The Lofty Chronicles: 9 – Trial By Fire

Trial By Fire

Lauren's artwork: Creature with heart
Creature with heart

August 1992

An Intense Paradox (Sunday, 2 August 1992) I find myself lost in wonder at the intense paradox between Adam’s utter stupidity, at a conscious level, for believing that his reprehensible behavior with the girls would remain undetected; and his deep wisdom, at a subconscious level, for creating a situation that holds so much perilous promise for his eventual healing and release. Both qualities, the outer stupidity and the inner wisdom, stand in brilliant relief and dance together flawlessly.

Strong Medicine (Sunday, 2 August 1992) As the events generated by the disclosure of Adam’s molestation unfold, I’m struck by the relevance of the Christian teachings. From the Golden Rule (doing unto others as we would have them do unto us), to the warning about letting those without sin cast the first stone, to Jesus having taken his ministry to the outcasts of society, I’m finding our blood-myth to be strong medicine indeed.

The Summer Olympics (Saturday, 8 August 1992) How appropriate that the summer Olympics are under way. What we’ve been going through recently feels like a qualifying meet for the inner Olympics. It’s as though Light Morning has spent most of the past two decades training for moments just like these.

Fertile Soil (Tuesday, 11 August 1992) Adam stunned us last night, reporting that his lawyer is preparing him for the possibility of a possible 40-year prison term. “Twenty years,” the attorney stated, ” would be considered a victory.”

Pondering this draconian sentence during my morning walk, I inwardly hear the phrase, “welcome to the fertile soil of the mass mind,” and realize just how bankrupt our current culture is. How receptive its rich and loamy earth must be to new seeds.

Striving for Openness (Tuesday, 11 August 1992) Open heart, open mind. This has been my mantra of late. Keeping open the infinite array of probabilities. Releasing pre-conditions and pre-conceptions. Acknowledging the rightness of what is. The ripeness of what wants to be. These metaphysical abstractions have come alive lately, serving as a challenge, a comfort, and a refuge.

The Cooperative Universe (Tuesday, 11 August 1992) Another comfort has been the way in which so-called “coincidences” have multiplied over the past few days. I can’t begin to list them all. Even attempting to do so feels like taking a live butterfly and mounting it for display.

They range from Myra’s dad “happening” to be friends with the attorney to whom we had been independently referred, and having her home phone number, which we needed but had been unable to get; to our appointment with this attorney being on the same day and at the same time as Adam’s appointment with his attorney; to the exquisite timing of returning to our parking lot late in the day, just as Adam was pulling in, deeply shaken (having just learned of the potential 20- to 40-year prison term) and in need of support.

The T-shirt that Adam gave Joyce last Christmas reads, “Synchronicity: God’s way of remaining anonymous.” I see it more as God’s way of leaving a calling card. Especially when everything spirals out of hand, these tokens of a cooperative universe remind us of a bigger picture and a wiser design. They put us back in touch with the essence of ourselves–with the gifted Choreographer who shapes all the anxious and confusing moments of our days into grace.

Choosing Who to Feed (Wednesday, 12 August 1992) Joyce is wrestling with how she’s been channeling her energy lately. She has concerns about a potential, although unlikely investigation by Social Services into our lifestyle and a possible judgment about our fitness as parents. She’s also anxious about Adam being shipped down the river by the judicial system.

She’s feeling strong tendencies flowing in both directions–feeding her faith and feeding her fear. I’m reminded of one of the striking passages from the Castaneda teachings:

“It all depends upon what one emphasizes. Either we make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”

History (Wednesday, 12 August 1992) “I don’t like history,” Lofty announces at lunch today, as we’re finishing up our soup and munching on some chips. The comment catches us by surprise, as Lauren has always shown a strong interest in historical biographies.

“History is stories,” says Joyce. “Like the story we’re reading now about Abbie Burgess, who helped tend the lighthouse on Matinicus Rock on the coast of Maine over a hundred years ago.”

“That’s different,” replies Lofty. “I mean stuff about George Washington and all that.”

“How about George Washington Carver? You liked those stories.”

“That’s different, too.”

A pause.

“Well, anyway,” she concludes with a grin, picking up her bowl, “these chips are about to be history.”

We laugh and let it drop, feeling good that she’s in a mood for jokes.

Later, however, while mulling over her professed dislike of history, it occurs to me that it may be her more recent (and more personal) history that she’s having trouble with. In any case, the laughter is healthy.

Three Wishes (Thursday, 13 August 1992) Joyce and I take Lofty to a therapist today. The visit is mostly precautionary. We feel she’s doing well with all this, but want to check out our impressions with someone who has had training and experience in this field and who comes highly recommended. The visit will also be helpful in the event that Social Services gets involved. The therapist first speaks with us together, then spends quite a while with Lauren. Her conclusion is that Lauren is handling the situation well and that she hasn’t picked up any significant inner disturbances. Basically, she’s very reassuring.

She tells us, for example, that she’d given Lauren a “magic wand” and asked what her three wishes were. Lauren responded to this often revealing diagnostic device by wishing for a horse, a sketch pad, and some drawing pencils.

Lauren later tells us that the therapist had urged her to acknowledge having “mixed feelings” about Adam.

“She wanted me to say that I’m angry at him. But I wouldn’t do it because it’s not true.”

Her stubborn refusal to see Adam as someone other than a friend puzzled the therapist. She thought at first that Lauren was repressing her anger. She later became convinced, however, that Lauren’s feelings were genuine. She told us to keep an eye out for delayed reactions surfacing later, but she didn’t feel this was likely. Nor did she think there was a need for further sessions.

