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Amazing what a difference half a decade makes!

On Friday, I received my new drivers license in the mail.  A lot has changed since I had taken my previous DL photo.  Not just in my life, but procedurally as well.

Now they require a new photo every five years.  I think it used to be every seven (but don’t quote me on that).  It used to be you could wear glasses, smile, act and be natural in your photo.  Now, even if you wear glasses full time they have to be off, and not only are you not allowed to crack a toothy grin, you aren’t allowed to smile at all.  But, as you’ll note from my new license, a wry smirk is perfect acceptable.

My Driver's License Photo - Old and New

My Driver’s License Photo – Old and New

 

I have to admit…  when I received my new license and pulled the old one from my wallet, I stopped and stared at the photos for a while.  What a difference roughly half a decade makes.  The first photo was before I was married, before Lily-Ann was even a vague idea.  It was before I’d changed focus from my work as an expert in Canine Communication to Professional Photographer.  I voted Green back then, but wasn’t a member of the party, and would never dream I would run the provincial party and run for office during a provincial election, a national election, and a provincial by-election.  It was before I returned to my roots and realized how much I missed working with youth.  I hadn’t outed myself as a former victim of sexual assault, and was ashamed of the fact that I had FMS and IBS.  It was a very different me – who was plagued by social anxiety disorder and had a specially trained Service Dog because I couldn’t leave the house alone.

Now?  Wow.  There really isn’t much of that girl left.

I chose my wording carefully, the use of “girl” wasn’t an accident.  I was a girl.  I was a nervous, scared, girl.  I hid it pretty well from most folk…  but I really did live my life scared that I’d be found out, that someone would realize I wasn’t actually good enough to be worthwhile.

I said it once already, but for emphasis, I’ll say it again:  What a difference roughly half a decade makes.

Now?  I’m probably a little too self-assured…  I’m actually downright cocky.  LOL  I know that who I am matters, and what I do makes a difference.  I’m a proud woman.  Confident and ready to tackle pretty much anything that comes my way.  I live out loud, and tend to over share.  Want to know something about me?  Ask.  I’m not afraid and will happily talk to anyone about anything.  I’m doing some pretty amazing things.

Someone asked me if I felt old now that I’ve turned 35, and you know what?  I totally don’t.  I feel like life is just beginning.  I’ve just hit my stride.

 

Free to do it again and again

A warning before I begin:

This blog post may be triggering for some as it contains mentions of sexual abuse and physical attacks by a predator.  Please don’t read any further if these are topics which may cause mental anguish, flashbacks, or disassociative spells.

Today there was an article in the paper entitled “Repeat sex offender fits ‘dangerous’ designation“.  It is about a man named Cameron Downs, a 47 year old man with a lifetime of attacks under his belt.  But for me, it was about a teenage boy who abused me and went on to hurt many, many others.

Why share?  Sexual abuse, like mental illness has a stigma in our society – and it shouldn’t.  I don’t live my life as a victim.  I was harmed as a child, but that doesn’t take away from who I am, nor does it solely shape my identity.  Feeling that I should be ashamed, I’ve hidden away these facts, careful not to share them in case it might colour what people think of me.  But you know what?  That only adds to the power of the abuse.  I wasn’t to blame, and while I was a victim as a child, I am not any longer.  I refuse to allow societies shame to be my own.  If we don’t talk about these kinds of things, it allows them to happen again.  It feeds into the idea that they, the victims, should hide away and not be seen.  So I’m pulling back the curtain and letting in some light.

I run a Facebook group for people who grew up during the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s in our Saskatoon neighbourhood.  When my mom shared the news story that ran today, shock resonated through the group.  A few individuals posted about what a nice guy he was, and how they couldn’t believe he was capable of the atrocities the news story mentioned.

I couldn’t help but speak up, saying only that he was not a nice guy – ever.  One person even tried to correct me, saying that he was a nice guy when they knew him.  But no.  He really wasn’t.

I was five years old.  FIVE.  My daughter is four and a half, and it makes me shudder to my very core to think there are people who would look at her the way he looked at me.  He was 17.

Back then, like all children, I believed that people were innately good.  And that all people deserved second chances.  So when the police officer asked me what I wanted to have happen to Cameron I said that I just wanted him to get help.  We didn’t press charges, and Cameron went into counseling.

Now, knowing the string of incidents that followed, I can’t help but feel remorse.  I know I am not responsible for all those he hurt after me – including someone else I love very dearly (the “elderly woman” the article mentions in the last paragraph).  But I can’t help but wonder if I could have prevented some of what happened if I had pushed for a harsher punishment.

I am not mentioned in the article.  It claims his first sexual assault occurred against a teenager when he was 31.  But it didn’t.  It occurred against a five year old girl, when he was 17 and my Gramma stepped out to buy groceries…

30 years have passed, and when I think back to what happened there is so much I can picture with crystal clarity – and other things I’ve blocked out almost entirely.  It was at that age that I became a pro at disassociating.

I still believe that people have a basic goodness within them, but I also believe we have within us the potential for horrible atrocities.  We are none of us purely good and none of us purely evil.  I don’t know if I did the right thing by choosing not to press charges…  but it was the right thing for me, at the time.  I needed to be able to believe that people, even someone as obviously sick as Cameron, were deserving of second chances.  But it was by my hand that he was free.  Free to do it again, and again.  And for that?  For that I will always have regret.

The StarPhoenix Online:  http://www.thestarphoenix.com/news/Repeat+offender+fits+dangerous+designation/6268079/story.html

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