Nov 24 2009

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Zero Tolerance Extreme

This is a disturbing story from last week that I keep coming back to. A Michigan father marched his 15 year old son to a vacant lot, made him strip naked, and shot him execution style upon learning the son had confessed to his mother about having sexual contact with his three year old half-sister.

No second chances.

The boy had told his mother that he knew it was wrong to touch the girl, but stated he had not taken his clothes off. His mother didn’t want to “sweep this under a rug”, so she called her husband to come home for a talk. He came home with a gun. The three year old was later examined at a hospital, and no evidence of rape or physical trauma was found.

But three year olds remember a lot. The mental trauma of molestation may not be visible, but it was registered somewhere inside. She may not have the words now to voice what happened, but beyond the fact of the molestation, at the very least she will grow up with more than a suspicion that both her brother and father left her life over something to do with her. Even if her family tries to shelter her from what happened, it’s received so much publicity that she is bound to hear about it at school someday, if not sooner.

The 15 year old, of course, should have never touched his half-sister, but he tried to do the right thing by telling his mother. She tried to do the right thing by telling her husband. The father broke that chain. I understand in some limited way why he did it, but I cannot condone it.

Over the years, I fantasized that someone somehow had stepped in and taken my primary abuser out long before he created my childhood nightmare. How many other children would have been spared by this one person’s non-existence? How would my life and my sister’s have been different? Would we have thrived? Would we have felt loved? Would my mother have been so punitive and disinterested in her younger children if she’d never met him? She had lots of issues all her own; he just magnified them.

It’s that little girl magical wish that I could just do it all over again, as if he never existed. If only.

Knowing what I know now, not only would it have done the world a noble service to rid itself of my abuser early on, but I would not have flinched or mourned if I’d learned later that he finally picked a fight with someone who could fight back and win. Hindsight provides that clarity. But we don’t know enough about this 15 year old boy to conclude that he merited death.

Even though this father permanently removed a perceived threat from his daughter’s life, and in his own way tried to protect her, his actions will haunt his family — and her — for the rest of their lives. I hope this little girl and her step mother (? I’m not sure if that’s the relationship) are able to adequately work through these issues over time with professional help. (Lots of time.) The boy’s actions were not going to be swept under the rug, and neither must the aftermath of this violence be swept away.

It’s sad, no matter how I look at it.

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