The baby girl was just 15 weeks old when she died of asphyxiation. She was found with blood on her face from her mouth to her forehead. Her father said he found a used condom lodged in her throat, which he removed and threw across the room before rushing her to the hospital. The condom was later found to have his DNA on the inside and his baby daughter’s on the outside.
The father said that a dog must have retrieved the used condom from the trash and put it on the floor, and then the 15-week-old baby must have fallen out of bed on top of the condom and breathed it in, suffocating on it. I’m not sure how that explains the blood.
The mother – who was at work when this happened – had a slightly different story. She said that a box of condoms that had been kept on a table was had been moved to the bed by the time she arrived home.
The man is now on trial for killing his daughter by suffocating her during oral sex. Fifteen weeks old. His own daughter. The father says he’s not guilty, but earlier he told police that he must have been possessed by an “evil spirit,” and a polygraph test said he was being deceptive. I’m not sure if the condom-fetching dog in on the possession, according to him.
I was so upset when I read this story that I shared it on Facebook, because what else was there to do? I wasn’t surprised by the responses, which so far have run about 50/50. Half of the people commenting are as outraged as I am. The other half want to give the father the benefit of the doubt. “It’s too messed up,” said one.
I agree with him on that. It’s horribly messed up. I don’t even know what words to use to describe it. Monstrous. Evil. Soul-killing. Unimaginable. Those words don’t even come close. I don’t know what word I’d use, but there’s one I wouldn’t: unbelievable.
I believe it.
And I understand why others don’t.
Because who wants to believe that such things are possible? We all know that incest does happen. That in itself is uncomfortable enough to contemplate. But a baby not even four months old? Her own father? Choking to death during oral rape? No one wants to live in a world where such things are possible. Who wants to believe that something like this could happen? That people could be so … so … I don’t know what word to use. So inhuman.
But I know otherwise.
I’ve not been a counselor for long. I’ve only had my limited license a little over a year. Add to that my internship experience and I’ve got a whopping two years of part-time, volunteer counseling under my belt. But in that time, I’ve heard things. Awful things. Things I could never have imagined are going on in my community’s back yard before I started counseling. And, truth be told, things I may not have believed.
Child pornography. Child prostitution. Parents offering their children for sex in exchange for drugs. Gang rapes as an initiation. Not just in the city, but in small towns. In the country. I’ve been to the hospital as a sexual assault survivor advocate for adults. For teens. For children. Nine years old. A six-year-old on Christmas Eve. A three-year-old. Two years old.
Whatever blissful ignorance I used to have is gone. A 15-week-old. Her own father. It doesn’t shock me anymore. It just makes me profoundly sad.
No one wants to believe these things happen, so we, as a society, work hard to hide the evidence. As an advocate, I’d sometimes go to the hospital three times in one weekend. As a reporter, I’d go to work Monday and make a round of cop calls, only to be told that no major crimes had happen over the weekend. Nope, no rape happening here. Not three or two or even one. We’re a safe community.
But we’re not.
It happens. It happens a lot. It goes on every day. Right now. Most will never even report it to police. Why? Many won’t because they’re afraid they won’t be believed. And their fear of speaking up only reinforces the idea that it doesn’t happen. That it’s rare. That we’re safe. But we’re not.
We don’t know it’s going on. We don’t talk about it. If we’re confronted with it, we say it sounds too improbable. It’s too much. Give the guy the benefit of the doubt, because who could ever do such a thing? It’s an evil that’s incomprehensible. It won’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense.
Believe me, that’s something the survivor – if they do survive – wonders, too. Why? Why did he do it? It doesn’t make sense. Why? Why? Why?
There’s never an answer that satisfies. Whatever explanation, it’s not enough. Explanations don’t bring understanding and they don’t bring relief. In the end, you’re left with the sad ache that so much grief and hurt is inflicted for absolutely no good reason at all. That it goes on being inflicted. And there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
Coming to terms with the enormity of that isn’t easy. It’s something I wish someone had helped me understand before I got into counseling. I bet they tried, but I didn’t get it until I saw it for myself. You can’t do this kind of work for long and hold on to blissful ignorance.
People are capable of breath-taking cruelty. It happens. I can vouch for it. The only way I can live with that is to join the fight and do what little I can to counterbalance it.
Only by confronting the absolute ugliest truths can you do something about it. People are capable of breathtaking cruelty – I’ve learned this is true. And it’s going to go on happening no matter what I do. But people are also able of healing, resilience and strength that are equally breathtaking. I’ve been humbled while facilitating a support group for survivors, watching women reach out from their own pain to comfort others. I’ve watched young women on the brink of suicide not just survive, but excel. I’ve known women who come to me feeling lost decide what they want to do with their lives and start doing it. I can’t imagine a greater reward.
But it’s a reward that comes at a price. The price? Knowing the absolute evil people can choose just as easily. Maybe more easily.