Lauren's Artwork: Plane With Contrails
Plane With Contrails


Crisis Update (Friday, 14 August 1992) Social Services has decided not to get involved in this case, so we’re breathing a bit easier. They’ve turned everything over to the Commonwealth Attorney, who sent a detective out today to interview Lauren. The detective was very sensitive and gentle, so it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as our fears might have anticipated.

I sent a letter to the Commonwealth Attorney (which I’ll include below), informing him that the parents of the two girls do not want to press charges, and explaining that our preference is for Adam to receive immediate and thorough professional treatment rather than punishment.

Our lawyer, meanwhile, has been conveying the same to the Commonwealth Attorney and she tells us that, “He is certainly hearing us.”

The current likeliest scenario is for some lesser charges to be filed, in order to enable the court to have leverage over Adam. They want to be able to mandate and monitor his therapy. Some limited jail time may or may not be involved.

Adam, meanwhile, has left Light Morning. He is taking care of loose ends and has an appointment on Monday with someone in Washington, D.C. who is both a lawyer and a psychologist and who specializes is these kinds of problems. My father learned of him through a friend and fellow law professor and passed his name on to Adam as someone who might be well-qualified to offer the appropriate help.

A Letter to the Commonwealth Attorney (Friday, 14 August 1992) Here is the letter that I wrote to the Commonwealth Attorney who is heading the investigation of Adam’s sexual abuse of the two girls.

Dear ________,

This letter follows up the brief phone conversation we had yesterday, during which you encouraged me to send you any thoughts and feelings that we have concerning the report that was made to Social Services on Monday, and your current investigation.

I’m sure you can understand the depth and complexity of our feelings. Adam was and is a friend–someone we have known, lived with, and worked with for over six years. That is what makes the activities he engaged in with our daughters so incomprehensible and so difficult to come to terms with.

I have no desire to minimize the harmful effects of those activities upon our children’s lives, both now and in the future. As a parent of one of the girls, and having listened to my daughter’s graphic description of what occurred, I have experienced many strong emotions lately–disbelief, shock, anger, betrayal, and grief. I have also been deeply disturbed and bewildered by the power of a compulsion strong enough to lure Adam into doing something so unthinkably insensitive and stupid. A compulsion that over-rode not only his decency, but also his common sense.

At the same time, and here I speak for both sets of parents and for both children, we are not interested in punishment or retribution. What we do want is quite simple–we want our children protected from further harm; and we want Adam to receive the best possible therapeutic treatment and support.

It is far better that he receive the therapy he so obviously needs, and then return to a place where people know both him and his problem, than that he be exposed to a prison system which holds little if any hope for effective treatment, only to be later released from that system into a strange and unsuspecting community, with his problems not only intact but quite likely aggravated.

Putting him “out of circulation” may address our need to protect our children from immediate further harm. But it won’t solve anything. All it will do is push our problem down the road–onto another neighborhood, another set of parents and children, another round of anguish and retribution.

Somewhere this terrible cycle of child abuse, of abused children growing up to abuse other children, has to stop. Somewhere we have to find the wisdom and the compassion to see that the needs of the victim and the needs of the abuser, far from being incompatible, are actually the same.

My daughter needs safety; Adam needs healing. What better way to protect my child, and the children of other parents I don’t even know, than to do everything possible to see that Adam receives immediate and effective professional treatment.

I realize that the statistics indicate that a full recovery from this type of compulsion can by no means be guaranteed. Yet the specifics of this case offer hope. Adam, for example, has been a member of our extended family for over six years. Yet it was not until very recently, under conditions of extreme stress, that his reprehensible behavior occurred.

This behavior, as far as we have been able to determine, was non-coercive. The girls were not threatened, nor were they told to remain silent. And while she now understands that his activities with her were highly inappropriate, Lauren also continues to consider Adam a friend and has been very supportive of him throughout this crisis.

Nor did Adam’s behavior extend beyond his immediate family setting in such a way as to become a threat to other children in the neighborhood. Although he was not involved as a direct caretaker with either girl, Adam’s activities grew out of a long, close contact with them. There has been no indication, in other words, during the six years that he has lived here, that Adam has taken a casual or opportunistic interest in any child outside of his home environment.

Equally significant is that, when confronted with the accusations, Adam did not choose the path of denial. Instead, he acknowledged his guilt, expressed deep shame and remorse, and made profound apologies to both the children and their parents. He then immediately sought professional therapeutic help.

This full disclosure was made at a considerable cost to himself, both personally and legally. To see the abhorrence he felt for himself reflected in the eyes of his neighbors and friends was shattering. Perhaps only someone who has gone through such an experience can appreciate how devastating it can be.

He also understood that complete denial was his best protection in a courtroom. But he realized that this ran counter to the interests of the girls and their families, who could be dragged through a long, costly, and traumatic legal confrontation.

Finally, he somehow knew that overcoming denial was the essential first step along the long road to his own eventual recovery.

In closing, I must again say that none of the above is intended as an excuse for Adam’s behavior, or as a lessening of the pain which he has inflicted upon our families. That pain, in some ways, can never be erased.

Nor do I seek to protect him from the consequences of his actions. To try to do so would be both undesirable and impossible. For how else are we to learn, other than by reaping what we have sown?

What I am trying to do is to overcome my own hurt and anger enough to admit that in both his words and his actions, Adam has demonstrated what I believe to be genuine remorse for his behavior, and a sincere recognition of his need for help. I would hope that this remorse and recognition, along with the strong preference on the part of the two girls and their families that Adam receive treatment rather than punishment, might be taken into your considerations.

Thank you for your understanding and your cooperation during this very difficult time.