Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The good mother

The call came while we were wrapping up the interview. I had turned my phone down before we started so I didn't hear it when it rang. The media team was packing up their equipment and my mind was tracing all the ways this could go wrong, all the things I should have said, or said better.

I checked my caller ID and felt my heart skip. I wondered if this was the call I had been waiting for since 2010? As it turned out, it was.

I had never spoken with the forensics detective before, other than a brief conversation outside the courtroom before the second custody hearing. I had apologized to him for having to be there to testify again, and he apologized to me for the drawn-out nature of the investigation.

This time he was calling to tell me they had wrapped up the case and were sending it on to the feds. I wonder if he heard me exhale.

We talked for perhaps 45 minutes. He told me what I could expect to happen next. That the case would go to a grand jury for indictment, that I would most likely be called to testify, and that he felt certain charges would be issued.

He told me that based on what they had found, my husband had been collecting child porn for a long time. Perhaps his entire adult life.

He told me that all the images they collected off his computer, the 18,000 images, would be sent to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children where they would be studied to try to identify and locate the children in the pictures.

He was kind. He patiently answered all my questions. I liked him, despite myself. Despite the 21 months of hell.

I told him that I had been scouring the internet for articles about child pornography, about how children became victims of child porn, about how men became pedophiles.

He said, “Let me ask you this. After all that reading, do you feel you're any closer to understanding?”

“No.” It was the truth.

“Me neither,” he said. He told me he was a father. He told me he'd done this for most of his career and had seen everything from the stereotypical man in a trenchcoat with a bag of candy to men in three-piece suits. “You're never going to understand,” he told me.

I imagine he's right.

* * *

Today I took the kids hiking. It was beautiful. We ended up on the wrong path, the long path, and wound for a couple of miles over rugged terrain. Well before we reached the half-way point they were complaining. Anna wanted to sit down in the shade and rest. Danny had to go. Number two, he whispered. Me, I could have walked on forever.

I took a number of pictures. I wanted to upload them to Facebook, but then caught myself. I wanted to write my nephew and tell him where we were and what we saw, but then caught myself.

I hate being secretive. It's so hard for me. I would make a lousy secret agent.

I want to go home. To my home that is not a home. But I can't. I just can't. My neighbor wrote me today and asked me if I wanted him to water my plants. Bless his heart.

Yesterday I re-read The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. I first read it perhaps ten years ago. It's an amazing book. I think every woman should read it. Again and again.

Back then, the first time I read it, I had no context, no framework to understand what I was reading. I filed it away under “good to know for someday”. When I read it this time, I found it chilling. I closed the cover and I knew I couldn't go home.

I had a nightmare last night. I haven't had a nightmare in a long time. I used to get them often. Always the same. Always him, there, unexpectedly. Appearing out of nowhere. I wonder if I'll ever stop having those dreams.

* * *

The detective told me something else that I can't get out of my mind. He said they had a number of cases and that they would meet periodically to prioritize them. Ours kept getting shifted to the back. I asked him why.

He told me this. He said their prioritizing is guided by the safety of the children involved. If children are perceived to be at immediate risk, the case is moved up. He said they knew I would do whatever I needed to do to protect my children. Fight like a lion. Go to court (again and again). “This isn't true in every case. You would be surprised.”

I sat with that explanation and rolled it around in my mouth. Because I was a good mother, our case kept getting bumped.

He meant it as a compliment, I suppose.

I think the detectives on this case are good men. I think they care about the children they serve. I genuinely like both the men I've interacted with. Their passion for what they do is evident.

But the explanation for the delay? I think it's bullshit.

The best mother in the world should not be left alone to try to protect her children in a situation such as this. From a man such as him.

There is nothing in that explanation that makes sense to me.

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