Ex, family, healthcare, love, marriage, mental health

Adam and Darla’s bizarre love story…

You know that old song by Billy Joel? I know it well. It was a hit when I was a young child. The lyrics are timeless. The melody endures. Many of us would love to have a friend or a loved one who takes us just the way we are.

Billy wrote a masterpiece that has stood the test of time.

But is it always best to love someone just the way they are? Are there times when it’s unwise or unhealthy to take someone just the way they are? Obviously, yes, there are. My husband tried to love his ex wife just the way she was until he realized he couldn’t anymore. His own life was at risk by accepting her “as/is”. So they got divorced and he’s much better off for it. I don’t know if she’s better off. It’s not my business, anyway.

This topic comes up this morning after I read an admittedly bizarre “love story” in The New York Times. Adam Barrows wrote an article entitled “I Wanted to Love Her, Not Save Her”. The tag line read, “The first time we spoke, she was so weak she had collapsed. Why did that not alarm me?” When someone uses the word “alarm” in a tag line, you can be sure high drama is about to ensue. I was hooked.

So I read Adam Barrows’ story about meeting his wife, Darla. They were both working at a chain bookstore in Minneapolis, Minnesota when Barrows came upon his future wife passed out on the floor. Although they had been co-workers, he had never really spoken to her. He just noticed that she was painfully thin.

As Darla’s vision came back, she explained to Adam that she suffered from anorexia nervosa and hadn’t eaten in several days. He asked her if he could get her something to eat. She said no, and asked him to just sit with her for a minute until her strength returned. Adam sat with her and they developed a friendship. As they got closer and eventually “fell in love”, Darla continued to starve herself. Adam did nothing to get her to change her behavior. He writes:

I didn’t try to help her with that. I’m not sure why. It’s as if I accepted her struggle as a given, as a fact of her. I was struggling myself after a recent heartbreak and was trying to teach myself how to do basic things again: to think for myself, to walk properly, to hold myself upright, to sleep and to breathe.

To see her struggle to force down solid food, to watch as she spread a thin layer of butter on a saltine that she would chew to a paste before it would go down (this was her only meal some days) seemed not natural, of course, but also somehow unremarkable to me. I watched her starve and held her while she did it.

Some people might call that enabling. I called it love.

After months of traveling around the United States together, they ended up getting married. They had a son who turned 18 last year and, at this writing, have been together for 23 years. Adam writes that Darla eventually got somewhat better. She ate more and, over the years, put on some weight. He writes that before the pandemic struck, she was actually considering going on a diet, but didn’t end up doing it. While many people have gained weight during the pandemic, Adam writes that he and Darla don’t go to the grocery store much and that has had a “slimming effect”. I’m not sure what that means, but I’ll take him at his word that he and his wife are doing okay.

At the end of his essay, Barrows concludes:

Our married life has not been without conflicts. I have taken her for granted, put my needs ahead of hers, indulged my weaknesses. But I never have regretted the fact that I did the possibly irresponsible thing back then by not acting alarmed about her anorexia, by not pressuring her to do anything about it, and instead just loving her for who she was. She never wanted heroic intervention from me or from anyone else. She triumphed over her issues with food on her own terms and is happy for me to be sharing our story now.

I found this story kind of fascinating. I went to see what others thought of it. Most people seemed to conclude that Adam Barrows is some kind of an asshole. Here’s a screenshot of the first few comments. They are overwhelmingly negative.

Someone else wrote this rather scathing response:

Wow, less the confession of an enabler and more the confession of a narcissistic a-hole with a fetish for damaged, frail women. It’s so quaint to wax poetic about how deathly cold her hand was the time you found her after she fainted. It’s so sexy to talk about riding in the sleeper car with a starving person in desperate need of mental health intervention. You sound like a right tw*t.

I didn’t get that Adam Barrows is a “narcissistic a-hole” just based on this essay. It’s possible that he is one, but frankly, I kind of doubt it. Most narcissists I’ve known don’t have the ability to be introspective about their own faults. Adam openly admits that his wife had a problem. He also admits that he might have enabled her in her self-destructive habits by not insisting that she seek treatment. Some people would say he’s a bad person for not rushing her to a hospital or a rehab center.

