A Case of Tarnished Haloes

there is no greater trauma

In Canada, people are reeling from the news that one of her most loved and respected citizens has also been guilty of sexual abuse. Jean Vanier was the founder of L’Arche International, the son of a highly esteemed governor general, and honoured with the highest awards in this land.

And nobody is doubting he did tremendous good. He invested his time in enhancing the lives of people who were born with serious disabilities. He provided a safe place where these people could feel loved. A home where they belonged, and experienced dignity.

But today the accolades are being hastily replaced by disbelieving comments like the following:

It’s so shocking when a person you believed in does these things. I never would have thought it. There were no apparent signs. It shakes your understanding of what people are like.”

This behaviour is so awful.  I can’t start to imagine how much these women suffered, and what they have gone through – especially when everyone was praising Vanier.”

This is a particularly hard as it’s betrayal by a friend.”

News like this calls into question the way you see the world. You don’t know who to trust. You don’t know who you can believe.”

Of course, we’re talking of abuse here, not betrayal by a spouse. Even so, there are some parallels that aren’t lost on us. For instance, both situations raise some painful questions like:

1. How do reconcile these very different sides … that someone who does great things also leads a double life?

2. Are all failings equal, or are some things worse than others?

3. Is it ever right to cover up a person’s shameful acts, simply because they are sexual in nature? Why is there pressure to keep these things a secret?

4. How can we determine who is trustworthy and safe, when betrayers are such experts at deceiving us?

I don’t have any answers – just some personal thoughts and views. But I’d really love to hear what any readers have to say.

You will Know the Truth and the Truth will Set you Free

the most beautiful people we have known.JPG

Last night I watched a movie on Netflix called “Tell me who I am”. The film tells the story of a set of twins: a young man who lost his memory after a motor bike accident, and his devoted brother who helped him to remember everything again. Everything from learning to eat and tie his shoe laces, to recalling what their shared childhood had been like. Everything, that is, except one painful truth.

*Spoiler alert

The truth that was hidden, for the best of motives, was both of the children were repeatedly abused, and their mother was the person behind the abuse.

Shocking – absolutely … And maybe you would have hidden that painful truth as well, to protect your twin, if you were in their shoes. It would be easy to believe you were doing them a favour.

Fast forward several years ….

Eventually events caused the truth to come to light. (That is, the twin told his brother they’d been sexually abused). However, he refused to share the details – despite relentless pressure – and that was hugely damaging to his twin. He felt his existence had been based on a lie, as his sense of who he was had been based on partial knowledge.

I suspect this story resonates profoundly with many betrayed partners who’ve learn they’ve been deceived. They need to piece together a new narrative as the story they’d been living is now a fantasy.

Hence, perhaps it’s not surprising that their mind is full of questions. Everything about the past must be reinterpreted. And they feel that they’re relating to a person they don’t know, who’s concealed the truth from them “to protect them from being hurt.”

Returning to the movie …

Eventually the twin finds the courage to record all the horrors of the past – which are then shared with his twin. Of course, it’s very painful, and it’s hard to take on board. But he, for one, would say that he’d rather know the facts. For now he knows the truth, and is able to move on.