In your minds eye, how does a perpetrator look? Would they appear disheveled and transient? Maybe have a evil snarl with lined faces and bloodshot eyes? We’ve all seen the mugshots in the paper or on the television, from those perpetrators that LOOK like they are capable of violence. The newsreel confirming their guilt, we imagine we could clearly see it in them. It oozes out of them.
Then we read about Jon Pomeroy and his wife, Rebecca Long. Mr. Pomeroy recently pleaded guilty to ‘mistreating’ his daughter. He was accused of sitting passively by while his wife ‘disciplined’ his daughter. At 4 ft 7 inches and weighing 48 lbs, this severely starved girl was taken from their Carnation home. The trauma most probably stunting her growth permanently and the rotting of all her teeth, not to mention the irreparable emotional and physical harm she will have to come to terms with for the rest of her life.
When I first read the story I imagined Pomeroy and Long as the seedy character I always stereotyped abusers to be. Recently the Seattle Times posted a picture of Jon and Rebecca walking to the courtroom and I was shocked. They looked so… normal. I couldn’t reconcile this outdated image of what an abuser is ‘supposed to look like’ with how they appeared in the
photo. Not visibly someone you would think capable of these atrocities. They could easily be someone living next door in some residential area , saying hello and being neighborly.
But isn’t it so often how a perpetrator either fits or doesn’t fit our expectation of what an abuser should look like that determines whether we follow our gut instinct? Obviously there is no such thing as ‘should’ when it comes to abuse.
For Jon and Rebecca, we may completely ignore our instinct.
In this busy modern world, we have become good at dismissing, delaying, or debating our core instinct into submission. It’s the reason why we stay up an extra hour when our body is telilng us to go to sleep. Or when we have that extra donut as our stomach protests.
Looking at Jon and Rebecca, it didn’t surprise us to read the testimony of neighbors and people who knew them. Friends and family were ‘shocked’. Neighbors thought they were ‘always such a nice couple.’ Some even now indicating that they ‘aren’t capable of this.’ Ignoring our instinct when we need it least has caused us to second-guess it when we need it the most.
Pomeroy is looking at 2.5-3 years behind bars. His daughter doesn’t get her life back in 3 years. She also doesn’t have a parent anymore. Mr. Pomeroy sat idly by as Rebecca Long starved his daughter nearly to death. All too often we are content to sit idly by, ignoring the twisting of our gut, while the people we know as ‘nice folks’ abuse and torture defenseless victims.
It’s interesting. I look back at my life and when it comes to gut instinct I can look at the worst mistakes I have ever made and it almost always was a result of ignoring my own gut feeling. Follow yours and speak up when you see something that isn’t quite right. We can always judge wrongly, but wouldn’t you rather be wrong than right and not say anything?
I think the following adds further insight to your insightful piece.
Sometimes a perp can be so deceptive he can hide the most horrendous crimes and no one suspects.These are the ones that worry me. When I was young I had a friend named Dennis. He was a nice guy and fun to be around. 4 years ago he was arrested and he confessed to murder. He is a serial killer known to the world as BTK.I was not alone in the shock when this was revealed, but having been abused myself, I couldn’t understand how I couldn’t see any signs. This is very isolated, as usually there is something to give a doubt, but this one didn’t. I guess my point is you can’t always see any signs.
The aspect I’ve pondered re abuse including sexual abuse is recognition.
How can we equip ourselves to actually be able to “see” the signs clearly and then condition ourselves in advance, to act and not stay in fear and denial.
If rather than keep with the lie that incestuous abuse is the overwhelming exception or that the villain is some outsider who has the right look, we self educate to reality, things will change. When we put aside common misconceptions learned from handed down ignorance and deceit, we can see those who torture children are an every(wo)man. We all must be RESPONSIBLE, not deny the facts and become involved and to always be first and foremost For The Children.
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“I look back at my life and when it comes to gut instinct I can look at the worst mistakes I have ever made and it almost always was a result of ignoring my own gut feeling. ”
I’ll second that, and I might even delete the “almost”. Intuition=survival instinct. Fear gets in the way of hearing it. I work on eliminating fear so I can hear my intuition more reliably.