Naming Our Abuse: The Wreck

When one deals with the issue of child sexual abuse, and it is the sort of problem that is so difficult to conceive of that one seldom deals with it unless one has no choice in the matter because of one’s own experiences or because one burns with righteous indignation at those who would assault and exploit innocent children, the first essential matter that must be dealt with is the wreck of the abuse itself [1]. Not only must one deal with what was done, as unpleasant as that is to think about, but one must deal with the context of the abuse. At times, there are specific other factors that must be taken into account as well. Speaking for myself, as the sexual abuse I endured occurred during the first three years of my life, I have no conscious memory of them myself, which is a blessing. On the other hand, it has meant that discovering what went wrong has required a lot of inference from flashbacks and panic attacks, and has required piecing together the events of my life like that of a puzzle. This has also been the case because there was so little with regards to candor on a part of those who were likely to be in the know. Given the fact that I was so small when everything happened, and for a variety of reasons other people were not open themselves, figuring out exactly what went wrong has been a far more challenging task than it would have been otherwise.

One of my favorite aspects of my work is forensic reporting. I enjoy investigation into what is wrong, and what can be done about it. I enjoy seeing a lack of matching between different reporting measurements, to show that someone thinks they are doing something cleverly. For example, one time at work I was seated at a particular desk, and noticed that the employee behind me was simply not staying at work for very long each day, and not being very productive when he was around. He had been a temporary employee, so his timesheet was handwritten. It therefore came as no surprise to me when I was asked to verify his availability on the phone, to match it up with the hours he was claiming on his timesheet. As it happened, he would regularly claim to be working two hours a day longer than he was actually on the phones, and so it was little surprise when not an hour after I sent off my findings, a cardboard box found its way to the desk behind me, and he was escorted to the parking lot and told to vacate the premises. Indeed, one of the more intriguing aspects of what I do is that whenever I am asked to provide information about a specific person, that means that person has offended someone to such an extent that my help is wanted to provide a sufficient justification for the course of action that is taken. Personal integrity matters a great deal to me, so the reports I give will be entirely accurate, without manipulation or modification on my part. That said, when someone has caused that degree of offense, it is generally likely that they will have done enough that is outside of regulations that nothing needs to be manipulated or changed, merely discovered and properly documented. This is, it should be noted, part of the wreck of the modern world, that all of us break some kind of rule or some kind of regulation, so none of us is free from investigation or scrutiny once attention should fall on us. Perhaps that sort of truth gives one the wrong idea when it comes to reflecting on others, I suppose.

It should come, then, as no surprise that my entire life I have enjoyed putting together puzzles. My master’s capstone paper [2] was called “The Puzzle Of Chilean Prussianization,” and in the paper I sought to examine the reasons why Chile, a nation with a successful indigenous military tradition, sought to mimic the German Army after 1891, and the investigation led me to uncover a nearly forgotten conflict between the United States and Chile, Chile’s pivotal role in seeking to protect Colombia’s rule over Panama to preserve the importance of its port at Valparaiso, and the unseemly corruption of a German military attaché named Emil Korner and his associates involving Krupp munitions deals and the betrayal of his loyalty to Chile’s beleaguered president during a civil war. In a less metaphorical sense, I have also greatly enjoyed puzzles for a long time. Twice at the Feast of Tabernacles, once in 2003 and the other time in 2015, I spent a week staying with close friends at temporary housing putting together puzzles with my fellow housemates. Members of my family enjoy putting together puzzles, including puzzles of famous Thomas Kinkade paintings [3] to hang on the walls as objects d’art. I must say that while some people would complain about such matters, I am not the sort of person who would complain about that, given that I have a higher tolerance than most when it comes to unconventional decorations, even if the only decorations that come naturally to me are either second-hand tapestries or posters or bookshelves for my alarming collection of volumes. So, in that light, beautiful puzzles put together makes for a wonderful wall-hanging as far as I am concerned.

