unforgiven?

IT’S ODD, how we can remember the banalities of life, the tiny minutiae that radiate outwards from the throbbing core of a traumatic event. Even when, sometimes, the details of the trauma itself are unrecoverable.
Jane Doe does not know, to this day, if the 12-inch butcher knife that her rapist held against her throat in the early hours of Aug. 24, 1986, came out of her own cutlery drawer. Perhaps it was one of those spare kitchen utensils her mother was always pressing on her, when she went home to visit. Perhaps the rapist — the same man who had already sexually assaulted four other women in downtown Toronto — had brought the knife with him.

It was never recovered.

But Jane Doe can recall, as she told a Toronto courtroom yesterday, the warm drip-drip of her rapist’s sweat, falling against her bare skin, as he repeatedly penetrated her.

In relating this to her lawyer, Sean Dewart, Jane Doe’s left hand fluttered to her throat, and she rubbed her fingers against the hollow of her neck, as if trying to remove the acidic stain of such an intimate violation.

She has a sharp, fox face, keenly expressive, her eyes widening with the effort of her own attempts to remember, her voice a sibilant whisper, but emphatic.

Despite her tiny, fragile appearance, she is battle-hardened. And she has not lost her humour, as she proved yesterday with the occasional ironic observation.

Jane Doe has told this story so many times in the 11 years since she was raped as she fought for, and won, the right to sue police for negligence; as she attempts, now, to hold them accountable for not giving her proper warning as a potential target of this particular rapist, given what they knew about his habits and how closely she fit the profile of other victims.

She is the heart of the matter: her account of the “invasive” post-rape procedure a chilling indictment of the system as it existed a decade ago; her recalled conversations with police investigators a shocking example of what her lawyer has called the systemic gender-based discrimination against women that allegedly existed on the force.

It had been, Jane Doe told the court, such an unexceptional day. Though a Saturday, she was working at a demanding job, but had managed to squeeze a few hours of free time to take her 5-year-old niece on a birthday shopping outing.

She returned to work till about 7 p.m., stopped for a slice of pizza and a Coke, picked up a video, went out later in the evening to buy some fruit at the corner store, watched the news on TV, read for a while and fell asleep with the bedside light still turned on.

“I was actually shaken awake. I felt somebody shaking my body. a man had his hand over my mouth, was in my bed and had a knife to my throat.”

For about an hour, the rapist subjected her to various sexual acts, all the time asking her questions: How old was she? What did she do for a living? Did she have a boyfriend?

“It’s terrifying… it’s terrorizing,” she told the court. “It contrasted so completely with the violence.”

The assailant had some difficulty maintaining an erection, and Jane Doe was seized with conflicting fears, thinking, “if he didn’t maintain an erection, he would kill me, that it would be my fault. That contrasted with the fear that if he did ejaculate, at the moment of ejaculation he would plunge the knife into my heart.”

When the assailant left, Jane Doe called 911. While she was still on the phone, police arrived in her lobby. Once in her apartment, they wouldn’t even allow her to use the washroom, unless she left the door open.

She didn’t want medical attention, could not understand why police insisted she submit to a hospital exam if she intended to file a rape complaint, saw no need for the stretcher that ambulance attendants brought to her door. Her neighbours were all huddled out in the corridor by now, she told police. She didn’t want to be seen being wheeled out of her apartment.

“I was adamant. I didn’t want to leave that way. It was very disempowering.”

In the end, they compromised. “I sat on the stretcher, with a sheet over my head.”

and, so a victim describes her attack and its effects. Jane Doe, victim of the paul callow, known as the balcony rapist, sued the Toronto PD for failing to issue a proper warning about the balcony rapist. the excerpt is from a 1997 interview published in a Toronto newspaper. that inteview took place 10 years ago. and the man who terrorized Jane Doe has recently received his release from prison. so … now what? i mean, really? Jane Doe will continue to heal, only up to a particular degree, i suppose. regardless of paul callow’s fate, she will never achieve her pre-rape state of being. that’s a given. but … what of paul callow? what of the balcony rapist?

i read an article in the commuter rag this morning that detailed the harrassment which paul callow’s family – his sister, nephew and brother-in-law – have received in an area of Surrey, British Columbia. you see, paul callow has gone to live with his sister and her family in in Surrey. the residents of their community do not like this. karen callow and her family have received death threats and veiled threats of violence and harassment at work. the community feels adamant ~ paul callow must leave.

