I just knowingly ruined a man’s life, but to be fair he kind of destroyed mine first.
You see, he stole something extremely valuable from me and I was never able to get it back. My innocence, (if you had not guessed already) aged six.
It was only a once off, and I know that many people have been through a whole lot worse for a whole lot longer. However, anyone who has ever experienced childhood sexual abuse will tell you that while the act itself is awful, it is usually what follows after that is the most traumatic aspect. Specifically, how the people around you (parents, police, and the court system etc.) respond and deal with the situation. And let me tell you, they dealt with things differently 25 years ago.
In my case, he was found not guilty. This baffled me, he did something wrong, why did he not get into trouble? Did no one believe me? For whatever reason, it did not occur to my parents to explain it to me and in my family the word counselling was akin to an extreme profanity. What I learned later, as an adult, was that he had already had previous conviction from a similar offence.
What I already knew, was that he went to jail not long after my case for assaulting yet another little girl. The police specifically came to my school to tell me that he had gone to prison because he had hurt someone else. I did not feel any satisfaction, I remember childishly thinking they had believed her, and not me. Why he was not found guilty in my case and consequently being able to reoffend I will never know.
Needless to say these events entirely shaped my perceptions on not only justice but also my body and who could claim ownership of it. I cringe when I think of my ‘promiscuous’ teen years filled with drug and alcohol abuse. I felt obligated to sleep with anyone who wanted me, which was for the most part was predatory older men. It was not until my early twenties that I felt empowered enough to tell someone I was not interested. I realised that I could actually verbalise the word “NO” and not just scream it over and over in my head.
It is a universal truth that nothing rips open long forgotten wounds of childhood like having a child of your own. A few months after my son was born, I started thinking about this man and how easy it would be to find him. A fake account, a quick search and a friend request later found me hooked. I had a grotesque fascination with every aspect of this dark obscure monster who was able to so shape my existence after one encounter, 25 years ago.
The first thing I discovered was the amount of women with young children he was friends with… online and in the real world. As I kept scrolling I started to feel a prickling of fear in my gut and the questions started filling my mind… had he been rehabilitated? Or did the advent of the internet make it easier to get his kicks? How many innocent photos did he have access to and what kind of lens was he viewing them with? How much could you trust an opportunistic cunning man who targeted little girls within metres of their fathers and with the intelligence to design MRI machines?
“This idea is not coming from a bad place. It’s coming from a scared place.” says Mia Freedman. Post continues after audio.
I needed to know, so I typed out a message …”Hi Brian*, I am one of the little girls you hurt 25 years ago. I just wanted to let you know how much your actions affected my life. I hope you can appreciate how hard it was to contact you and I hope that you have found redemption.” I had no idea what I was expecting, maybe an apology or at least some acknowledgement to signal that he had changed. What I got however, was radio silence. He had seen the message but chose not to respond. I waited 48 hours, all the while a fiery rage was snaking through my veins.
Now I would not consider myself a vengeful person, however, I felt feverishly gleeful as I messaged every woman on his friends list “hi, just letting you know that Brian has been a convicted paedophile”, along with a picture of transcripts from his convictions. At first I felt an overwhelming satisfaction, justice for myself and any other girl who was hurt by him but unable to come forward. Then came the guilt. What have I done? Maybe he did find redemption and was too alarmed to respond to me. Should the stench of this follow him around for the rest of his life? Or should he be allowed to move on and circulate with women and children who are none the wiser?
So you tell me, did I do the right thing? Would you want to know if someone on your friend list had been a convicted paedophile? Even if it was 25 years ago?
*This name has been changed due to privacy reasons.