Posts Tagged ‘domestic violence’

The evening was going along nicely. I was working with a group of men who had all been convicted of domestic violence of one form or another. They were all first time offenders and desperate for help and changing their ways. This made them willing to listen and learn. They were all respectful, kind and talkative.

I couldn’t ask for anything better.

As I was standing in front of them and listening to Alfonso talk, the men were nodding and smiling at what he was saying. Some patted him on the back. What he was talking about was helping himself and the others. I stood silently and listened and encouraged him when he needed it.

When the door opened up and a correctional officer came in, I turned to look. It was unusual for anyone to interrupt our meetings. Fred walked in and following him was another inmate. We were about an hour into our class.

The inmate had his head down and followed Fred. Fred grabbed a chair and pulled it out, far away from the class. The man sat down and kept his head down. I turned back to the group to continue.

All eyes were on the inmate. I saw many of them glaring at him. Alfonso stopped talking and turned his back to him in the middle of his story.

A quiet hush went through the room. Everyone had stopped talking and smiling. All eyes were now on this inmate, who kept his head down. Fred stood behind him. He motioned for me to continue.

No matter what I did for the rest of the evening, no one would talk. I saw them all turn away from the inmate but none of them would talk any longer. I got tired of trying and wrapped the class up early. There wasn’t anything else to do.

As each of them left, they all made sure to come up to me and thank me. They each shook my hand. When Alfonso came up, I asked him what had happened. Had I said or done something wrong?

“No, you didn’t,” he said. He motioned for me to step away. I said good-bye to everyone. Fred was still standing there with the inmate. Neither one moved.

“No one likes that guy, that’s all,” he said. “We’re not comfortable talking around him, so if he’s going to be in here, we won’t be. You did nothing wrong, but some things just ain’t right,” he said as he shook my hand and smiled. I watched him leave. I saw Fred tell the inmate to get up. I asked him to wait a moment.

I walked over and looked down at the inmate. He hadn’t moved.

“Fred, you mind telling me what is going on and who this is?”

“Sorry Susan, I guess no one told you. This is Lou and he wants to attend your class. I just found out he was approved, so I brought him in,” he said. Even Fred glared at him when he looked at him.

Lou was in his mid-30’s and had a slight build. He looked like a broken man sitting there with his head down and his hands hanging down between his legs. When he finally looked up at me, his eyes were clear and bright. There was a very slight smile on his face. That sent a slight chill through me. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I didn’t like it.

“That’s fine, but why did the room get so quiet? It looks like my guys don’t want Lou in here, so why don’t you tell me Fred what is going on?” I asked. Lou looked back down at the floor.

“It’s because they don’t like pedophiles,” Fred said very matter-of-fact.

“Neither do I!” I said. I stepped back away from Lou. I had a very firm policy to never deal with sexual predators. I was adamant about it and couldn’t imagine how this had happened. Someone had screwed up and I wasn’t going to put up with it.

“It’s all a big misunderstanding,” Lou said. His voice was gentle and soft.

“Oh, is that so?” I asked. I was suddenly intrigued what he had to say.

“Yes it is.”

If he was here, then he had gone through a trial and was convicted. Whether he was guilty or innocent wasn’t relevant to me.

“Well, I’m sorry but I can’t have you in this class. You saw what happened when you walked in. The men stopped talking and I can’t have that happen.” I looked up at Fred. I felt a bit of a glare cross my face. It wasn’t Fred’s fault, but I didn’t care.

“It’s not my fault what happened. They all lied in court about what I did.” he said. I saw tears in his eyes. He rubbed his eyes and leaned forward and put his head in his hands. His body shook slightly.

I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to hear it. This was too much. People were asking too much of me. There’s just so much I can do. I was angry and yet here was a man, crying in front of me. I sighed, pulled up a chair and waited.

After a few minutes, he stopped crying and began to talk. He didn’t give me details as I wouldn’t let him, but he told me his story of a horrible childhood and how he had been abused and that he was now better and working on being rehabilitated and that’s why he wanted to be in my class. He heard it might help him. He said he would do anything to be a better person.

He then looked up at me and I saw that very subtle and slight smile cross his face again and disappear quickly.

When I saw that, I knew.

He was saying and doing everything he could think of to look good to “the system” to get out early. The jails were overcrowded and more and more inmates were being released early to make room for the new ones.

He was playing me. He was playing the system. He wanted out as soon as possible. He wasn’t done and he was never going to stop.

I knew that as well as I knew my own name when I looked into his eyes. He was insane.

He was good. Really good. He almost had me with his tears.

Almost.

I stood up and looked down at him. I felt bad but not for him. I felt bad for anyone who could turn into what this man had turned into. I motioned for Fred to take him away. They stood up and walked out. As Lou went through the door, he turned around and looked at me.

“It was nice meeting you. See you around,” he said and that same smile crossed his face.

The next day, I made sure all hell broke loose. I called the Program Director and told her what had happened. She was shocked and apologetic and vowed it would never happen again.

“Oh really? You gonna promise me that?” I said. “Who in the hell authorized a PEDOPHILE to come into my group? Who did THAT?” I shouted.

She wouldn’t tell me but promised over and over again that it wouldn’t happen again. I hung-up the phone, shaking.

I had never seen pure evil before until then. I didn’t want to see it again.

Everything settled down and the next class went along fine. The men were back to talking and learning and the memory of Lou faded away.

Nine months later when I was at Safeway and looking through the produce section, I heard someone call my name.

It was Lou. He was standing 50 feet from me.

“How are you?” he asked. I saw the same smile cross his face. “It’s good to see you again.”

I froze and watched him walk away, humming.

Our system is broken.