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8.23.2005

Sensitive 

Violence is traumatic. At least, it is at first...

People tend to think that sensitivity equates to weakness. If so, then callousness is the same as strength. I don’t think either one is true. But it is not a bad thing for a person to be afraid of harming another person. I have a good friend who is quick to apologize for any perceived slight. She feels guilty if she thinks she’s hurt someone’s feelings, whether they had it coming to them or not. I can barely imagine how much of a wreck she’d be if she ever actually had to harm someone physically.

Is that such a bad thing? That she would somehow feel like partaking in violence is an affront to what makes her human?

I, on the other hand, seemed to attract bullies when I was young. I think I made an easy target, being scrawny, quiet, and pretty much prone to keeping to myself. But I came from a household where beatings were commonplace, and I was not so willing to accept it in the world outside or in school. Even so, the first three times I ever got into a fight, I cried like hell afterwards. Not because I was hurt – two out of the three I hadn’t been – but because I had been a part of a violent confrontation, and had hurt someone else. I had, in fact, brought upon another human being the very pain that I abhorred being done to me at home. But here’s something to note: I never once did anything to start those fights, and I still cried about what I had done.

Later in life, I did not cry. As my family and home life fell to pieces and I turned to life on the street, violence became a common part of my reality. After a time, I grew jaded by violence. Then I became good at it. Eventually, I even started to like it.

There are long years between then and now, and I have changed a great deal. But I do not deny that that is who I once was. But that is not the attitude that I think our children…our young men and young women…should adopt when it comes to dealing with violence.

What is better, truly? That a person would cry because they have done harm to another person, even if that person deserves it? Or that they learn to revel in their talent for streamlining hate into physical cruelty?

Much has been made of Kirstin Lobato crying about the attack on her, which she has always and consistently maintained was an attempted sexual assault that she fended off with a knife in May of 2001. The prosecutors who led the charge to her conviction say she killed Duran Bailey, who died two months after the attack on Kirstin in a brutal homicide that evidence shows she could not have committed. When the homicide detectives showed up at her home, Kirstin cried a great deal, and said things that could be construed as an admission of guilt, like when she told her parents “I told you I did something bad.”

She cried because of her conscience, that much has never been in doubt. But she was crying about her own actions of self-defense against a man that could not have been the murder victim, Duran Bailey. She cried about cutting a man with a knife. She felt like she was bad because she had taken violent action in a way that nothing in her history had prepared her for. This was not a young woman with a past full of violent encounters that she herself perpetuated (that most certainly would have been brought up in court). As far as I can tell from all the testimony and statements and so on, this was the first altercation of her young life where she fought back against abuse, and that most assuredly made it extremely intense for her. I’ll say it again: violence is traumatic.

And Kirstin has been the victim of abuse before. Abuse will make you very aware of pain and how it works. It ensures that you know how it feels when you cause pain to others. Exactly how it feels. For many abuse victims, the logic behind it all does not change just because of the presence of self-defense. Justifications of an action become meaningless compared to the pain, especially because most abusers provide justifications for their actions even as they abuse. So, what really is “justification” to a victim of abuse? How well can they understand the meaning of a term that seems like it can be tailored to fit any action at all? Victims are often left with only knowing that the infliction of pain is wrong. So, yes, Kirstin cried about harming someone. She thought of what she had done as bad. Harming her was bad. Harming someone is bad. Heck, when homicide showed up, she thought she had killed the man, and it does not get much worse than that.

Crying was not an admission of guilt about Bailey. Thinking of violence as “something awful” is not an admission of guilt either. Especially to a young woman who had suffered before at the hands of abusers. In fact, crying is something that I think shows what everyone who knows Kirstin seems to say about her: that whatever her problems may be, she is a good girl with a good heart.


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