In the course of writing about parenting and motherhood, I come across a lot of stories involving child abuse and molestation. It is a very sad and disturbing part of my job. And while these heinous crimes will never make any sense to me, there’s another aspect of these cases that I am also intensely confused by. How exactly do wives stand up and defend their child molesting husbands?
The big news in my home town today is about a man named Antonio Olivas, who admitted to having sex with a 10-year-old girl who he knew. On multiple occasions, he pursued and assaulted this little girl, resulting in charges of five Class A felonies and two Class C felonies of child molesting. Olivas took a plea deal to reduce his charges with the understanding that the Judge would have full discretion to decide his sentence.
The sentencing hearing yesterday was deeply troubling, considering the seriousness of his crimes. Olivas stood up and apologized to his family for the pain he had caused. His priest spoke on his behalf, calling him a good father who would do anything for anyone. And then his wife stood up, defending her husband and even chastising those who didn’t support on him, saying, “It’s heartbreaking to see all these people turn their backs on him”.
It was Judge John Surbeck who reminded the court room that Olivas apologized to his family, but not to the child he raped. Not to the 10-year-old girl who will never be the same because of this monster. “A violation of the child did happen,” he had to remind everyone. He chose to sentence Olivas to 10 years in prison for his crimes.
This case, with the family standing up to defend a man who had sex with a girl who was likely still in fifth grade, is disgusting. But it is sadly not atypical. Dottie Sandusky still stands by her husband, even going so far as to doubt and shame her own son. Last week, we learned about a church that would rather excommunicate a 13-year-old girl than turn their backs on the man that abused her.
In all of these cases, I simply cannot wrap my head around the decision to stand up for child molesters or rapists. I cannot fathom going to sleep at night hating the child your husband assaulted instead of the man who committed that atrocity. The level of cognitive dissonance simply seems impossible to me.
I realize that even though these men committed horrible crimes, they might not have treated their wives or families terribly. It’s possible that they were outstanding husbands, even pillars of the community. It can be hard to digest that a single crime negates all of those good deeds throughout one’s life. But these charges are not minor and they cannot be brushed aside in favor of more positive anecdotes.
Men like Antonio Olivas, Jerry Sandusky, and Jack Schaap ruin lives of the victims they abuse. They are selfish and they do life-long damage to innocent children. These are not good people who strayed from the path. They are not moral men who made a mistake. They are rapists. They are monsters. And to overlook that makes monsters of the women who stand beside them.
It has to be difficult to accept that a person you love is capable of rape or child abuse. I cannot imagine the pain that has to cause. But isn’t it harder to continue to defend this person, over and over again? I’m asking because I genuinely do not understand. I’m not sure if I ever could.