Love Your Enemy

by Rebecca A. Watson on March 14, 2013

in change, love

“Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.”
–Henry Ward Beecher 

About six months ago my book club decided we should read Lost Memory of Skin. Now I’m a huge fan of most books. I love fiction, non-fiction is growing on me, sci-fi is awesome. But when this one came up in discussion, I got uncomfortable.

lost memory of skin

For those of you that haven’t read it or heard about it, here is the description from Bookshop Santa Cruz.

After doing time for a liaison with an underage girl, the Kid is forbidden to live within 2,500 feet of anywhere children might gather. With nowhere else to go, the Kid takes up residence under a south Florida causeway. Barely beyond childhood himself, the Kid is in many ways an innocent, trapped by impulses and foolish choices he struggles to comprehend. Enter the Professor, a man who has built his own life on secrets and lies, and who finds in the Kid the perfect subject for his research on homelessness and sex offenders. But when the Professor’s past resurfaces, the balance in the two men’s relationship shifts. Suddenly, the Kid must reconsider everything he has come to believe.

The whole sex-offender thing turned me off. And not just because people that commit those type of crimes really disgusted me. No, there was more. You see, there is plenty of sexual abuse in my history.

I was sexually abused when I was young by someone I was close to. I was sexually abused in an adult relationship after high school. I was sexually assaulted just a few years ago. (I wrote a little about it.) So you can imagine why reading this book might be a little tough for me.

I’m not the only one. In the U.S., about one in six children have been sexually abused. I’ve even heard estimates as high as one in four.

Since reading the book, and watching a little Louis CK, my mind has changed about sex offenders. I no longer hate them. They no longer disgust me. I find their behavior terrible, yes, but I’ve started to feel some sort of compassion for these folks.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve got some painful memories because of what I went through and I don’t wish it upon anyone. I think children are precious and their innocence and vulnerability should be protected vigilantly. But when your house is on fire and you’ve gotten all your beloved items out of it, do you just let it burn?

Burning House...

Many people who abuse were abused themselves. Mental health problems are stigmatized in our society, and often people self-medicate, causing them to make poor choices. Sex crimes are about holding power over someone, not so much about the act itself.

Society has an obligation to help these folks, and in doing so will help countless children and victims of sexual violence. What isn’t working is the no-tolerance hatred that everyone, from the far left to far right, is spewing out. It’s isolating and soul-crushing.

So the next time you see an article about a man selling his child into kiddie porn, feel disgust at the act. Feel anger. Feel rage. But also try to hold kindness in your heart, and pray that he can get help.

Because pushing all the sex offenders under the freeway isn’t going to solve the problem. Denying them what every human needs to survive isn’t the answer. Society’s house is on fire and compassion is the only thing that’ll put it out.

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