The newest POTSC Never Beyond poster is of a Catholic priest.  The issue is sexual child abuse.  Can we forgive these transgressions?  How far is too far when we’re talking about radical grace and forgiveness?  Who deserves it?  Who doesn’t?  Is anyone just absolutely beyond grace altogether?

These are the questions POTSC is asking us me to answer this week.  And I find that I definitely have something to say on the subject.

I have never been sexually abused.  I come at this question from another angle altogether…from that of the accused.

Long story short, my ex-husband was sentenced to twenty years in prison (to serve eleven) for a sexual offense that I believe he was innocent of.  He recently maxed out – meaning he was not paroled, but released at the maximum date the judge allowed, after 11 years – and is now attempting to put his life together.  Regardless of actual guilt or innocence, our justice system deemed him guilty, and so he must live the rest of his life with the stigma of that guilt.

Just since his release there is a laundry list of the obstacles he has run into (and this is only a fraction of the issues he has had to confront):

  • Finding a place to live.  Because of his date of conviction, the new sex offense living and working laws don’t require him to live 1,000 feet away from schools, churches, daycares, or bus stops, nor is actually prohibited from living in a home with a child present…but he still struggled to find a place to live.
  • When he did finally find somewhere to go, the field probation officers who came to his mom’s house (where his sister and her family were also living) in the middle of the night scared his family to death and threatened to call DFCS on his sister.
  • He can’t find a job to save his life.  The Department of Labor supposedly has a program in place to help people in his situation, but that was a joke…the person running the class he was required to take advised him that “convicted child molesters don’t belong anywhere but in prison.”  This happened in a room full of other people who were NOT convicted anythings…mostly 30-something women looking to find work to feed their families.  Needless to say, he walked out of the class in utter shame and humiliation.
  • Not being able to find work doesn’t mean that he is absolved of having to pay his fines and fees, though.  No, those monies are still very much expected every month, with the penalty for even one month’s nonpayment being a potential return to prison for nine more years.
  • His own family has turned against him…the one person – a cousin – who was willing to put him to work so that he can pay the exorbitant fines and fees he is now subject to has been prohibited from continuing to help him by his mother…my ex’s aunt.  Nice, huh?
  • He is required as a part of his probation terms to take a sex offender class that can last anywhere from 3-18 months, based on the outcome of an assessment that he has to arrange and pay for (to the tune of anywhere from $150-450!).  The top place his probation officer recommended he do the assessment and class through also happens to be the “clinic” run by the same forensic psychologist whose testimony helped to convict him.

It breaks my heart every time I speak with him.  The blows do not ever stop coming.  I pray grace and healing for him every single day of my life, but I honestly do not see how his life will ever get any easier.  For all intent and purpose, he is a societal monster.  A pariah.

Do I hate that women and children all over the world are sexually abused?  Yes, of course, I do.  I desperately hope and pray that someday there will be no more sexual abuse of anyone in this world.  But.

But.

I cannot help but forever have my image of the abuser tainted by the heartache that I know they endure.  Lepers in the Bible are treated better than convicted sex offenders, if my ex’s example is the norm.

So, yes, I can forgive the abuser.  Reading the outcries of the bloggers and POTSC’ers and Grace Mobbers who have shared their stories through this campaign this week hurts my soul.  I cry for every one of them and I pray with every breath in my body that each of them will find solace and peace.  But with the same breath, I forgive their abusers.

[This post is part of People of the Second Chance’s Never Beyond poster campaign.  Who would you give a second chance?]

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