I have been The Victim, and I have been The Perpetrator.
I am keenly aware of these two truths. Sometimes my trauma gets rekindled and I fall back into helplessness. Sometimes I relate all too easily with another’s misdeeds.
Neither of these positions are a good place to be. Neither are happy. Neither are without turmoil. Neither are without blame. Neither are full of blame. Neither are the entire story.
We are all frail, imperfect humans, and we are all, I’d be willing to wager, both The Victim and The Perpetrator, right now, simultaneously, in countless different ways.
Right before lockdown, I was interviewing to become a Samaritans helpline volunteer, and I got asked how I’d feel if I had to speak to a child molester on the line. And the truth is – as despicable as such an act is, and as highly triggering as it is, to a parent especially – I’d feel sympathy, and empathy, for that person. I’d think about all the events of their life, or perhaps all the peculiarities of their brain and biology, outside of their control, and understand that, while they were a serious, dangerous, perhaps irredeemable Perpetrator, they had also been a Victim many times over. I’d see them in shades of grey, and I wouldn’t have to work at it.
That makes me perfect for the Samaritans helpline. Less perfect, honestly, for everyday living.