i understand the response … the frenzy of intense emotion. it’s only natural people should want to feel safe in their own neighbourhood. unfortunately, i think of that perception of safety as quite mythical. at any rate … how can a man rehabilitate if his community refuses to acquiesce and give him a guarded chance? for those who believe in some sort of supernal being … for those who attend that building with the cross and spire each weekend … does not forgiveness figure prominently in your belief code?

so … what’s ok to forgive? seems to me the answer to that one = everything and anything. and what do we mean when we say ‘forgive?’ that, my friend, i cannot answer. i believe everyone has their own notion of ‘forgiveness.’ i don’t believe we mean erasing the offensive events from existence or memory. i don’t believe we mean condoning the offensive events. i don’t believe we mean minimizing the events devastating consequences. or minimizing the reality that perpetrator must account for behviour taken. so … what’s left? surrender. surrender of the hurt the offensive events caused. and what if the perpetrator never did anything to you? do you still need to forgive him for his sins against another, whom you do not know?

just wondering … and not sure if i have expressed myself clearly.

here is a link that will tell you about the balcony rape victim and her struggle with the Toronto PD. Jane Doe launched her lawsuit against the PD, arguing her 1986 rape might not have happened had officers properly investigated a series of attacks in her Toronto neighborhood and warned women of the rapist. the victim and her lawyer felt the PD attempted to use her [the victim] as bait in catching callow.

here is a link that will tell you about the balcony rapist and his struggle to reintegrate. this news clip does not indicate, but, since his release from prison, callow has found himself unable to secure any funding for and or any psychological counselling. yet … in much of the release information, law enforcement labels him as high risk to reoffend.

any thoughts? we all can only imagine how we would feel, finding ourselves in the shoes of the surrey residents. however, i cannot help but think they’re all making a mountain out of what’s yet to even show itself as a molehill. y’know? the man did his crimes. he did his time in prison. does he deserve more punishment? as far as i can see, that’s not for me to decide. and i have learned … anger never healed a fucking thing. as a child, i have suffered ugly things in a powerless position at the hands of lustful men … on multiple occasions. still, does that preclude me from forgiving? or a friend … or a loved one … [on my behalf?]

you tell me.

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~ by frizzyscissorhands on June 19, 2007.

14 Responses to “unforgiven?”

  1. Wow, you sure pick the hard ones! Right now in the States, there is a lot of ink spilled over the three Duke Lacrosse players who were ramroded into a rape trial by an unethical DA. As bad as I felt for the young men, I wondered if the same press would be going on if they had been of color, poor and not in a prestigious school. I think we live in a world where people don’t matter, but money and power certainly take prescidence.

    You know some stuff of what has happened to me. I have not forgiven my rapist, nor do I know how. I also have not forgiven the fact that I live in a country where I could not feel comfortable bringing him to justice. My concern for my child overtook everything. My husband recently told me that he bets the guy raped someone again. I said: why do I have to keep paying for HIS crime? And why should our son do the same? My husband knows that the justice system is fucked. In a different society, he could have called him out, man to man, and fought him. Not here.

    I know in my case, there are things I can forgive with ease, others that take more work. But the things that feel unforgiveable tend to come from a past unhealed hurt. Often I haven’t forgiven myself for my role in the hurt. When that is going on, it is nearly impossible to forgive anyone else.

    This is a tough issue, and I know my comment offers no resolution. But damn, I get it.

  2. 30 years ago a man intered our home through the balconey. we were 3 stories up. this was 29 years ago. he entered the bathroom of our home. i was in it. i was going to be what the police termed a ‘convenience rape’ – burlary and if their was a helpless victim rape her…
    thanks to the sleepy stumbling clumsiness of my teenage brother who awoke from all the noise i was not raped. i wrote about this a month or so ago…perhaps more.

    i wish this victim had been so lucky…

  3. “the things that feel unforgiveable tend to come from a past unhealed hurt”

    so well put. while i have said … and i do believe that everyone – perpetrators included – need to account for their behaviours and the ensuing consequences. currently most believe that accounting takes place in the form of retribution … via the justice system. mostly that’s true, i suppose. but sometimes maybe it just doesn’t fit.

    as for thinking of the perpetrators (i.e. yours … mine) i once used to consider that … ‘how many others …’ but, one must focus on oneself first and foremost. its not my place to judge the actions of others. only to do what needs doing to get on with things. a wound that never heals can eventually kill a person. that’s how christopher reeves died. that’s an extreme physical example to communicate what happens when we do no heal the spiritual emotional wounds that plague us. that’s not a lecture … just what i have learned the hard way.

    and now … i just wonder … someone like paul callow … where does he fit in? where in society has a place for him?

    foam … what a story. how things could have turned differently, indeed. i will make a point of finding that post of yours and reading it.

