Monday, December 13, 2010
For fifteen long years, Brandi has been a part of my life, for better or for worse. In many ways, my relationship with Brandi and my life as a sex offender is similar -- tumultuous, filled with mistakes, and periods of both hope and utter despair.
I met Brandi March 8, 1996 at Northwest-Shoals Community College. It was love at first sight, and she was my first true love. We had a whirlwind romance and married on May 31, 1996. It was a happy time in my life, long before my days of the registry. Like most young couples (I was 19, she was 17), we had our share of struggles and disagreements. It was a somewhat amicable split after three years of marriage (though the last year was in separation).
Hindsight is 20/20. I never knew what I lost until she was gone. I fell into a deep depression and it was the factors related to that depression which led to my terrible mistake. I had sexual contact with an underage girl. I was arrested and charged with sexual abuse. When I sat alone in that jail cell and no one else was there, she was my only supporter. It was her faith in me that first led me on the path of redemption.
My relationship with society also ebbs and flows. I worked for two years to drag myself out of homelessness. I bothered nobody, kept to myself, and slowly built a life for myself. Things were looking up for a while. Then one day, my status was changed and I was forced into homelessness again. I found a new house and successfully fought to keep it. I experienced death threats. It was followed by the opportunity to establish myself as an online advocate. And as fate... and Brandi... would have it, I returned to the place where my journey began.
Throughout my two journeys, I have struggled to overcome two labels. Society judges me because I am a sex offender. Brandi judges me because I am a man.
Society says all sex offenders will re-offend. Brandi says all men cheat on and beat on their wives. Society says sex offenders can never change. Brandi says men can never change. Society says if a sex offender did it once he will do it again. Brandi says if a man does wrong once he will do it again. Brandi is filled with hatred of men, and society is filled with hatred of sex offenders.
Society believes in myths that hinder growth. So does Brandi. Not only does it hinder growth, it hinders relationships. Brandi, at 32, is no different from Brandi at 17. In her personal life there is no growth. Society, despite proof to the contrary, cannot be swayed from their deeply held myths. There is no growth in our knowledge of preventing sex crimes since Megan's law was passed in 1996.
Is it another coincidence my two journeys originated from events that occurred in 1996? Maybe it wasn't a coincidence after all. Both journeys are immortalized in my book, "Once Fallen." I would love to see the light at the end of this journey. Unfortunately, at this point my journey has lead me into a valley rather than a peak. I can only walk the valley until the peak returns. Time marches on. My journey now leads me elsewhere, and it is time to say goodbye to this forlorn past forever.
My journey with Brandi did not have a happy ending, but my journey to overcome the sex offender label does not have to share the same fate.