I figured since the name of my blog is so (intentionally) attention-grabbing and (hopefully) so surprising to some that they can't help but read, it's time for an entry that doesn't dance around the issue. Although I am proud of my previous entries and they no doubt represent an aspect of what our life is like and how choosing this life has changed the way I look at certain things, they do not begin to touch what goes through my mind and heart each day, nor will what I am about to write; there simply is no way to completely capture the experience in mere words. But this, for whatever reason, is one of those days that I am less able to put reality in the back of my mind long enough to focus on much else.
I will not lie - I am so incredibly angry and vengeful towards Geoff's family, that sometimes it is difficult to even think about. I preach to others about letting go of anger and letting it empower you, which I have managed to do with the man who abused me, as well as others, mostly strangers, who frustrate me with their ignorance, lack of compassion or common sense. But I cannot do it with the people who tortured the person I love. I want to let go, because the anger certainly doesn't feel good, and it sucks the will to even contemplate thinking about something else right out of me.
Because I do not trust these people, I try to loosely keep tabs on them by doing an occasional Google search or looking at their Facebook profiles, although they are private, just to see if anything seems amiss. Last Christmas, Geoff received a package from his mother, the perpetrator of the most severe physical and emotional abuse. He wants absolutely nothing to do with them, and after the life they forced him to live, if you can even call it a life, not to mention the travesty of a trial they created, I do not blame him. He has not attempted to make contact with any member of his family since the day his mother had him arrested, and in fact, legally there is not supposed to be any contact between them. However, this did not stop his mother from sending him a package containing several random artifacts from his childhood, and worst of all, a letter (after obtaining his address from the registry).
I had just arrived at work after a particularly stressful drive, as it was the day before Christmas Eve, traffic was more harried than usual and it was snowing steadily. As I chatted with my co-worker, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. When I picked up, it was Geoff in a state of panic, sitting in his truck in the post office parking lot, holding a box from the woman who still invades his mind, his dreams, and leaves me holding a trembling, sobbing, terrified grown man having a flashback some mornings when he wakes up and thinks he's still trapped in her house. He paraphrased her letter, which among other things, communicated her confusion over why he did not want to speak with them, that she still could not understand why he did what he did, and that she "knew she wasn't always the perfect mother". Hearing his voice and being 24 miles apart made me want to sink to my knees and scream. Geoff still struggles to remember most of his childhood, has revealed most of the worst bits and pieces, all containing his mother, to me over time and is still paralyzed with fear of her to this day, almost ten years after the last time he saw her. I was so filled with rage at this woman for AGAIN hurting the wonderful man who is her son, my boyfriend and the person she ripped apart and threw away, without even seeing him or being anywhere near him.
This was almost a year ago now, and still as I write it my heart beings pounding out of my chest and the combination of tears and absolute fury compound my brain as I contemplate what I would do if I had the opportunity to speak to the woman who somehow was able to look into Geoff's innocent eyes and over and over again, strike him, hurt him, treat him like an animal, just mercilessly try to destroy this wonderful person I cannot imagine ever being without. I want to ask, and I want to understand how she lives with herself knowing the horror she inflicted on a defenseless child, who grew into a defenseless teenager and was her SON, and then threw away. How does she get through the day? I want to ask the judges, the lawyers, the county prosecutor how they could all look the other way, what amount of money it took for them to all pretend this battered, confused 16-year-old standing before them on the charges of sodomy was a monster who deserved to go to jail instead of the terrified, lonely, abandoned child he was? I want to understand how it is possible that every single person in Geoff's life - everyone who was EVER supposed to help him, didn't.
For a long time, I did not know what to do with my anguish in reaction to all the horror that has been inflicted upon Geoff. As he became more able to reveal the long list of people who had mistreated him and what they had done, it created an ever-growing list of individuals I wanted to interrogate and understand how they justified their actions. Not just his family, but his teachers and other adults who could not possibly have missed the signs that he was being severely abused, from elementary school into tenth grade. His few friends, immature teenage boys as they were, could not possibly have been completely clueless. The other inmates who tried to hurt him and kill him, over and over again. The corrections officers who stood there and watched other inmates beat him, and who sometimes joined in. How was it possible that ALL of these people were so able to blindly allow it all to happen?
