A clanging phone dragged me out of sleep. Someone, somewhere, answered with mumbles. I groggily acknowledged the time: 4:57am. The light snapped on. I winced and reached for the proffered handset: “It’s for you.”
Seconds later, I was horribly, terrifyingly, shakily awake. “Bron, I’m sorry. You need to come. She’s with me. She’s been raped.”
My most beloved one. My new-to-college, freshman-in-my-dorm beloved one.
Tunnel-vision set in. The click of my car seat buckle seemed cruelly loud. I drove the 5-minute drive in a bubble. I found her sitting on our friend’s bed. We collapsed into each others arms; she begged me to tell no-one. I felt betrayed by the smell of her perfume. How could she still smell like joy and blossoms, when this had just happened?
* * *
I sat on the smooth, concrete steps and stared at my knees. I was shivering, despite the summer sun baking onto my legs. In the building twenty steps behind me, she was sitting alone with a detective as he painstakingly recorded every word of her statement. She had been in there for more than an hour.
I was at law school and knew enough about criminal procedure to know that her exact descriptions at this moment would be make-or-break evidence should the rapists be brought to court. But I was also a reader of newspapers, and knew enough to know that rapists were seldom caught, and even more rarely sentenced.
She hadn’t yet been seen by a physician. She hadn’t got to change her underwear. Why did she have to spend these hours spilling her trauma out in ink, when it seemed so unlikely that justice would be done?
Something dark and furious unfurled in my gut. A visceral voice spoke: “I would kill them myself,” I said. “If those guys were to cross my paths right now, I would kill them myself.”
With horror, I realized I meant it. Me, who had always been the peacemaker, the goody-two-shoes, the achiever, the good little Christian girl–ME … yes, me. I had it in me to kill someone. Given the right provocation, given the opportunity, I could kill someone. The strength and depth of the darkness I felt stunned me.
It was the day I knew I could murder. The day I knew I, even I, was capable of the most terrible depravity. After years of theological lip service to the fact, it was the day I knew I was a sinner. Horrified and humbled, I sat in a cold sweat on those sun-baked steps and wondered how it was that I could call myself a Christian while longing for the death of the three men who had snaked off into the night and left my most beloved in shreds.
I watched as they unpacked the rape kit, and ushered her onto the green mat on which she would need to undress. “To catch hairs or other evidence that might fall out,” they explained.
“She’ll need some new clothes,” the assistant told me. Could I get some?
The drive from the hospital was a short one: exits and intersections I had been through hundreds of times before. I drove on autopilot, my mind flooded with thoughts.
What if they did catch them, and they went to prison? Would we be the kind of people who could publicly say we forgave them? Would we be like those who wrote letters of reconciliation to perpetrators, like I’d read about in inspirational Christian magazines? Would we have the strength to show mercy?
Reality crashed in: they would in all likelihood not be caught, not be tried, not be imprisoned. Imagining our gracious forgiveness of convicted felons was a fantasy. Justice would not be served: of this, I was fairly sure.
My Christian consciousness brought comfort: “Oh well,” I reasoned with myself, “at least with God there is always justice. They may escape punishment in this life, but they won’t escape it in the next.”
“Unless they repent,” I heard a voice say. Still and small, He spoke again: “What if they repent? What happens then?”
“Then you would forgive them, Lord.” The words of grace I had only ever applied to myself flung themselves across my mind with a painful new twist: if anyone calls on the Lord, he will be saved. The old is gone, the new has come. There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
“But it’s not FAIR!” I yelled at God. They should NOT get off scot free! How could you let guilty people who are unpunished in this life still go unpunished in the next? I sobbed, yelled, railed, and then finally stilled enough to know the answer.
No, it wasn’t fair. No condemnation wasn’t fair. But then again, neither was the pardon I have received. Mercy is never fair. The ground at the foot of the cross is level, and he offers welcome and pardon to anyone: even to rapists and would-be-murderers like me.
My name is Bronwyn. I’m addicted to ice-cream and the sound of my children laughing. Grace is my lifeline. Mostly, I pack and unpack the dishwasher, but when I can sneak away–I write at bronlea.com.