  4. Enemy’s right, Mantissa. You picked a real hard one.

    I can’t say that I know what my feelings are in toto, for they lack the experience of being raped. Furthermore, it’s not something I fear. I know, it can happen. But I don’t fear that it will. I don’t entertain it as a possibility when I go out into the street.

    The first thing that I find horrific is that neither BC nor Ontario bothered to oversee a program of psychological/psychiatric care. I don’t know how it is in Canada, but I know that in the US, those convicted of sex crimes are in for particularly difficult times in prison. Consequently, by the time they get out, they’re more prone to commit violence, and, as you put it, reoffend.

    At the same time everyone knows that a convicted rapist will one day leave prison. Viewed as a purely punishment, that should happen. Viewed as a protective measure for society–especially with the lack of care and the increased violence towards such inmates–this becomes a thornier issue.

    If he’s out on the street, he has to reintergrate into society. I don’t think that will happen, at least not right away.

    I can imagine Enemy’s outrage about having to live with the knowledge that her rapist is still “out there” somewhere. Furthermore, the treatment of law enforcement of the crime heaps further humiliation on those attack than they do the attackers. As Enemy also points out, there are issues of race and class involved with respect to who gets targeted for prosecution in the first place.

    I always pegged American backwardness on the issue of sex crime to the US’s backwardness on sex in general. I’m a bit surprised that Canadians exhibit almost identical characteristics. But, then again, maybe I have to take Canada down off the pedestal I put it on.

  5. a tough one, indeed.

    yet, its happening all-too-often here, the forced (i mean the criminal has to live somewhere, right?) reintegration of previously criminally violent individuals back into society. everyone has the same initial completely irrational, emotional reaction. “kill the bastard” … “send him away” … blah blah. its tired. its old. its fucking UNREALISTIC.

    where do we expect people like this should go? what do we, as a society want to do with them?

    i reject the notion that individuals should remain incarcerated within the prison system well past fulfillment of their sentence in order to provide the public with a contrived sense of security.

    [once again i am reminded of the Matrix and how Agent Smith fought Neo with everything he had … to maintain the false and contrived status quo. metaphorically, the dynamic applies here.

    and you are absolutely correct. prison does nothing but turn out violent, hepatitis C, and HIV positive sexually-victimized violent offenders. and yes, rapists have it particularly tough in prison.

    i appreciate enemy’s outrage that her attacker is still ‘out there.’ that, in and of itself, can cause anguish enough. remember connie francis? i will never forget her and what happened. the brutal rape she suffered effectively destroyed her.

    as for me … i thought it sucked and made for real mind-fucking adventures to have the rapist(s) at the supper table … at all holiday, etc … to have to buy presents and cards and honour the rapist(s) … but i suppose i could say that at least i could keep him/them close at hand … and know the threat no longer exists.

    still, surprisingly, i did not consider paul callow’s story much from the perspective of Jane Doe, his victim. what intrigued me was … the whole issue of reintegration and forgiveness.

    i suppose what i’m getting at is … no one knows for absolute and certain whether this man or anyone else will re-offend. however, he and his family have spoken and acted thus far (since release) in a sincere manner. paul callow encouraged his neighbours to come and talk to him … about their concerns. also, his parole conditions limit his mobility – ie curfews, etc. so … do we give him the benefit of the doubt … despite the ever-existing risk he may re-offend?

    i venture a guess that we do not have enough physical space to incarcerate each and every person who poses even the minutest possibility of extremely violent re-offense. and do we base our decisions, actions, etc … on the possibility of a future event occuring or not?

    for the benefit of enemy – i.e. to speak in her terms – jesus prayed for forgiveness for those who put him to death, as they put him to death. what other example do we have to emulate?

    about rape and fear and healing and all that. i think that most people want to think a victim’s healing somehow has intimate connections with retribution for the perpetrator. i disagree. in fact, it has really very little to do with him/her/it. healing and fear and all that crazy stuff come from inside.

    none of my rapists received justice, in the traditional sense of the word. but, am i the administrator of justice for the universe? NOPE. i am just me. and justice does not always get delivered in a cell with bars on it. and why should it make my healing progress to contribute to someone else’s suffering? i know, in my case, it would not.

    and, as a nurse, when i am working ER and come across a rapist … or attacker … that requires care … then it would be my duty to provide the best possible nursing/medical care i have the capacity to provide. that possibility troubled many-a-practitioner. but, that’s life. and it never outraged me. not sure why. tough stuff, though. but … mine is NOT to judge.

