Awareness vs Knowledge

Today, for the first time in quite a while, I wept.

I have seemingly hurt an innumerable amount of people in vastly immeasurable ways. And for this, I will always hate myself. I know I’ve hurt people — I’ve always known I hurt people — but today, perhaps for the first time, I really became aware of the pain I’ve caused. And as a result, I now know the true reason for why I am so dedicated to speaking-out against teacher/student relationships:

I want to protect those students from — me.

Well, I suppose, more accurately, I want to protect those students from who I was (and teachers who are a current incarnation of who I was), but the general idea remains static. I’ve been asked many times, “Why are you giving these speeches and writing these books?” And I’ve always had a solid answer about wanting to be the voice who helps put an end to the epidemic of unlawful teacher/student relationships.

But today, I think my conscious and subconscious had a heart-to-heart for the first time in a long time. It made me realize a very important detail that I’ve always known, but have barely been aware: What I did really hurt someone.

On a cognitive level, I’ve known for many years that someone caused an immeasurable amount of pain within me, having been sexually assaulted in 1998 by someone I’d trusted as a close friend.
On a cognitive level, I’ve known for years that I caused someone an immeasurable amount of pain by taking advantage of someone to whom I was a trusted superior.

On an emotional level, I connected with the pain I felt as a result of being sexually assaulted by someone I trusted — I made this connection in prison, and I wept.
On an emotional level, I connected with the pain I caused as a result of taking advantage of someone who trusted me — I made this connection today, and I wept.

In many ways, it’s difficult to describe the difference. I’ve always known, but I’ve only been recently aware. Knowledge is simply the possession of facts; awareness is the pure and deep understanding of the facts. Granted, I don’t ever pretend to truly understand what my former student felt as a result of my actions. However, being a rape victim myself, I think I have a pretty accurate idea.

I suppose, here’s the gist: I know the pain of being sexually violated; but today, perhaps for the first time, I became aware that I caused that same pain within someone else. I’d always known this to be true, but today I think I really grasped the awareness of the true pain I’ve caused.

I will never have the chance to speak to her again, so I will never have the chance to truly apologize. In court, I read a pre-written lawyer-approved statement during my sentencing hearing, but I’ve never had a chance to say I was truly sorry.

I know she has no interest in speaking to me whatsoever (and I fully understand this), nor can I even attempt to speak with her (because doing so would be a direct violation of my parole), but some days, I hope she happens to stumble upon some of these writings. I hope she sees that the horrid person who did so many terrible things so many years ago is a person who no longer exists, except in archival news coverage.

It’s a common assumption that “people like me” don’t change, but I think that is a sentiment grounded in petulance and fear — if a terrible person can make the necessary life changes to become a good person, then the inverse must be true as well, and that makes people very uncomfortable. It is a much more comforting sentiment to assume that human nature is static rather than dynamic. “People never change,” they say; but maybe the people who say that are the people who have tried to change, but can’t. I wanted to change — I needed to change — so I did.

However, being a better person now does not change the horrible person I was then. Today — seemingly out of nowhere — I truly became aware of the pain I’ve caused, and it absolutely broke my heart; I wept.

I will never have the chance to speak to her directly, ever again.
So I’m just going to let this be my lasting sentiment:

I am sorry.
From the bottom of my heart,
I am so sorry.

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