No matter how awful your past or present is, there’s always someone worse off than you.
I was sexually abused starting at seven years old in my home by a sadistic pedophile for over a year while my family did nothing to stop it. The sexual abuse and my family’s betrayal sent me down a self-destructive path that I walked for decades. I’ve only recently started to see the pattern in my behavior and how much of my apathy towards living and consequential self-destruction is a direct result of that abuse and my family’s inaction. So much of what I thought was “me” is actually just abuse.
I’ve been following the story of an unnamed fifteen-year old girl who was kidnapped, raped, beaten and brainwashed into marrying her captor and having a child. She was held captive for a decade. She is now twenty five with a two-year old child.
Isidro Garcia was arrested Tuesday after his alleged victim reached out to her sister on Facebook and revealed how she been held hostage in a relationship with the 41-year-old man and had given birth to his child during the decade she vanished.
I’m going to be brutally honest here and talk about something humans don’t like talking about–how sympathy can breed selfishness. It’s the same way people stare at car accidents as they drive by. “I’m glad that’s not me.” Humans are self-centered creatures. Deep down, people enjoy seeing carnage and suffering as long as it’s not our own. I’m no different, except I don’t stare at car accidents as I drive by. I don’t want to see it.
When I hear these worse-than-mine stories, it makes me feel better about my own circumstances. These horrible stories, make me appreciate what I have. I am free and not in terrible danger at the moment (unless there’s a comet headed right for me or a homicidal clown hiding in the closet). Even though that’s a terribly self-centered outlook, we have to find the good in these stories because there is always good and they keep happening.
How does this keep happening? How many more cases like this are there that just haven’t been discovered yet? In the Garcia case, his neighbors said they seemed like the perfect couple. I find that notion sickening.
While no longer a physical hostage, the victim saw no way out and lived with Garcia under what investigators described as “sustained physical and mental abuse,” detectives said.
Many of these cases end with the victims essentially choosing to live as their captor wants rather than run. Jaycee Dugard was even allowed a modicum of freedom towards the end of her eighteen years of captivity.
I can’t begin to imagine what that’s like. I can’t fathom not hating your abuser. Stockholm syndrome is a survival mechanism. When you’re still in it and so powerless, it’s easier not to hate. After so many years, you think there is no alternative–no one will come to save you. How could they after ten, fifteen, twenty years have gone by? I never had to put up with abuse long enough to develop that sort of attachment. I always hated the man who destroyed me.
It must be so terribly confusing to go from that terrible life of captivity to knowing the truth. It must be awful to finally allow yourself to see the person you think of as your protector or husband or the father of your children as the monster who stole your life.
And what about the children’s children? What about the kids born of monsters into captivity? How do they cope knowing that their mothers were victims of a lifetime of abuse? How can they adjust to a normal life when the first few years were so terribly wrong?
It makes me want to cry. These stories cut right to the bone. I can relate to the fear, confusion and isolation, but I can never fully understand what it’s like to have your life not just set on a different course like mine, but completely stolen by a monster.
The good news is that I do feel something when I hear stories like that. I feel too much. I relate to these women. It’s good in a way, because it means that I have survived my past with emotions intact. I am not an unfeeling sociopath. I survived my past and came out the other side as a human being capable of emotions like hate and anger, but also empathy and compassion.
I just hope the women in these stories can do the same. They are still alive and they are free now. While there is life, there is hope. Speaking of hope, I hope their captors die a slow, painful death.