On the other hand, there is some beauty in a person who simply accepts a person as they are. I didn’t read that Adam was encouraging Darla to be an anorexic. I read that he didn’t disapprove of her for who she was. He simply loved her. According to his story, she eventually got better. I don’t know how her improvement came to be. Was it entirely through the “kissing” treatment he writes of, or did she ever seek any kind of help? I don’t know… and I’m not sure if that’s the point of this story. It’s an article in the Modern Love section, which focuses on different kinds of love stories.

There are also people out there who consider eating disorders to be a “lifestyle”. I personally don’t agree with that viewpoint at all. But I’m just one person. As I’ve recently mentioned in other posts, there are a fuckload of eating disorders out there that never get any press. Who am I to say that one person’s eating disorder isn’t another person’s lifestyle. In fact, we don’t even know if Darla was ever diagnosed by a physician as having anorexia nervosa. We can only go by Adam’s description of her and her own declaration that she’s anorexic. When I was much younger, I used to go days without eating. I passed out a few times, too. No one would ever think of me as anorexic, even if I sometimes engaged in those behaviors.

I’m inclined to take this essay at face value. It wasn’t intended to be an in depth look at Darla’s eating disorder. It was a story about how Adam and Darla came to be in a relationship. I don’t think there’s enough information in this story to determine what kind of person Adam is. But that’s not stopping some people from judging him. One person wrote:

This is problematic in a variety of ways. The sentence about how Darla was actually considering a diet before the pandemic is particularly disturbing. This diet is apparently supposed to be proof that she triumphed over her anorexia, but it is not. Recovery is not about achieving a certain predetermined weight, it is about rediscovering comfort and joy in your body and the food that nourishes it. The author does not address this at all. He also minutely describes his wife’s eating patterns and ED rituals. The romanticization of theses behaviors is very triggering and could push ED survivors who read this article towards relapse. His wife’s battle with anorexia is ultimately just used as the backdrop for his coming of age story.

The only description Adam includes of his wife’s eating rituals is in a paragraph about how she would spread a thin layer of butter on a saltine cracker and chew it up until it became paste. He writes that some days, that was her only meal, adding “I watched her starve and held her while she did it.” I agree, that last sentence sounds awful on its surface. But looking a little bit deeper, I think it’s possible to see his perspective. It’s practically impossible to save people from themselves. It all comes down to deciding what you– yourself– can tolerate. It sounds to me like Adam accepts Darla as she is. And just based on his essay, I don’t get the sense that he necessarily encourages her to be anorexic. I think many people are making that assumption because he admits that he never tried to force her into treatment.

An argument could be made that a person who is extremely underweight and malnourished lacks perspective. But, unfortunately, when it comes to mental health care, a lot of Americans are shit out of luck. Mental health care is neither easy to afford nor easy to access, especially right now. Moreover, thanks to our civil rights laws, it’s pretty tough to force someone into treatment for an eating disorder. Even if someone is about to starve to death, our laws emphasize self-determination and the right to refuse care. It appears that Adam and Darla may be living in Canada now, as Adam is reportedly teaching in the English department at Carleton University in Ontario. I can’t comment on Canadian laws regarding the treatment of eating disorders or other mental health issues. He makes it sound like perhaps she no longer needs treatment, anyway. Does she need it, having apparently never received it? I honestly don’t know. All I know is what he’s written, and even that is pretty subjective.

One thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that, in the vast majority of mental health situations that don’t involve some kind of biological issue, treatment works best when a person decides for themselves that they will cooperate. When it comes down to it, a person with an eating disorder needs to decide for themselves that they need help. They have to be motivated to get it. Perhaps if Adam had told Darla that he would be leaving her if she didn’t seek treatment, she might have found the motivation to get help. However, it’s my guess that she might have just as easily become resentful and angry about it. She may have seen him as trying to control and manipulate her. A lot of the angry women commenting on this piece would probably fault Adam for that, too. I think a lot of women blame men for most everything.

I told Bill about this piece and asked him what he thought. I know that if he were in this situation, he would have a really hard time watching. He would want to try to rescue. But he also tried to do that with his ex wife and he failed miserably. Eventually, it became too much for him to tolerate and, when she finally dramatically presented him with a divorce ultimatum, he took her up on it. Divorce was not what she had wanted. She was simply trying to be manipulative in a humiliating way. But he got tired of the bullshit and, ultimately, saved himself from her craziness by getting out of the marriage. He’s reaped the rewards and managed to stay alive, too.

