In the media coverage of alleged “Craigslist killer” Miranda Barbour, a lot has been made of her checkered past. Whether you believe she’s a heroin-addicted runaway Satanist prostitute serial killer, or just a heroin-addicted runaway pathological liar who killed one guy, the point that every reporter insists on making is that she was sexually abused by her uncle at age four.
It’s always wrapped up in phrases like, “her problems can perhaps be traced back to…” or “her trauma finally manifested…” Reading Francis Scarcella’s original Daily Item interview leaves it unclear as to whether Mrs. Barbour herself points to the incident as an excuse for her behavior, but the media has readily accepted it as the catalyst for the monster she eventually became. And that’s a big problem for me.
Sexual abuse happens to a lot of children. We’re talking one in four girls and one in six boys. Are a quarter of your girlfriends murderers? Right. But statistically, a quarter of them were molested as kids, just like Miranda Barbour. Just like me. And most of us are fine now.
I rarely talk about the fact that I was abused because it’s just not relevant. It’s not who I am, it doesn’t define me, and it has no impact on my behavior. I’m not a “victim” or a “survivor.” I’m just a normal person who had something really shitty happen to them as a kid. Sure, I had my wild moments as a teen (fine, I was totally wild), but that would have happened with or without the abuse — that’s just who I was. Today, I’m a boring suburban mom who bakes cookies and writes stuff on the Internet. The only thing I’ve solicited on Craigslist is an antique television.
I’m not trying to discredit the idea that your past shapes you in some way. Certainly, to varying degrees, we’re all products of how we were raised. And there are absolutely some people out there who were abused in one way or another and are affected by their abuse to this day. But I reject the notion that you can make a child evil with one act, or even multiple acts. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. It doesn’t instantly turn them into bad people. “Monster” isn’t contagious. Nobody ever assumes that a mugger must have been mugged as a kid, right?
My biggest issue with the notion that sexually abused kids are somehow tainted is that we’ve already been victimized once. To label us as ruined is only further victimizing. Like I said, I generally don’t bring up my own abuse because it’s not relevant, but it’s also because I fear being judged. For me, the stigma isn’t that I think I did something wrong; it’s that I’m expected to. I’m not a ticking time bomb. What happened to me almost thirty years ago has no bearing on my actions today.
Every time someone shoots up a school, the media digs around and usually finds evidence that the perpetrator enjoyed playing violent video games. Then, the gamers come out in full force, reminding us that tons of kids play video games, and most don’t grow up to be sociopaths. Is it that much of a stretch to think that most abused kids can turn out just fine, too? Law and Order: SVU writers, do you hear me? Not every pedophile or serial killer has to have been molested by a priest or camp counselor!
So, Miranda, if you are using your uncle’s abuse as an excuse for the monster you became, just fucking stop it. Whether you’re mentally ill or just a terrible person (or both), I don’t know. But I’m not a terrible person, most abused kids aren’t terrible people, and we don’t need you dragging us down with you.
And to the media, who consistently feel the need to gather the most salacious of back stories and present them as some sort of reason for why criminals do the things they do, shut up. You don’t know her motive any more than I do. And painting all sexually abused kids with the same brush is hurting a lot more people than you think.