The Difference Between Us and Them, Part Two
The Difference Between Us and Them, Part Two
The sixteenth of June, 2011. Eleven thirty-nine.
When you’re off work for two whole weeks, and you’re just staying at home and not setting off into the sun somewhere, you develop habits. New ones that your body begins to re-enact daily without the consent of a single conscious thought. Automatic. That’s what my daily walks have become. Automatic. I wake up in the morning and then find myself outside the secondary school four miles from my house. Just staring into the empty playground through the locked painted gates, pondering on how insufficiently the tall, iron picket fence protects the children inside from a real world pregnant with perversion.
I have no wallet, no coat. Just a t-shirt I don’t remember pulling on, jeans I don’t remember doing up, and flip-flops I don’t remember slipping into. And my keys in my hand. And when the bell rings and the children flood through every orifice on the ground floor of the buildings, I walk on. And then I’m back in bed, lying next to my wife. It’s dark now, and I wait for the new day to begin.
The day before I took leave from work, I tried to explain to Max and John Ade the look I saw in Benjy’s face that day, the tone I heard in his voice, but I couldn’t find the words. They couldn’t believe it, that someone so normal, someone we knew, someone we worked with everyday could be so twisted and disgusting. So evil. But they couldn’t understand. They weren’t listening to what I was trying to tell them. The look I saw in his face, the tone I heard in his voice – it was more than that.
I reported him immediately. I didn’t want to because it was Benjy, but I had to because what he was doing was wrong. I know I’ll be asked to testify against him, and I’m fine with that. But I don’t know what I will say. That Benjy was one of the most principled men I know? That he loved animals, always stuck up for others, was always first to buy a round of drinks when we went to the pub? That he loved his father, even though he despised his secret homosexuality? What would I say about Benjy? That he loved children?
I could have stayed at work, but work became a circus, a show and tell of all the weird and not-so-wonderful things Benjy ever said or did, comprising both fiction and non-fiction. Mainly fiction. I remember the thing that tipped me over the edge, that confirmed to me that I needed a break from it all. It was an email from John Wright sent to about four other people on our floor, subject heading: Paedophile amongst us! At the end of a very long thread, that I saw had begun hours before I was mistakenly copied in, John Wright had joked, “I knew he was a fancy boy – there were times I caught him peeping at me after gym in the changing rooms. Sick to even think about it.”
And when I read this, I surprised myself because I wanted to scream, “He’s a paedophile not a homosexual! It’s not the same thing – Benjy would be mortified if you ever called him gay!” And with that thought I knew I had to get out of there. Out of the office, out of the palaver for a while.
Because that look in Benjamin’s eyes, that tone in his voice, it wasn’t one of shame or remorse. That look in Benjy’s eyes was the same as the look in my own when I watch my wife as she sleeps. The tone in his voice was the same as my own when I talk about the women I see in magazines and on TV. Love, lust, admiration, desire. Every emotion that I know to be normal was in his eyes and in his voice. And that had to be the most terrifying thing of it all: that I knew that Benjy loved this twelve year old girl exactly like I love my wife.
Some months ago, I spied a page in The Sun with the heading as something like, “Thank God he’s dead – finally justice for my boy!”
It was a two page article about the prison murder of Colin Hatch, a man who had been jailed for assaulting children, and then sexually assaulted and killed another boy whilst he was on parole for the first conviction. I had briefly glanced at the story somewhere else, and felt a deep sadness in my heart.
It stayed on my mind for a while, leading to discussions amongst my colleagues and friends about paedophilia and sex offenders. Murder is something I will never condone, in any circumstance, be it self-defence, in matters of war, or otherwise because life is too precious and too final to be taken lightly.
However, from the various conversations and thoughts I’ve had, I found paedophilia to be a most sinister phenomenon. As much as I disagree with the taking of a life, most people who have done it can be rehabilitated – they can be reprimanded and conditioned into never doing it again, and I’m sure most times they probably don’t. There is something innate within all of us, except maybe those with antisocial personality disorder, that informs us that killing someone else is wrong.
But with my discussions about paedophilia, an interesting question was raised. If paedophilia, in the basic meaning of the word, is a love of children, then it describes a sexual preference, one that if it were directed at an adult or peer, would be considered as normal. Though the two are inherently different, for this point, paedophilia seen as an attraction rather than a disorder, could be classed the same as homosexuality – those who are attracted to neither children nor the same sex will not fully comprehend the complexities of either.
Whilst the concept of homosexuality is constantly debated, we all know that paedophilia is wrong, that unlike being gay, it is more than just an attraction. It is an attraction that is often compulsive, and if acted upon, is done without consent from the other party and can cause the upmost distress to both this object of ‘affection’ and their family. If acted upon, a paedophilic compulsion can eternally pervert a childhood, a young person’s sense of normality. Its effects are devastating.
As a Christian, I believe that everyone can be saved, renewed and reformed – that is, after all, the basis of my faith. But if paedophilia is seen as an attraction, what can be done to rehabilitate someone with that urging? For centuries, and even up until today, a wealth of research has been conducted into gender and sexuality, and much of it has raised unanswered questions of whether homosexuality is normal, and whether a person can be ‘made’ heterosexual. This is not a blog about the wrongs and rights about homosexuality and I care not to discuss my position on it, but on the subject of attraction, is it possible to change what a person is naturally attracted to?
Describing ‘attraction’ as a feeling that is unconscious and uncontrollable, the Western World has agreed that homosexuality can never be ‘reversed’, that it is a normal feeling present in a growing percentage of the population. Some Christians disagree with this. But if we go with the world’s understanding of attraction to the same sex, is it possible that people with a sexual love of children can also never be cured, just like a gay man can never be made straight?
Until I have a child of my own, I appreciate that I will never understand how a parent whose child has been abused and killed must feel. But I would like to think [and desperately hope] that underneath, or after, all the anger, rage, frustration, misery and grief, instead of rejoicing at the misfortune of the perpetrator, like the parents of the poor boy that was killed, God would give me the grace to be able to forgive and pray for that person who has violated the life of the gift He created within me.
The problem is, over these past few months and getting into the mind of ‘Benjamin’ as I wrote this story, I’ve found that the case of a paedophile is much more complex than that of a rapist, murderer or thief. How do you encourage someone to repentance when they can’t seem to control the thing that drives them to do what they do? How do you help restore someone like Benjamin, who is completely abhorred by the thought of homosexuality, but can’t see the difference between his love and ours? How do you tell someone who is completely rational in all other aspects, that his ‘love’ is not normal, is not valid according to accepted social norms?
This topic is a sensitive one, probably one of the most disturbing ones I’ve written on so far. But it’s re-emphasised to me the main tenet of The SuperWoman Chronicles: that everyone is capable of everything and anything can happen to anyone. Submerging myself in the character Benjamin highlighted the complexities of things like paedophilia, and has challenged my perception of the nature of homosexuality and the realities of reformation. It has re-established the meaning of not passing judgement on others, and has led me further into a humbling acceptance that if Jesus can change me, and forgive all the awful things that I’ve done, said or thought about, then He must be able to do the same for everyone else.
Je t’embrasse, x
*In case I have not made it clear enough, I want to clarify and stress that I do not, in any way, condone paedophilia, sexual abuse, or any form of abuse for that matter, on a child or otherwise.