Having recently watched a bunch of episodes of Snapped, and having witnessed my husband’s own dealings with a woman who is, frankly, very disturbed, I understand that this is a really tough situation to be in. Not knowing either of these people personally, I can’t judge if what Adam did was right, or if he’s a good person. A lot of people negatively judged Bill and me when I shared how Bill’s story eerily reminded me of an episode of Snapped I watched years ago. It was about a woman named Jessica McCord who, along with her second husband, murdered her first husband and his second wife over custody of their kids. I remember my blood running cold as I watched that episode. I dared to blog about how Jessica McCord reminded me of Ex. I ended up getting a shitstorm of negative armchair quarterback comments from people who wrongly characterized us as bad people. No… we aren’t bad people. We simply didn’t want to end up dead. And I believe Ex was capable of going that far. She threatened to kill Bill on more than one occasion.

Should Bill have tried to get his daughters away from his ex wife? Personally, I think so. In fact, I often encouraged him to try to do something about that situation, even though it wasn’t my decision to make. But, the fact of the matter is, we didn’t have the money or the time to wage a legal battle. It would have been very difficult to convince a judge to grant custody to Bill, especially since the girls didn’t indicate to us that they were unhappy with their living situation. It would have been great if he could have tried to get more equitable custody, but we live in reality. The reality is, it probably wouldn’t have worked. At this point, I’m simply glad he survived, and I don’t apologize for his decision to save himself. His daughters are grown now, and one of them has apparently forgiven him after confirming that her mother is mentally ill. The other remains estranged, but she’s almost 30 years old. She can reach out if she wants to. She chooses not to. As an adult, she has the right to make that choice for herself. Bill loves her anyway.

That’s kind of what I got from Adam’s piece. He loves his wife the way she is. Is it a good thing that he doesn’t press her to get treatment for her eating disorder? I know what most people would think. For me, it’s not so cut and dried. There’s something to be said for a person who loves someone regardless. And despite some people’s potentially erroneous assumptions that Adam prefers his wife “sick”, I get the impression that he had simply determined that he couldn’t be her savior. Moreover, it wasn’t Adam’s role to try to be Darla’s savior, simply because that’s what society deems is correct. What I got from Adam’s story is that he and Darla love each other and, against the odds, their love has survived… and so has his wife. I wish them well.

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celebrities, condescending twatbags, mental health

Wil Wheaton gets shamed over maskless visage. Internet goes berserk.

I recently started following the actor, Wil Wheaton, on Facebook. I only know him from his role in the 1986 film, Stand By Me, as well as his activism for mental healthcare. I have never seen him on Star Trek. I have also noticed that he’s a dog lover, so that automatically gives him extra points as far as I’m concerned.

A couple of days ago, Wil shared this #tbt photo from 2016.

Wil and his wife, Anne, looking smashing at an event that took place in 2016.

Most commenters were nice. One person came along and wrote this:

He was one of several.

I’ve noticed that people are even quicker to judge and jump to conclusions now than they’ve ever been. Maybe it’s because we’re all stuck at home, staring at our computer screens. I’ve also noticed that people are getting meaner. One lady named Barbara called Wil Wheaton “stupid” for not wearing a mask in 2016. She got quite a ration of shit from others.

Reading some of the “mask police” comments from people reminds me of the horror stories I’ve read about people who have had CPS called on them by some random stranger who doesn’t like the way they’re parenting. Many times, it’s just the work of a busybody who wants to feel “heroic”. Regardless, it’s not productive to call most people “stupid”, especially when it’s clear you didn’t read carefully before you leapt into action.

I actually missed this whole episode when it was occurring. But I did notice Wil’s blistering follow up post. Here it is.

This kind of gave me a giggle, although it does seem a bit harsh. He got called “stupid” by people who thought he was flouting the mask rules. Then he turns around and calls them “stupid” for not reading. I think we’re all on serious edge these days!

I do hope that someday, this mask nonsense will be over. People are becoming ever more uncivilized toward each other. It’s gotten to the point at which we’re all responding to each other with annoyance or even outright anger. Hyper-reactive people see old pictures of someone without a mask, freak out, and pounce! It would be so much better if more people stopped for a second, double checked what they were responding to, and saved the spite for items that truly deserve snark and bile. This is a cute picture of Wil and his wife. They look happy and healthy. A year ago, it would not have invited any criticism. This year, people just want to shit all over it because they look like they’re breaking the rules.

