Suffering through sexual degradation impacts victims at their core. Their overwhelming sense of having been polluted is ever present, long after their ongoing contact with the offender stops. Escaping the grasp of a predator can be a horrific struggle. Even once achieved, an indelible suffering permeates one’s body and mind long into the future.
Last week, I visited the office of PA State Legislator, Steve Samuelson, and listened to the pained remembrances of two women, out of five they knew of, who’d all been desecrated by one man… a Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and doctor. The incredulity of the similarity between how he played them all was so ironic, it made each of us laugh. And the fact that he continues his onslaught of human tragedy, with no laws to deter him, adds further insult to their injury. He is currently trolling for new victims on Match.com.
And this week, a friend who’d suffered through rape by fraud and additional crimes brought the severity of the ongoing harm she’d endured into sharp focus. I learned that she’d left everything in her world behind her to literally escape to the other side of the globe. She’d moved from California to New Zealand. While she had endured the anguishing path toward justice for her monetary losses, the authorities had provided no relief for her sense of defilement at having been raped by fraud.
When we spoke about her choice to move halfway around the world she said:
“I didn’t realize until I was so far away that I hadn’t felt safe in over three years. The amount of subconscious stress I was carrying was really highlighted once I was in a place I wasn’t carrying it.”
Her comment brought home to me how many of the survivors I’ve heard from have tried to offset their fear and agony by moving. In fact, I was reminded of one survivor who moved to three different states in a two year period in order to locate a place where she could feel safe. Unfortunately, many survivors who’d like to move can’t afford the cost of uprooting themselves. Instead, they agonize in place, surrounded by the constant reminders of their defilement, and the invalidation of the system that fails to recognize their pain.
How long is enough?
For many survivors, it takes years of struggle and on-going therapy to get their lives back on track. Trust issues plague them on an ongoing basis, and many need years of professional therapy to make peace with their pain.
When I’m asked what I think about the appropriate time-frame for incarcerating rapists who use fraud as the weapon that undermines their target’s sexual sanctity, I think of the length of their victim’s recovery period. Should the offender be less encumbered than the prison of pain that holds their victim hostage? And shouldn’t the offender pay a fine that’s consistent with their on-going therapy and the life changes they need?
My recommendation for incarcerating a sexual assault by fraud offender is two to three years and a fine of at least $15,000. If granted probation, at the very least, the offender should be included in the sex offender registry for at least two years.