I live in an area that during the summer months swarms with ticks. Some are large enough to spot as they crawl up my clothes or fasten themselves to me. Others, the deer ticks that carry Lyme disease, are tiny, tough to identify. When ticks make themselves visible, however, obviously they get removed and, if they’re still alive, swept into the sink or garbage. At no time do I remove a live tick and toss it to the ground, since the tick would simply dust off its exoskeleton and wait for a different host – or me – to walk by.
Parasites are organisms that quietly prey on another being, using it for nourishment, often harming it and causing it pain, sometimes killing it (although parasites prefer to keep their victims alive – finding another could be iffy). Parasites work quietly. They don’t want anyone to know of their presence. Identification would bring expulsion, and parasites cannot live alone.
Ticks are parasites. They live off the blood of mammals, as anyone who has removed swollen ticks from their dogs will tell you. In return for mammalian blood, ticks spread disease, cause itching and swelling, and leave their victims in pain.
In that way, they’re a lot like rapists, who also spread disease, cause agony, and leave their victims in emotional and physical pain – sometimes with an unsought pregnancy, as well.
In the US, we now recognize that rape is not about sex. Ultimately, it’s about power and control and humiliation. It’s about using someone else, about making that person feel defenseless, used and dirty. Sometimes rape is violent, using the threat of immediate physical harm. Often it’s covert, threatening future harm, harm against a third person, or disabling the victim’s ability to give informed consent through drugs or alcohol. Sometimes there can be no informed consent, since the victim is a child or mentally immature.
What are rapists – using any of these techniques – doing? They’re using someone else’s body for their own purposes. Like parasites.
In the past, rapists were likened to wolves preying on herds of sheep. More recently, they’ve been regarded as nasty, opportunistic hyenas, far less majestic than wolves.
Let’s get real.
Few people have been attacked by wolves. Fewer still, by hyenas. Almost everyone has a parasite story to tell. It’s a tale of discovering harm, of realizing that something is very wrong, that one’s body is being used by another who will not stop and often works in the metaphorical dark.
The young men now testifying against former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky in a court of law have a parasite story to tell. Their testimony is awful, that of a powerful man using for his own purposes the bodies of boys in his care, making threats, destroying part of them. When boys or their parents accused him, as Maureen Dowd writes today, they were ridiculed or told that “Jerry has a heart of gold”. Not only did Sandusky lie, other people lied for him. So he was able to fly under the radar for years.
The testimony against three men who used a social network app to sexually attack children (the men posed as teens) will be, I’m sure, just as powerful. How did these men gain access to the children they raped? Through lies and deceit. They acted quietly, surreptitiously, under the radar. Theirs were not the actions of wolves or hyenas. Instead, they crept into their victims lives like parasites.
These stories differ only slightly from that of the Telegraph’s account of Chan Wright, a Jamaican man who has lived in Scotland for years. He was convicted many years ago of rape, yet not deported from Scotland when “three appeal judges at the Court of Session ruled it was ‘irrational and not justified by a reasonable view of the evidence’ to conclude that he posed a high risk of further sex and drug crimes”. The appeal judges decided to set him free in Scotland despite his rape convictions, convictions for cocaine trafficking, and a failure to register as a sex offender.
Wright went on to rape again. And again. And again. He is finally scheduled to be deported after he serves his prison sentence. Of course, he will be deported to Jamaica, where he is likely to become an immediate parasite of local women and girls. As one jurist determined, “It is my opinion if at liberty you present a high risk to the public of violence and sexual violence. You are a risk to women”. Better to say female people, all people who are female.
Chan Wright presented risks, yet he was allowed to remain at large in a country not his. Other rapists have been permitted to remain in their jobs, in their communities, in positions of power and authority, where they continue to be a high risk to others.
Isn’t that permission (whether official or through inaction) rather like flicking a tick off your own skin and letting it crawl away to penetrate someone else, inflicting pain and disease? Or, once a tapeworm is removed from your gut, permitting it free access, so it can parasitize another person, drawing sustenance from their body?
Is that really what we want, a society of human parasites, rapists who – like ticks – persistently maneuver themselves into power and control, tolerated by that portion of society, judges and panels and employers, that gets to decide? While women, girls, boys and men continue to suffer the harm inflicted by rapists for years and decades?
Rapists aren’t brave. They’re anything but courageous. They don’t have true strength, the strength of self-restraint and compassion. They’re just users. Bloodsuckers. Parasites.
They cannot be permitted to roam at will and to re-offend.