I’m sure that besides people worrying about COVID-19, a lot of this shit is being driven by outright anger. It’s the same kind of judgmental anger lobbed at anyone who appears to be trying to “get over” in some way. Like, for instance, when someone decides to use a SNAP card to buy Little Debbie cakes or steak instead of fresh vegetables and rice. I get that people are pissed. This year has been very difficult on many levels. And people who feel forced to wear a mask want to act like cops toward those who appear to be breaking the rules. But that’s not a very productive attitude. We’re all in this together, right?

Anyway… I have not seen this movie, nor do I even know that much about Wil Wheaton. I like what he has to say about mental health and dogs. I get why he got irritated by the people who didn’t read before they typed. As someone who has been very outspoken about suffering from depression, it surprises me that he would be so insulting… but as someone who has battled depression myself, I also know that it’s a condition that causes people to be grumpy, temperamental, and short of patience. This pandemic is taking a toll on all of us. I really hope that the danger passes sooner, rather than later.

And I hope people will take a minute and stop trying to act like cops. At best, that’s a very annoying and mostly unnecessary habit. At worst, it could get you publicly humiliated… or even killed, especially if you confront the wrong person in the wrong country.

Meanwhile, Germany is about to go into stricter lockdown. SIGH!

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divorce, Ex, psychology, true crime

Armchair quarterbacks…

When I used to post on Blogger, I would get all kinds of comments from all over the world. Sometimes, people would offer me unsolicited advice, based on what they thought they knew about me. Sometimes they would armchair quarterback when I’d post about situations we were dealing with. Often, the comments were left in a spirit of being helpful, but sometimes they were spiteful and cruel.

I think there must be a lot of people out there in the world who feel a lot better about themselves when they tell off some stranger on a blog or on social media. For most of my years on Blogger, I didn’t moderate comments before they were posted, so sometimes I would get nasty surprises from mean-spirited people who didn’t like something I’d written or disagreed with my opinions.

The first “nasty” comments I ever got were based on a post I wrote about Jessica McCord, a woman who, with the help of her police officer husband, killed her ex husband and his second wife. I had seen an episode of Snapped, a TV show on Oxygen about women who kill, and was horrified by how much Jessica McCord’s behaviors, prior to the murders, reminded me of Bill’s ex wife’s. So I wrote a post about it. That was a bad move.

News piece about Jeff McCord, a former cop who helped his wife, Jessica, murder her ex husband, Alan Bates, and Alan’s wife, Terra, after Alan won custody of his daughters.

My blog entry about Jessica McCord caught on fire several months after I posted it. I got all kinds of bile from people over that post about Jessica McCord and my comparison of our situation to hers… a lot of people wanted to blame Bill for not fighting harder to get his kids away from his ex wife. In retrospect, maybe he should have fought harder for custody… although by the time I saw that episode of Snapped, the girls were already grown women. Both of the girls stopped speaking to Bill in 2004 or so, and back then, we had no money or time for court battles. I saw and wrote about the Snapped episode in early 2012. By then, older daughter was 20 years old, and younger daughter was 18, and it had been over seven years since they had completely quit communicating with their dad.

I wrote my post about Jessica McCord because I was shocked by how much she had behaved like Ex before McCord and her husband resorted to murder. At least, to our knowledge, Ex never tried to murder Bill, although she did once tell him, when she thought he was sleeping, that she should just “slit his throat”. Surprisingly enough, Bill didn’t leave her at that point. He still had hopes he could save the marriage and be there for his kids.

Although a lot of people had negative things to say to me about my Jessica McCord entry, that post also attracted sympathy from someone who was friends with Alan and Terra Bates and understood the dynamics of dealing with an unhinged ex spouse. He was also a man, and he understood that it would have been difficult for Bill to get custody changed, and just taking the kids from her and refusing to bring them back would have landed him in jail. Ex had made it very difficult for Bill to see the kids, anyway. She lived on the other side of the country, was taking about $30,000 a year in child support, and absolutely refused to cooperate with him. We later found out from younger daughter that Ex was terrified that Bill would “steal” them from her. “Steal” was the actual word she used, even though two of the three kids for whom Bill paid child support were also HIS children (older stepson has a dad, but his dad didn’t pay support– Bill paid for him, instead– how’s that for being an irresponsible father who “copped out” of parenthood?). She clearly sees her offspring as extensions of herself instead of people unto themselves.

