Would You Break The Law For Your Child? Can You Imagine?

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Some version of it is so common it is almost a cliché: “I would do anything for my child.”

Most of us mean it too. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for our children. Mostly. Certainly nothing we wouldn’t do for their safety, to keep them out of harm’s way.

Would you break the law for your child?

If someone harmed your child, raped them, threatened their life, would you be willing to break the law to keep your child safe? Or would you be ok if the laws in place put them in more danger? Left them more vulnerable?

Can you imagine being faced with such a consideration?

I can.

I have.

When we learned that two of our children were being sexually abused by the teenage son of our best friends, after getting over the initial shock I had an overwhelming compulsion to take my family and run. Montana sounded good. Far away from where we were in Houston, Texas, and remote. My children would be safe from harm there, I thought. It would be hard but we would manage.

But to do so could be obstruction of justice. The state was prosecuting. Our children were witnesses. So were we. We would be breaking the law to leave even if it was to protect our children from a very real and proven threat.

Can you imagine?

That idea didn’t last long. It was soon replaced with something else as a slow burning rage was lit inside me as more and more details emerged of what happened to our girls. Each step of the forensic investigation- the retraumatizing rape kit experience from hell for my 5 year old daughter, the CPS investigation of our family, the sickening 6 hours we sat waiting for our two children in an interview with a forensic psychologist that we weren’t allowed to be present for, and the therapy appointments revealing more trauma. Trauma of her life being threatened if she told, trauma of having to protect her parents because he told her he would kill us too if she told and that we wouldn’t love her anymore. 

I didn’t just feel sickened, I felt a desperate consuming rage. 

Can you imagine?

I fought to control that rage, to beat it down as our daughter devolved into a shell of who she had been. Bed wetting. Nightmares. Refusing to even look at men including her daddy who loved her so much. Meltdowns. Shutdowns. Her trauma transformed her into someone I couldn’t reach. Her psychologist called it fragmentation. Laying on the floor in front of the bathroom at school several times a week after she had a meltdown and locked herself in, I would slide my finders under the door and talk to her calmly through the crack, to calm her and get her to unlock the door and come out to me. 

Can you imagine?

The whole time one thought just wouldn’t leave my mind even as I coached my daughter through her breathing and centering exercises.

I wanted to kill him.

Or at least make sure he would never experience sexual pleasure again in his life. I wanted him to hurt. I wanted him to pay. I wanted to be sure my children were safe from this person who caused them so much pain.

It has been 15 years and just writing this makes me feel it all over again as strong as if it was yesterday.

Can you imagine?

People would ask us how we didn’t hurt him. They’d tell us that if it had been their child they would have beat him. That they’d be in jail because they would have to do something. How could we not hurt him after what he did to our princess? Some offered to help us get him and they’d hold him so my husband could beat him up. It was clear that they felt the law was inadequate for this situation and that there was good reason to take things into our own hands.

Most people told us they would do something illegal to protect their child. That they’d break the law for revenge on the person that hurt their child.

Can you imagine?

I can. I did. Every day.

A year later as his sentence was read for his conviction of aggravated sexual assault, first degree felony, I shook at the 30 days in juvenile detention, mandated group therapy, 4 years probation, supervised internet access (with no way to enforce), a curfew, restraining order that was waived because his family lived across the street, and deferred adjudication for a sealed record. It was a slap on the wrist.

Maybe everyone was right. Maybe we should take things into our own hands.

10 days later we ran into him at the mall. He had been released early and nobody bothered to tell us. A back-to-school shopping trip turned into a traumatizing outing when my daughter ran into her rapist face-to-face at Target.

Can you imagine?

We moved. We didn’t have the finances to afford a move so we ate beans and rice for months after, barely able to afford groceries. It meant moving to a different school for our already traumatized children who needed stability, not more uncertainty and change.

We questioned what we would do to protect our children. Was moving across town enough? How could we be sure she wouldn’t run into him again?

We couldn’t.

Can you imagine? 

Doing something illegal wasn’t something we chose to do but we weighed it considerably in our fear for our children. We know we did the right thing. But we also had privilege that made us feel like our children could still be safe even when the justice system failed our children. It did feel like law enforcement cared, we knew the law enforcement wasn’t corrupt or bought by their abuser, and we had legal options to protect our children. We were lucky. If we hadn’t been in such a lucky situation, I don’t know that we wouldn’t have resorted to illegal measures in an attempt to protect them.

Can you imagine?

We asked ourselves what would we be willing to do, how far would we go to protect our children.

Can you imagine?

Would we uproot our family and leave our jobs for them to have a shot at healing?

Can you imagine?

Would we take them and ourselves from everything we knew and loved based on the hope of breathing easier?

Can you imagine?

Would we defy the system in search of something that wouldn’t cost our children their very flesh and bones?

Can you imagine?

Could we send them with people we didn’t know? To a place we didn’t know that just MIGHT be safer?

Can you imagine?

Would we risk being caught breaking the law to protect them?

Photo from CAIR Coalition.

Can you imagine?

Would we risk going to jail and being separated from them for just a CHANCE at them being safe enough we could sleep at night?

Can you imagine?

Would we wade a rushing river with them holding onto our backs fleeing the place that didn’t give a DAMN about protecting them?

Can you imagine?

Would we present ourselves at the mercy of others who could decide our fate just to hold onto faith that there is still goodness in humanity that would care about our children too?

Can you imagine?

Would we be desperate enough for our children to face more suffering for all of us because the slim chance that it could be better was better than no chance at all?

Can you imagine?

If my children were brown, spoke a different language, and didn’t have a passport from the USA, would you still want to protect them?

Can you imagine?

I still know many of those people that told us they would tear the arms off our daughters’ abuser if he touched their kids. People who were shocked, even outraged that we didn’t want to break the law to do what they saw as protecting our children. Many of them are the same ones saying that the immigrant children from South America being detained in deplorable, inhumane conditions are only suffering because their parents broke the law. 

Seeking to protect their children from great harm. 

Can you imagine?

Not that seeking asylum is breaking the law because it clearly is not. Illegal entry into the USA isn’t even a felony, it is a misdemeanor. Like a speeding ticket or jaywalking.

Less than the charge that the white teenage boy from a good family who raped my daughter got for aggravated sexual assault, first degree felony. He served 10 days.

Can. You. Imagine.

If you can imagine breaking the law to take justice into your own hands at just the THOUGHT of someone raping your child, beating your child, killing your child, then you can imagine fleeing your home and breaking the law to enter a country with a sliver of hope to protect your children.

Can you imagine?

The desperation. The fear. The grief. The anger. The sense of betrayal. The parents. The children. Feel it, really feel it.

Can you imagine?

I’m not advocating breaking the law when you feel it is endangering your children, I’m merely advocating empathy for those whose life and body may look different from yours if they commit a misdemeanor trying to protect their children. If you can imagine that or even if you can’t but you care about the suffering of others, visit TogetherRising.com for ways you can help.

**A note about the images in this post- I wanted to include images of children detained at the border but it struck me that all the images I have of my own children are of them happy and safe. I don’t take photos of them in distress because I go to them and comfort them. Perhaps we need to see children alone and in distress but I could not feature brown children that way while featuring my white children only happy and safe.

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