At the edge of your yard is a place that was always sort of wooly. Weeds and vines have encroached there so you’ve never really worry about it. There isn’t enough sunlight to expand your garden in that direction and the water hose won’t reach. It’s always been like that so you never give it a second glance. Then one day you realize that there are some pretty weird looking plants there. They’re full of thorns that are blood red at the base and their roots have crept far afield into your nice lawn. There’s a sense of violation here as if something evil has crept into a garden of innocence, even if you knew it was there all along.
I grew up in a very small South Georgia town where Adult Infallibility and Teacher Infallibility and The Way Things Are Infallibility never changed. Nothing ever changed except to make sure that things were more of the same. We were raised to see things the way that others saw them. We were told the name of the colors and what names were given to dogs. God punished the wicked so if someone was punished they were wicked. The tracks were laid in a straight line. The clothes were hung out to dry. Nothing changed. Everything was put in its place and no one ever moved anything. It was like living on a movie set where the background wasn’t really real at all, but a painted wall in front of which we lived.
Of course this is a lie. How could it possibly be true? Grandparents died, pets died, children grew older, parents divorced, and suddenly those who were told things would always be so awoke to discover things were not so. Things now, once we were older, were different. Even if, in fact, they were very much the same.
I knew her name and I knew her reputation. She was easy, fast, and she liked the attention of older boys. She flirted with everyone that would stop to speak to her. One week she told several boys, one at a time, to meet her at bleachers on the other side of the football field, and she would do anything. I found out about this through a friend of mine who was going to meet her. It should have occurred to me then that he was much older than she was. He returned a couple of hours later with the tale of several boys hanging out on the bleachers with no one ready to admit that they had all been had. That sort of tale is funny, hilarious in fact, and one that was legend, but it involved a thirteen year old girl who was flirting with high school seniors and my friend, who had graduated the year before. A year passed and I discovered the two together at his trailer and the thought that something might be happening did not cross my mind; she was just a flirt.
He married a few years later and I was best man at the wedding. His new wife was eighteen but she looked young, painfully young, and he was twenty-four. After the divorce he began to date an older woman and she had a twelve year old daughter. He showed me their vacation photos and it did seem a little odd there were so many photos of the little girl in her swim suit.
Then he called me several years later, and he called many of his old friends. He needed character witnesses for his trial. The FBI had arrested him on weapons charges and they had found child porn on his computer. He was set up. A virus on his computer downloaded the porn and he didn’t even know it was there.
This was the second time it had happened.
Suddenly, I realized what had happened and what had been happening for years. Looking back, I realize that there was a thirteen year old trolling for sex with older guys. There were older guys trolling for sex with her. But because I had grown up in a don’t- ask- don’t- tell environment I never questioned the rightness or the wrongness of what was going on around me. The world was what the world was and who was I to question it?
I’ve been in touch with the Victim’s Advocate and the people in that area of expertise are very willing to talk. Yes, as a matter of fact, they would like to speak to someone about what’s going on out there. Do we not know or is it we do not care? Do we think it’s okay, or that it just happens to those who are asking for it, or is it that it only happens to Wal-Mart people?
Two weeks ago today I sat down in room with eleven other people and decided that we would put a man away for the rest of his life. It was a terrible thing to have to do. It would have been a lot easier had we been told he had just gotten out of prison and had served twenty years for doing the same damn thing to a kid twenty years ago. Yeah, yeah, just because he did it before doesn’t make him guilty this time, I’ve heard that but you know what? It certainly does give us a reason to think he would do it again because this is what those kinds of people do.
And clearly, we aren’t learning this fast enough.
You want to know what happening around you? Ask. Call the District Attorney’s Office and ask them when their next case is on trial, that you’d like to be there to watch and to listen to what’s going to be said.
You’re going to get sick to your stomach.
Yet here we are. Here we are over thirty years past the point a friend of mine went from hitting on girls that were way too young to getting busted for child porn, again.
You stand at the edge of the weeds and poisonous vines and you realize it has always been there. Yet as long as it stayed out of your front yard you didn’t look very hard.
What do you think is out there, right now?
At this very moment.