Upon reading all of the nasty spew in the wake of that post, I ended up writing a follow up– not so much about Jessica McCord, but more for the people who read it and left negative, shaming comments and unsolicited advice for me. One woman who commented on the first post claimed to be an “academic” and pretty much gave us both barrels. I would say that for an “academic”, she was remarkably uneducated about parental alienation syndrome. She also lectured me about not showing appropriate “deference” for her academic achievements. However, she also used a pseudonym and blocked her profile, so there was no way to know if she was who or what she claimed to be. I would say that anyone who leaves a comment like that but doesn’t allow themselves to be vetted is probably brimming full of shit.

I am glad to point out that the follow up post got sympathetic comments rather than the hateful bile the first post attracted. In the follow up post, I explained in more detail what happened and reminded people that having one’s children completely disown and reject them without ever giving them a chance to explain their side is extremely hurtful. At that point, I was still very angry with Bill’s daughters. I thought they were complicit. Since they were adults in 2012, I held them responsible for their actions. I have since changed my mind about them, now that one of the girls has resumed communicating with Bill and we’ve learned more about what was going on from their end.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that people felt the need to “armchair quarterback” our situation. People react with righteous indignation when it comes to certain subjects, and they love to take what they think is the moral highground. When it comes to children, it’s easy for people to become sanctimonious about what other people should be doing, regardless of the individual circumstances they might be in at the time. For an easy example of what I mean, check out any video or picture of a child in a car seat. You can bet there will almost always be at least one comment on how the child is strapped in. It never fails, even if it’s a cute video. Nowadays, I’m seeing less about that subject as everyone is now preaching about wearing face masks. Many people take a “no excuses” attitude about some topics, even when such an attitude is not based in reality and doesn’t take into consideration other perspectives or circumstances. I guess it’s human nature.

On the other hand, it was pretty scary that some people felt that Bill should have been willing to be murdered for his daughters. What the hell good would he have been to them dead? Years later, Bill has finally reconciled with younger daughter, and he’s helped her out financially and emotionally, as she’s tried to make sense of her childhood. If Bill’s story had ended like Alan Bates’s had, his daughters would have lost BOTH parents forever.

My post about Jessica McCord was a source of a lot of angst for me, mainly because so many people left shitty, judgmental comments, mainly based on projection from their individual experiences. Also, a lot of people automatically blame men when a relationship doesn’t work out, and they assumed Bill was a “typical guy” (trust me; he isn’t). It got many thousands of views and, for years, it was one of my most popular posts of all time. It’s now been long surpassed by a post on my little visited music blog, Dungeon of the Past. For some reason, people are fascinated by a post I wrote about Mindi Carpenter, daughter of Richard Carpenter of the Carpenters. That post has generated many comments and, at this writing, has 117,790 hits.

Nowadays, I don’t get a lot of nasty comments. I moved the blog to WordPress, and comment moderation is turned on by default, making people a lot less willing to driveby with nastiness. I also have a smaller readership because a lot of the people who read the old blog were drivebys who read one or two posts and moved on. Now, I have some regular readers, but they’re mainly people who know me and know that Bill isn’t a deadbeat dad. I also don’t have as many posts about controversial topics on this blog, although I add new content pretty frequently. Today’s post, for instance, might ignite a fire.

Hope springs eternal that one day, I’ll write something as explosive as that Jessica McCord post was. In my experience, people tend to get the most upset about true crime posts. Sometimes I even hear from people directly involved in the cases I’ve written about. I can’t blame them for being upset– I suppose that even though I always try to be fair when I write, they still feel judged and/or attacked. I have to remind them that my comments come from what I’ve read or seen in the media, as well as my own deductive reasoning.

