Early this week, I read an article about a woman who forgave her rapist in open court. To give you some quick background on this story, Jane Piper was raped and beaten in the back seat of her car 11 years ago. For 11 years, she had been mulling over some choice words for her assailant. After all this time, she chose to tell this vile man that she forgave him. What was most intriguing to me, however, wasn’t her statement of forgiveness, but the things she said with it:
“I acknowledge that you did these disgusting things to me, for whatever reason…and I forgive you, human being to human being. Do you want to be a better person? Do you wish that you hadn’t done this stuff? Who is the person you once wanted to be?”
As I read the above quote, I had to physically bring my hand to my mouth so not to scream at the computer screen as I read these words. ‘human being to human being?’ I thought perplexed. Here this woman was talking to this rapist as though he was the same type of human as she was. She was projecting her own human construct of normal onto a man who clearly wasn’t normal.
I was drawn to this woman’s story because, I too, have thought a lot about what I will say to my son’s murder if I ever get the chance. I often go from thinking about how I will describe to him how vile he is, trying to show him with my words how much he gave up, or to just wondering if there is any point in wasting my breath on such a hopeless, useless, shell/waste of space. Jane Piper had 11 years to think of what she would say to her attacker. While the article I referenced doesn’t explain her thought process, I can only imagine that she mostly forgave him for her own benefit – and not his.
From my own jaded perspective on this issue, I sat at my computer and imagined the things I would have preferred reading as the title of this article (instead of the focus on how amazing it was that this woman forgave a psycho):
1) Judge grants rape victim the right to kick rapist in the nuts, rendering him unable to have children, before she forgives him.
2) Instead of issuing a victim statement to the rapist, rape victim decides to use the platform to bring attention to how rape needs to be prosecuted more often.
3) For the first time in the history of the world, rapist shows that he has been rehabilitated by suggesting the community stone him as punishment for his crime.
I could go on and on, but I think you get my point. While as a victim, I would never get on anyone’s case for how they choose to move on from a crime. I am happy for this woman that she has been able to move on, while still believing that everyone is capable of good. That is amazing optimism that I hope to one day believe to be true.
I hate to break it to the optimistic people out there, but most prisoners don’t feel bad about what they have done. Many are not able to accept personal responsibility for why they are in jail. While there are likely some people who feel bad about what they did, I would argue that this is not the majority. Have you ever heard someone tell you that most people in prison claim they are innocent? Well, it’s because they cannot take responsibility for what they have done. If you cannot take responsibility (and I don’t include people who simply admit guilt to lesson their sentence), forgiveness will be lost on you.
In addition to Jane Piper’s addressing her rapist as an equal, she also asked him questions that I found intriguing. The questions she asked were built from 11 years of likely doing the same exercise that I have done on many occasions. The question she seemed to be searching for was “why”. While I don’t know her true motivation here, I can assume she forgave him because she no longer wanted to harbor anger, but she still wanted the closure that an honest response that she believed the “why” question would give her.
I recently had lunch with one of my ex “Luc’s” other victims. He told me that one day he would like to confront him about all the terrible things he had done to him. He said he didn’t want to talk to him, but that he wanted to just ask him “Why”. I told him that I understood his need for answers, but that he needed to understand that while he certainly had the right to ask the question – he might need to prepare himself for never hearing the truth.
Attempting to Understand Crazy:
Many times in the past few years, I too have played the “why” game. I go over and over in my head and try to make sense of why someone would kill their own child. This game often takes me in circles down a rabbit hole of badness, until I realize that there is no way to jump inside the head of a psychopath. I think it is dangerous to attempt to look at people who do scary and vile things as though they are rational players. When we try to pigeon hole these people into our own safe mental constructs, we under estimate their dangerousness.
While Jane Piper had good intentions in forgiving her rapist, I pray that she forgave him knowing that he might have been unforgivable. I pray that she knew that she might not ever get the answers to her questions, because her rapist might not even know the answers himself. I fully support the idea that victims need to let go of the anger (though I am not there yet), but I challenge society to understand that in order to protect ourselves from truly monstrous people, we need to realize that not everyone is capable of good. Not everyone can be rehabilitated, and not everyone is worthy of forgiveness.