I just came home from the final court case of a victim of sexual abuse. The beautiful and brave victim got up to speak as well as some other family members. Following that, the abuser spoke as well as his lawyers. There were many people in the court room who came to support the abuser.
I however, came to support the victim. I have never met this victim nor have I met the abuser. However, being a victim myself, I can say that I have met the pain that the victim was so painfully describing in his court statement. I’ve met the pain, the shame, the guilt. I’ve met the anxiety, the depression and all the many symptoms of PTSD following a trauma of such extreme magnitude.
I’ve been through many sleepless nights, afraid to go to sleep out of fear of where my nightmares will take me. Those vivid and clear nightmares of my abuse will wake me up sweating and at times causing my full body to go into a state of paralysis.
I’ve gone through thousands upon thousands of triggers and flashbacks. Buckets of tears and so much indescribable pain that is almost impossible to describe to non victims.
There I was, in court watching this poor and battered victim give the court statement, describing all the pain from the abuse. I watched, with tears in my eyes, with an aching heart and a broken spirit. I am so intimately familiar with this all. I know the feeling of my soul being extinguished. I know the feeling of complete emptiness and darkness. It was so painful to watch.
Yet after all this, the abuser himself spoke followed by his lawyer. Their main compelling argument was that he, the abuser, had a difficult and traumatic childhood and therefore should not be held accountable for his actions. The abuser went on to say that he has elderly parents and a family that will suffer tremendously if he were to be incarcerated.
I know from my own experience that these two arguments are used by many rabonim and community leaders. These arguments were like a dagger in heart. How can this be an excuse to snuff a life out of a child. How can this justify someone to ruin a child’s life forever?
I’ve recently been to a trauma rehab and along with me was a victim of a school shooting. It’s been a while since the shooting, yet she was plagued with many PTSD symptoms from the horrific massacre that went on in her school. The lawyer of the shooter stated that this boy has been through trauma prior to the shooting and should therefore not be held accountable.
I ask you, does trauma justify a boy to murder 20 innocent souls in cold blood? Does it excuse the many other injured both physically and emotionally? Would you have the audacity to tell a parent of a dead child that it wasn’t the shooters fault because he’s been through some trauma? Suppose you are a parent of a dead child from a school shooting, when you look at your child’s empty bed every night, would you say it’s fine because it wasn’t the attacker fault?
I’ve never been through a shooting and was never shot but I’d venture to say that sexual abuse is worse than a shooting. If someone dies from a school massacre, as soon as they die, their pain in over. There are no residual effects for the lifetime of the victim. They died and won’t go through anymore pain.
A victim of abuse however, dies every single day. Every day they wake up and have to face their inner demons and emotional turmoil that won’t give them any peace. They are faced with living death again and again and again. They are forced to go on with their daily life while struggling an enormous yet silent battle. Daily panic attacks, hourly triggers and suicidal thoughts are all just part of the many symptoms that we go through on a daily basis.
So I ask you, is it better to die once or to die every single day? Is it better to feel pain for a few minutes or to live with excruciating pain every minute of the day? I plead with you, please treat a sexual abuser as though you would treat a mass shooter.