Perhaps an adolescent would be a better description, but there is something distinctly boyish in his smile that I was never able to see. I have forgiven the children who bullied me years ago, because they were children. But I have always conceptualized him as an adult. Now, a child. Is a child able to commit rape on his own accord, as a budding sadist? Or is he a victim as I was, learning from media that taught him that violence would get him sexual gratification, and that placed this narrative in his hands? Is it his fault? Does he wonder about what he did, and how it hurt me? Does he care? Was it just a blip in his life, that he could forget as easily as what he learned in math class that day?

Is thinking about him and his feelings cannibalizing my own agency as a survivor, or fueling it? If he came to my door tomorrow to ask for forgiveness, as a man instead of a simultaneously terrifying yet somewhat impish boy, would I forgive him? Can I? If I forgive the child he was, must I then forgive the man he has become?

My mind is spinning tonight, and etched behind my eyes is a picture of two children...

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