I admit, this one’s pretty heavy. I read about a case being tried this week that is really bugging me, as it deals with infant sexual assault (and death), PTSD, and returning war veterans–three huge cultural buttons right now. You can’t listen to the news without hearing something about PTSD, particularly as it relates to returning war veterans and child trafficking and sexual assault. This case involves a 10-month-old girl who was beaten to death and at some point raped every way possible within the space of an hour by her stepfather, a returned Iraq war vet experiencing PTSD. The death penalty is sought. The soldier’s defense is that he unintentionally killed her but has no idea about the rest of her injuries, is experiencing PTSD, and was blitzed on alcohol and painkillers at the time.
What bothers me about this case, our epidemic of child sexual assault, and this country is that we are so sexually repressed that when an infant is raped and beaten to death we will acknowledge 1) mental illness 2) substance abuse, and 3) evil as the reasons for such, but not that maybe he likes it that way. Maybe he fancies children. I have long-maintained that all rape is not predominantly about power, particularly with kids. What if some people only really get off with kids, and killing them is merely an attempt to hide evidence of that fact? We have a cultural blindness for the selection of sexual openness. In our effort to normalize sexual desire and expression–both very good things radically needed in an advancing puritanical civilization, we have intentionally overlooked the shadows that come with both. We’re so fucking preoccupied with consenting adults choosing to sleep with whomever they like, however they like, and who can marry whom, that we miss the real tragedies of our sexual culture. We miss the real crimes, the real harm being cause. And why? Because child rape is too awful to face? Because it’s a booming industry, all over the world? Because we feel helpless to stop it? Or because we don’t want to acknowledge that we’re not all wired the same, in potentially horrific ways? Because to acknowledge that we’re not all wired the same would fly in the face of decades of “created equal?”
Until we acknowledge the root of desire to act out the factors of mental illness, chemical addition, and evil IN THIS WAY–by raping and killing children–we can’t really address how to stop it from happening. As long as we blame it on these tangential things and leave it at merely those, we can maintain the safe illusion that only certain adults do that sort of thing, only monsters, only others. Until we own the real sexual drive behind child rape, we may as well be condoning it and all the other hurt-filled shadow aspects of sexuality hidden by our puritanical world view.
The PTSD and returning war vets part of this? Don’t get me started on the harsh realities our sleepy, gentile society is about to face in the wake of thousands of returning wounded warriors and our inaction to help them peacefully reintegrate into society. That we devalue mental healthcare is second only to the military’s denial that such problems even exist. The stories of brutalities expressed in war, the barbaric demeanor and mentality required to survive war don’t just turn off when the uniform is shed. Was this guy always violent in this way? Did something happen to him or did he do something in Iraq that switched on the desire to rape a baby? Who knows. But if someone had delved into his experience could Cheyenne Yarley’s life have been saved? Would he have needed to be drinking and taking heavy doses of painkillers if he was really as OK as his attorney insists he was?
This guy raped a 10-month-old to death. Maybe he is mentally ill. Maybe he is a substance abuser. Maybe he is evil. None of those things alone or in combination compelled him to act out as he did. He chose his actions, and you can bet whether he gets the death penalty or some lesser sentence, he’s choosing them still.