I empathize with them, too, because people did the same thing to me when I stupidly compared Jessica McCord to Ex. I couldn’t help myself, though. Jessica McCord really did eerily remind me of Ex. She pulled a lot of the same evasive tactics Ex did before Bill finally quit trying to fight with her. I’m truly grateful that she didn’t slit his throat or get her husband to help murder Bill and me, even if it pisses me off that she got away with what she did. Had it been my choice to make, I think I would have done all I could to take her to court and sue for custody. But I say that as a woman who wasn’t directly victimized and financially ruined by her, as Bill was.

I do sometimes get funny “advice” from spammers. Not long ago, someone left a comment on a post on my travel blog. It read like an actual person posted it. It started with something along the lines of, “Where’s your contact link? I have some ideas for your blog that I want to share with you.” Um… thanks for the attempt at giving me advice, but I don’t remember asking you…

I was a little astounded by that comment. It’s a fucking travel blog. Who says I want or need any help with it? I don’t write any of this for money! It’s mainly for myself and those who might find it interesting reading. If I make a little money from ads, that’s just icing on the cake! Really, I just write because it’s something to do, something I enjoy, is good for processing things, and helps me preserve memories. Not everyone appreciates what I do, though. Good thing the Internet is such a big place and people are free to go somewhere else.

Anyway, if my comments about Jessica McCord have piqued anyone’s interest, here’s a link to the episode of Snapped from which it came. I found it a truly chilling case. I am also going to repost my review of Death Trap, a book about the Jessica McCord case.

As an Amazon Associate, I may get a small commission from Amazon from items purchased through my site.

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obits, true crime

RIP Mary Kay…

I woke up to the news that Mary Kay Letourneau passed away on July 6th. She’d been suffering from colon cancer and spent the last month in hospice care. Her ex husband, Vili Fualaau, was at her side taking care of her. This would not seem like such a strange thing, except that Mary Kay Letourneau did seven years in prison for raping Vili when he was almost 13 years old. She’d been his teacher in both the second and sixth grades. Although Mary Kay Letourneau was regarded as an excellent teacher who, to my knowledge, was not a habitual sexual abuser, for some reason she couldn’t resist Vili Fualaau. It cost her everything, including her freedom and access to her four children from her first marriage.

Mary Kay Letourneau also had two children with Vili. They were married in 2005 and split up in 2017, finally divorcing in 2019. I remember reading that the split was mostly because Vili wanted to start a marijuana farm and couldn’t do so legally as long as he was married to a felon. In spite of their divorce, he was with Mary Kay until the end, even though she was technically his rapist.

Mary Kay Letourneau’s story was certainly unusual. In the late 1990s, she was a fixture in the tabloids. Lots of people had, and still have, very strong opinions about her. Just this morning, there’s a thread on RfM about Mary Kay Letourneau’s passing. A couple of posters are steadfastly taking people to task for expressing sadness that Mary Kay died. I am one of those they’re judging. They claim I’m a “rape apologist” because I expressed condolences. Incidentally, I remember a few months ago, someone else on RfM implying that I’m a racist because I described the people who punctured our tire in France as “swarthy”.

The person who implied I’m a racist is also among those claiming that anyone who empathizes with Mary Kay Letourneau is a “rape apologist”. I guess this puts me right down there with Donald Trump. Actually, I think these folks, both of whom are very intelligent, but sometimes quite rigid and argumentative, are guilty of extreme black and white thinking. And they seem just fine with telling other people how and what they should think, too. I’ve learned that there’s no point in having discussions with people of that ilk because it goes nowhere. Their minds are made up, and they simply aren’t willing to consider other viewpoints.

I often get into trouble with people because, for the most part, I try not to engage in black and white thinking, even when it comes to what should be done with rapists, child molesters, and murderers. Perhaps it’s because of my social work training, although maybe if I had actually had to do a lot of work with victims, that “open-mindedness” might have gone out the window. I see most people as capable of being and doing good things, even if they’ve committed a heinous crime. I like to hope that most people are redeemable on some level, even if I know some of them aren’t.

Anyway, my thinking about this case is what it is. I don’t tend to think of most people as all good or all bad. For instance, I despise Bill’s ex wife, but even she has her redeeming qualities if I stop and think about it for a moment. She could have been much worse than she was, although she was certainly bad enough. She did some really terrible things to people– to include rape. But I can still think of worse people in the world. I also realize that whatever I think of her, she still has loved ones who wouldn’t want to see her dead. Or, I assume she does, anyway.