But the list doesn't end there. His probation officer, and the administrative workers who think he is a piece of shit because all they see is "sex offender". Our neighbors, who, at the urging of police and the news around Halloween, checked the registry for houses to avoid and will no longer engage with us. The politicians and legislators who have created the laws that do nothing to protect and everything to make his life just a little more difficult. The anonymous individuals who I will never know, that see his name and photograph on the registry, mixed in with a sea of others, and assume he is a dangerous predator. The friends we have yet to make who might decide, upon finding out, that they do not want to associate with us. The vigilante who decided to destroy the driver's door on MY 1972 Nova this summer, assuming it was Geoff's, who trespassed on our property while we were not home, inflicted unrepairable, carefully planned damage on a sentimental and monetarily valuable personal belonging, and will never be identified. What other vigilantes are out there and what will they do next? What law will be passed tomorrow that will force us to move, require him to wear a GPS monitor for life, or God knows what else? On most days, the constant worry can be easily ignored because that is what normal means for us. But on others, like today, it is all I can contemplate.
The last time I checked up on Geoff's family, I inadvertently discovered several photographs of them taken over this past summer. His half-sister, his "victim", graduated high school and there were some pre-prom pictures of her, her date, Geoff's mother, and step-father. They were all smiling, standing on the very stone patio that Geoff, as a young teenager, had been forced to build by himself; next to the house that Geoff was forced to re-roof, alone; and in the distance, the stone fireplace that Geoff was forced to build, alone. All around them were blatant reminders of the something terrible they forced upon an innocent person who was also their family member, and yet they smiled as though he had never even existed.
All the people who have hurt Geoff in some way have done one, lone positive thing: they shaped the kind, compassionate, resilient individual I love more than anything in the world. Through all the horror Geoff has endured, he has maintained the ability to function enough to get by even without any visible incentive. He has been forced to find strength from nowhere but within himself, and taught him things that cannot and will not be learned by many people over their lives. He has built himself up from nothing, more than once. There is no doubt in my mind that if it were not for his presence in my life, I would be dead at the hand of my ex-husband. He gave me the strength, the will and the perspective to re-create my life, and he has made me happier than I can ever recall. The gratitude, unquestioning selflessness and innate kindness he shows me is the simplest and strongest love and respect I have ever felt from another person. That is why the mere knowledge that countless strangers who will never meet him, and even some who will, will never see him as anything other than a sexual predator who wants to molest children, is so very painful. But it is a pain I welcome and tolerate, because it means I get to have him in my life.
I have met some incredibly strong, passionate, dedicated individuals in the relatively short time I've been actively promoting legislation reform for sex crime. Although knowing I am not alone in this misunderstood cause and their unwavering support is invaluable to my ability to keep going, it also is saddening that so many people are effected by this - and that their pain and suffering is very rarely acknowledged or considered. It makes me wonder how many families will be destroyed before the rest of the country realizes how detrimental the legislature as well as the public shaming of sex offenders and their loved ones is for our society as a whole. On days where I am not overtaken by overwhelming sadness and outrage at our situation, that is the only fuel I need to trudge on in this extremely difficult fight. So I suppose in a way it is a good thing. But I often wonder why our society needs such an excess of suffering before they realize how wrong something is.
I do not regret my decision to be with Geoff; as corny as it sounds, I have loved him since the day I met him in math class and in the back of my mind I always knew we would be together. I never could have imagined the circumstances, but I have never questioned my love for him - never. As I am winding down this entry, feeling slightly soothed by expressing my anger and sadness, I remember what I sometimes say to Geoff when he is drowning in despair and struggling to understand why things have had to happen this way: we may suffer unlike most others, but because we know that suffering, our love is that much more intense and incredible. I wouldn't trade that for anything.