Apr 21, 2009 – Strangers and Loved Ones

A strange and maddening thing happened to me tonight. I went to the grocery store with my roommate and a friend from our complex. We were in the dairy aisle. I was by myself and the two of them were a little further away. Between us was a mother pushing a baby in a grocery cart and with them was probably a 9-12 year old girl. The girl was wearing a winter coat, pink pajama bottoms and house slippers. Now, the pj’s were thin and form fitting and didn’t do much to conceal the girl’s body. In fact they probably accentuated her body.

Before I go further, I want to say that I am thankful that I do not struggle with attraction to obviously-too-young females. I recognized this girl as being a youngster and my brain categorized her as such. However, someone else in the store did not see it that way.

As this small family was standing between my friends and I, a man moved past all of us, unbeknownst to my friends and the family. What I witnessed floored me. This man, as he walked past the young girl, slowed his walk to a near crawl and looked that girl up and down. He didn’t try to hide it. He wasn’t ashamed of it. He did it, relished it, and then moved on. I stood there dumfounded. My first instinct was to yell out at him, “Hey what are you looking at?” but I didn’t. My shame stopped me from doing it. Shame in that I’m a convicted child rapist. What business do I have telling someone to stop doing that? I could be considered guilty of what he’s doing. So who am I to say anything? I just stood there and watched it happen. I got mad. First at him. Then at me. I was mad at me for a couple reasons: that I didn’t say anything, that I’m not in a position to say anything, that I’m being a hypocrite. I fumed over this for hours. I told my roommate and friend about it and we all agreed that I should have called the guy out right then and there. Now he’s gone unchecked. Maybe he’s offending someone at home because he has an eye for young girls.

Here’s the thing about that: statistics prove that the majority of sexual assaults are committed at the hands of people known and trusted by the victim. The girl in the grocery store was safe from that man. He wasn’t going to physically offend her. But the daughter, stepdaughter, niece, neighbor might not be so lucky. He would more likely be offending one of them rather than snatch a child from a store and offend her. That’s the truly scary aspect of all this – it’s the men you love that are offending your children. The “guy in the bushes” is in the single digit percentile. So are registered sex offenders. It’s the men who HAVEN’T been caught and are building your trust right under your nose that are going to prison tomorrow for sexual assault. This is one of the key messages I’d like to get out to the world by doing this journal. There are signs to watch for in your children. Listen to what they tell you, believe them. Trust your instincts. Mothers usually know when something’s wrong but ignore it because “it’s just not possible”. Well, it is possible. Society is so busy warning against strangers (which they should) and keeping their eye on the ones who have already committed the crime, they’re missing the biggest percentage of culprits (dads, step dads, uncles, coaches, teachers, cousins, and even grandfathers) thereby missing a chance to stop sexual assault before it even happens. I’m as serious as I can be and I hope someone is paying attention. I’m afraid that man in the grocery store is probably offending his niece or someone close to him if he’ll ogle a stranger like he did. I should have said something to him. Maybe I could have made a difference in their life.

  1. islandwriter says:

    Better Man,
    You’ll see my post about important I think this issue is that you’ve raised. If you were ever inclined it might be interesting for you talk about the grooming process many of these perpetrators use to become closer to their victims. It may have been something you talked about while in therapy? Even if it isn’t something particular to your situation?

    Also just wanted to add that you aren’t the only one that doesn’t speak out on this topic. Many of us can think of instances were we stayed silent. Partly I think because we want to be sure before we accuse someone…maybe. I’ve wrestled with this issue myself and constantly worry that my silence may have drastically impacted someone’s life.

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