I have at times pondered the personal appeal of puzzles. Part of their appeal to me is the fact that every puzzle has a place where it belongs. Puzzles do not include any extra pieces to throw off the unwary person putting them together. Every piece must fit, eventually, to make the picture whole. Given that I have lived a life where there has been a lot of secrecy, where not all the pieces have been laid on the table, and where there has been a lot of biased and incomplete accounts, such that it is unclear where the edge pieces are, and where there are a lot of missing pieces that would allow everything to be put together, it is immensely appealing to work with more straightforward puzzles where given enough persistence and ability at pattern recognition, the puzzle is inevitable to solve. Given that part of my life task is putting together puzzles, it is fortunate that I happen to enjoy the task, even to the point of sitting nearly wordlessly with others who are engaged in solving the same puzzles, hoping to connect their part of the puzzle with my own, inside of the flat-edged pieces that mark the boundary of the shared project that we worked on first to frame the puzzle, hoping to get to the point where the puzzle pieces can be placed quickly as we inexorably work towards the puzzle’s completion. The satisfaction of putting together puzzles is something that has to be done to be believed, although when one is working with puzzles in real life, the satisfaction of understanding the puzzle is often mitigated by a reflection of the real suffering that was involved in the puzzle one is working on.

When I lived in Tampa, Florida during the mid-to-late 2000’s, I earned some extra money occasionally as a mock juror for civil lawsuits that were winding their way through mediation and getting fast-tracked to go on trial before a real courtroom, with the last attempts for settlement being made. The way the evening would work is that for a couple of hours the two sides would put information that they had found in discovery to the large pool of mock jurors, who would then vote on whether they thought the evidence was relevant or whether it changed their opinion of the case at all. Then the large pool would be broken up into smaller groups and sent into different rooms to hash out the settlement until the entire room could agree upon a civil charge with unanimity. The last time I was invited as a participant in this scenario the case involved a car full of young people who had run into metal guardrails which had snapped and punctured the car, killing several of them. Various gruesome pictures of the accident were shown, various attempts were made by the counsel for the respondent to mitigate the charges by casting aspersions on the deceased young people, but when it came time for us to break up I and another one of the jurors were locked in a debate in which neither of us would back down. As someone educated in civil engineering with a fair amount of steel and materials background, I knew that the metal guardrails were supposed to be ductile, gently keeping the cars within the general framework of the boundaries, not snap in a brittle fashion as they did. Something must have been wrong with the manufacturing or installation of the guardrails for them to behave as they did, and regardless of how reckless the young people were, they should not have died that night in the fashion they did. The other person, who had a certain bias against rewarding the families of foolish teenagers and young adults, was unwilling to countenance a large civil penalty, and we argued over and over again, with no one able to broker any kind of compromise between us. For hours we continued, and I would have argued all night, until at about 1AM we were told to average out the amounts and then go home, exhausted, to sleep at least. I was never called back to participate in any more of those mock jury proceedings.

When I look at the wreck of my early childhood, despite the limitations of memory, I can almost name the date. On Saturday, January 16, 1982, I was exactly six months old. My mother had stayed at services to sing alto in choir practice, and a local elder had driven her and I home, with my mother in the passenger’s seat and with me in a carseat in the back of the vehicle. It was a snowy day, as most January days are in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, and someone hit the car we were in head on. My mother was not wearing a safety belt, and she was saved from being forcibly ejected out of the windshield by the elder putting his arm out to block her, breaking her nose. When the people who ran into us head on came to look at the car, they heard a crying infant, me, and were guilt-stricken. That is the story as I have heard it, but there are a lot of questions that come to mind fairly obviously, as this is clearly an important puzzle piece. Some people, for example, might fault my mother for singing in choir when she had a small child to theoretically look after. As I have frequently heard that I was a fussy and often unhappy baby, I wonder who was looking after me while my mother sang, unless I was left to sleep quietly. Clearly while some gentlemen are very tender and gentle with babies and small children, my father was not the sort of man for whom nurturing and gentle care of fragile and fussy children comes naturally. Yet not only was he not watching me, it is striking to me that he did not at least stick around to drive us home. Likewise, why a local elder would have driven my mother and I home is also puzzling to me. What about his family—most elders in my religious tradition, after all, are married with families of their own, and for such a man to drive a married woman home alone would be a somewhat shocking act, with all kinds of accusations possible. The whole scene has the air of recklessness, of needless putting oneself in harm’s way, physically as well as in terms of one’s honor and reputation. My parents had only been married between a year and a half to two years at the time, and were still in their relative “honeymoon” period, and yet they were already living very separate lives. I was only six months old, and my family was already a wreck, even if no one fully recognized it yet.

[1] See, for example:

[2] The capstone paper in question is the last essay in this volume:

[3] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church of God, History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Naming Our Abuse: The Wreck

  1. Pingback: An Introduction To The Naming Our Abuse Project | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Accident Report | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: A Telltale Heart? | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: Geek’s Night Out | Edge Induced Cohesion

  5. Pingback: Book Review: Simpler Times | Edge Induced Cohesion

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