I had a social work professor who did a lot of work in prisons with domestic abusers and child molesters. While that work is certainly considered distasteful to a lot of people, it’s very necessary, just as defense attorneys are necessary to advocate for people who are accused of crimes. My professor explained what it was like to work with pedophiles and child molesters (there is a difference). I remember thinking how difficult it must have been for him to work with that population, but I later came to realize that working with them was a kindness. He provided a much needed service for the offenders, but also for anyone who has to deal with the offenders, including their families and other incarcerated people.

A person can be a pedophile, but not a child molester. A pedophile is someone who is sexually attracted to children, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have molested children. It could be that they’re just attracted to them and have fantasies. A child molester molests children, but may or may not find them sexually attractive.

Many people think that someone who victimizes children should simply be executed. I can understand why people feel that way. Children are innocent and powerless, and they are never in a position of strength over adults who victimize them. I agree that people who harm children must be punished and prevented from harming other children. However, many people also have issues with the death penalty. Although I grew up being all for executing criminals, my mind changed as I came of age and saw the death penalty unfairly administered. I read horrifying accounts of innocent people being exonerated, sometimes after they had already been put to death. So now, I’m mostly against executing people, unless it’s a matter of public safety, there is absolutely no doubt of the person’s guilt, and there is certainty that given the opportunity, they would offend again. I think it’s something that should be done exceedingly rarely.

What should we do with someone who confesses to being a pedophile, but never actually harms a child? If someone dares to admit to those feelings, especially to someone with training in counseling, should we just round them up and shoot them? Or should we offer them some kind of help? Do pedophiles have any intrinsic worth as human beings, despite their attraction to children? Can they be salvaged? Do they deserve compassion and understanding? As my professor said, people who are attracted to children are dealing with a very powerful drive. If they are brave enough to seek help before they hurt anyone, and even after they’ve hurt someone, I think that should be encouraged.

I also don’t think that all sex offenders are created equally. What Mary Kay Letourneau did was certainly very wrong. She did rape a child. But she was not on the same level as someone like Warren Jeffs, who repeatedly victimized scores of women and children for many years.

From what I have read about the Letourneau case, the relationship Mary Kay had with Vili wasn’t violent. He could not legally consent to having sex with her when they first got together, because he was a child. She certainly abused her power by giving in to having sex with him when she was his teacher. But he was, apparently, her one and only victim, and for whatever reason, he later married her and willingly stayed with her for years.

Did Vili have the right to make the decision to marry his rapist as a consenting adult? Yes he did, even if I don’t agree with his decision. It would not have been right for the government to say that he couldn’t marry his abuser, even if most people think it’s icky and wrong. Americans value their freedoms, as we’ve especially seen during the coronavirus pandemic. And Vili, evidently, did not consider Mary Kay Letourneau abusive, even if the law says differently. Mary Kay was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which may have had some bearing on her behavior, too.

I don’t see Mary Kay Letourneau as a monster, even if I definitely don’t condone what she did. I think what matters most is what her victim thinks. Vili Fualaau was Mary Kay Letourneau’s victim, not me, and he hasn’t been a child in many years. Apparently, he loved her, despite what she did. Mary Kay Letourneau went to prison for her crimes against him. She did her time, and to my knowledge, did not reoffend. She can’t ever hurt anyone else because she’s now dead. Colon cancer is also not a very pleasant way to die.

I don’t understand Mary Kay’s and Vili’s relationship, but since Vili is an adult, I respect his choices, and yes, I am sorry for his loss. That does not make me a “rape apologist”. Aside from that, Mary Kay Letourneau was still the mother of six people. I don’t know what her children think of her, although I did read that she managed to “mend fences” with her eldest children. Her daughter, Mary Claire, was even the maid of honor at Mary Kay’s wedding to Vili. They’re probably sad that she died. Or maybe they aren’t sad. They’re entitled to whatever their feelings are. As a fellow human being, I have empathy for them. It’s not my place to demand that they hate her or be glad she’s dead. It’s not my place to demand that anyone thinks or feels the way I do. It doesn’t mean I admire Mary Kay Letourneau or think she was a paragon of virtue. It means I see her as a flawed human being who suffered and is deserving of basic compassion. There are people who loved her and will miss her, in spite of her shortcomings as a person. And I am sorry for their loss.

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