*A friend sent me something she wrote yesterday so I could understand what she was processing. I told her I felt this was a perspective that needed to be shared and she is allowing me to publish her words here, in a way that feels safe to her. Both she and I have no desire to defend the indefensible. I believe that’s clear from what she’s written here. But because the responses to this behavior are so visceral and extreme, it becomes really difficult to see this perspective. Who would feel safe sharing it?
I used to have a laser focus on the victims and I don’t think that’s wrong. I have loved these children, I have close relationships with adults who lived through these kinds of horrific events. My heart breaks. And I’m also learning to expand my field of vision to see the hurting people who caused the pain to others. They need help and without knowing there is some safe place in the world to confess their struggles, how will they ever get the help they need to prevent these issues in the first place?
I think we assume if we vent all our greatest hatred toward these people, then maybe that will prevent other people from doing the same thing. I’m afraid what actually happens is that those people feel more afraid to seek help and their behavior continues in secret. If we can recognize their humanity, not just paint them out to be inhumane monsters, then maybe there’s hope that those who need help will seek it.*
With all of the articles that have been popping up tearing Larry Nassar apart, one doesn’t have to look far to read a heartbreaking account from a survivor of his abuse or how horrible of a person he is. Any healthy person will feel a range of emotions from sadness for the survivor to anger and rage directed at the abuser. But you will be hard-pressed to find anybody defending Dr. Nassar or even talking about the logistics of how this happened and how damaged he is as a person. Now don’t misread what I’m saying, what Dr. Larry Nassar did is absolutely horrendous and he deserves to be called a monster. He also deserves the life sentence that was handed down. I’m not condoning his behavior whatsoever. But I feel in a unique position to understand him and at least feel some sort of empathy for him and his situation.
No one was created to be a monster. Yes, we are all sinners, but when something like this happens it takes it to a different level. We begin to question the humanity of the person who could ever do such a thing like that. We begin to see that person as only a list of deplorable acts that they have committed, not as a whole person. One who has hurt people yes, but we neglect to look at the hurt that happened to him. And the series of events that led up to him being that person. The person that was more than likely sexually abused as a child. The person that began to fantasize or watch pornography as a young child. The person that began to do whatever he could to regain control of the craziness that was going on in his head. The person that before he knew it had fallen into this pattern of addiction without even knowing it. The person that began to look into the mirror and didn’t recognize himself and what he was doing, but didn’t know how to stop. I am that person. And Dr. Nassar is most likely that person.
I’m a recovering sex addict and survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. And to be completely honest I have always been terrified of crossing a line that I can’t come back from. That line where you suddenly become a monster. I’m always hypervigilant around young children because there is a part of me that is terrified that something will break inside me and I will hurt them like I was hurt as a young child. I’m afraid that I will become the person I was terrified of as a young girl and I won’t be able to stop myself. Because that’s how addiction works. You don’t plan to be one or start behaviors that feel impossible to stop. But you do. And the longer you do it your brain changes and it doesn’t feel like a choice anymore. And you’re stuck.
And that’s why we need to have compassion. Because addiction is real and it changes a person and it is a horrible thing. We can still hate the things that the addict does and we should. Sin is sin, no matter your backstory or justification for it. But to naively think that Dr. Nassar doesn’t feel shame or guilt for the things he’s done is wrong. Even addicts have a conscience and know the difference between right and wrong.
I feel for these girls. I was those girls at one time in my life. But I also feel for Dr. Nassar because there is a part of me that is him as well.