    and humans so want to be judge, jury and executioner. we so want revenge and retribution … seething allthewhile, seeing sweet revenge as the panacea to solve all our hurts. so misguided. so hurtful ~ to the self mostly.

    kharma, baby. i think kharma. with all my heart i believe in kharma, reincarnation, and in justice that takes convulted and mysterious paths to reach its destination. i walk the streets without fear. wisely, but without fear.

    its a tough one, alright. but many of those who protest the loudest over reintegrating individuals such as paul callow into society tend to be the ones that pull into the church parking lot first, make sure they get seen tossing an envelope into the collection basket … etc. HYPOCRITS. its all a bunch of bullshit if we cannot, at the end of the day, put some of that moral/religious stuff into life’s practice. that’s what gets me most.

    no one said it would be easy. and don’t look for the easy button. its broken.

    🙂

    ~roxanne/mantissa

  6. i suppose it all comes down to my belief: the entitlement of every human – regardless of past actions, decisions, behaviour – to basic respect and dignity and life.

    and i repeat myself … but … i really believe it:

    revenge/vindication DOES NOT EQUAL healing.

    ~roxanne/mantissa

  7. wow.

    indeed.

    the thing that gets me is the high likelyhood that he will offend again, and the fact that he is unable to obtain counseling.

    Also, that he asked questions of his victim as though they were on a date.

    how many women have not been raped? I would like to know.
    Seems like the majority have, in some fashion or another. I was raped in my sleep.
    He was nice enough to use a condom, it was because he did not want a baby to come from it… but it was without my consent, and I would have said no.
    Rape is a tough word, and it comes in so many different varieties/degrees of violation.

    Very thought provoking post.

  8. PS my “rapist” was a person that I trusted and allowed in my home for the night because he needed a “place to crash” I thought he would be a gentleman being that he worked in the state capitol as a politician.

    Although, I am now aware of that oxymoron.

    Even though it was not violent, and he thought he got away with it, I still felt violated as I woke up to him pulling out of me and flushing the condom.

    And I guess that is just my point, there are so many shades of rape.

    I was once drunk and a person offered to walk me home so I would be “safe”

    He then poured more beer down my throat until I could not see straight.

    In a matter of minutes I was done being raped, It was not violent, but I was still violated… that was still rape too wasn’t it?

    I had trusted him as well.

    I no longer let any man into my home unless he loves me.

  9. If anyone is interested, I have a new post up on my C’est Moi Vanille blog.

    It is in context.

  10. You know, I’m really kinda angry that you, Enemy, and Infinitesimal were forced to endure this. While I don’t believe in sadistic punishment, I do believe in restitution. My first guess would be that none of you received it.

  11. infini ~ hey girl. i’ll go check your new post soon.

    i wonder how many men have been raped? as shitty as it is for women, i think its gotta be worse for men, given the social taboos, etc.

    martin was raped as a 14 yr old by a hash dealer in tel aviv.i don’t exactly know how he dealt with it; clearly, he got no restitution. i think he just zen’d it, let it go, and never looked back. he never told a soul. save for me. i’ll just bet there are many, many martin’s out there.

    x-dell ~ martin (the hubz) expresses sentiments such as that. only he expresses it from the perspective of embarassment to be a member of his own (ie male) species.

    as for restitution – no there was none. i see your point. and it goes to just basic people taking responsibility for their own actions. however, no amount of restitution can give back what got taken so long ago ~ trust, a view of the carnal as anything but an attempt at over-powering another, and a view of the penis as anything but a weapon.

  12. and then i think. KHARMA baby. and then i go listen to good old chuck. [see next post]

  13. I agree that vengeance/vindication doesn’t heal… but sometimes, people need that quick fix to get it out of their system before they can move on. I don’t think anyone at all deserves to be preyed on… but the universe has its own way to balance everything. Patience is indeed a virtue.

    Enemy/Foam — My heart goes out to both of you. You’re wonderful!

  14. well, I exacted a slight mindfuck from the capitol guy… In that I let him know that I knew, and I did so in a way that made him think about his actions.
    I have considered blogging about it, but I try to only write about my positive experiences.

    The guy who followed me home?
    No real retribution there.
    He was so guilty I guess, that he moved out of town shortly after.

    Thank you XDell, for your sentiments, they are appreciated.

    RED: My best friend and 2 members of my family have been molested, they are all male, but one of the molesters was a female (she was mine as well)… but male to male rape? I do not know anyone personally.

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