(Introduction to show begins)
TODD MATTHEWS (Missing Pieces Host): This is Missing Pieces. I’m Todd Matthews. This is our 100th episode and tonight I am proud to have my sister-in-law, Betsy Blair, with me tonight. Hi, Betsy.
BETSY RIDDLE BLAIR (Guest): Hello, Todd.
TODD: How are you doing?
BETSY: I’m fine. And you?
TODD: I’m good. We’ve been through hell and back, I think, together.
BETSY: And here I am.
TODD: Of course, I’ve known Betsy for more than 20 years. My wife and I were married for 20 years, this past week, and I can’t believe where time went. I didn’t really know who was going to be with us here on this episode and I think we’re probably going to have more than one guest, you know, and I saw that Betsy had put an entry in this particular show’s weblog. We actually had a little survey and she actually put an entry there and I called her last night and I asked her if she was willing to actually do this. I think we needed to do this. There are a lot of reasons behind it but I think that the opportunity has finally arrived. The original premise of the show was to support the Supreme Court’s ruling on the death penalty for a child rapist – why or why not? And I’ll just start out by asking Betsy, the rape of a child, should that have the same penalty as murder…in your opinion?
BETSY: In my opinion…
TODD: Uh-huh. Okay.
BETSY: …I think, well, I think it should be case by case.
BETSY: It should be worked case by case.
TODD: And that’s where I am with it. You know, of course, I want stronger penalties because I know a lot of kids are damaged badly and nobody ever knows it, and I think it should be a case-by-case basis, but I’ve always felt that the punishment should go up to the same punishment that state has for murder based on a case-by-case basis. You know, there are going to be different circumstances. Not every molester or someone that is charged with molestation could really be technically considered a rapist; there are lots of things. You know, the 18-year-old boy and the 16-year-old girl, and both of them are consenting, does that make him a rapist or a serial sex predator? Not necessarily.
TODD: So, you know, there’s…it’s a case-by-case basis. I have had people tell me that they feel that the death penalty would be too strong because it would make it more likely that the offender would kill the child rather than just molest and go away. And I was thinking that it would probably be a good deterrent, you know, if I knew that I probably wouldn’t get a slap on the wrist, but very likely could be executed, it would probably make me think twice, but you know, I guess, maybe people are different and that’s why it has to be a case-by-case basis. Now, do you feel like the penalty…
BETSY: There are so many different scenarios when it comes to rapists and molesters.
TODD: Go ahead.
BETSY: I said, there are so many different scenarios when it comes to rapists and molesters.
TODD: Uh-huh. I mean, it’s just like murder, you know, there are a lot of people…if you’re convicted of murder, you’re not necessarily going to get the death penalty.
TODD: Not necessarily. I mean, I think there has to be a trial, but I just felt like the death penalty should be something that is within the power of the court to levy if they felt it necessary, but you know, it…
BETSY: I feel, like I said, case by case.
BETSY: If is was the uncle that stalked the child, took his niece…
BETSY: …and killed her and buried her, yes.
TODD: Well, you know, and he had the murder charge on him on top of that for actually killing the child, so…you know, he may walk. He may…you know, I know of people that have killed people and have served their time in prison and are out now. It’s scary.
BETSY: It is scary. But, you know, if you put everybody in prison, where are we going to put them all?
TODD: Well, I felt like, and I’ve heard people say this before, a sexual predator can’t help it; they, themselves, are sick.
BETSY: I feel the same way. I feel that, but of course, then again, I feel that murderers are sick too so, I mean, it’s like a catch-22 there.
TODD: Well, if I’m going to kill you because I want what you have. You have a possession that I want, you know, there’s the armed robbery thing, there are so many different ways of killing somebody, you know, I think it’s like a premeditated thing, like if somebody spends time to lure and molest and re-molest and pretty much there’s something…somebody has to stop that and people have to recognize it. And you said something last night in a conversation we had, a lot of it is, the parents, you’ve got to watch your kids. And that might not even be enough.
BETSY: Yeah, because you don’t ever know. The closest person to you could do that.
TODD: And it’s almost like suggesting, you know, live a paranoid lifestyle, and that’s not necessarily what, you know, you don’t want to live a life of fear.
BETSY: No, but…
TODD: But smart.
BETSY: Right. You know, know who your kids are with, you make sure they’re not on a one-on-one basis. I mean, you can do it where it’s not just a one-on-one basis. You don’t send your niece to your brother’s house for him to watch.
BETSY: You don’t send your nephew to your aunt’s house to watch. These people bond with you.
BETSY: They bond with you and when you’re young and you go through this, you know, you think that’s love.
BETSY: You think that’s how…that’s what love is all about.
TODD: Well, they have a power over you.
TODD: Because how would you keep somebody from telling? You know, what do you tell a child to keep that child from telling? Because they tell everything, I mean, every little thing. You know, the schoolteacher knows everything. They know every little detail about your family, even embarrassing little details, the teacher usually hears it, you know, but there’s that one dark secret that they won’t tell.
BETSY: But you never know; sometimes you just bury it so deep…
BETSY: …that it takes you years and years before you even realize it.
TODD: This show…you know I took a little bit of a summer break, there’s a couple weeks there we didn’t do a show and I was building up to the 100th episode and I was still searching my own soul trying to look for a way to approach this, because there is a reason why this show in particular was important to me and I’m glad you’re here with me now because we’re having a conversation…we’re having a real conversation that we’re sharing with people listening to us out there, and this is a real serious situation that we have in our family. Betsy and I have a situation in our family where this has happened more than once, and it’s put a lot of space between us at times. You know not because you blame each other, but because of the family factions you have; it’s hard to hold something against this one without hurting this one, and we’ve been there. Betsy and I, both have been there at opposite sides of the table and we both agree so much, but we were at different points.
BETSY: You know, the person that has molested, you know they’re more into the family and the get-togethers, and the person that has been done wrong and been molested, misses the situation when it comes to families.
TODD: And we’re being really careful here. We’re sharing a real conversation with everybody, but we’re avoiding names. There has been more than one individual in our family, in our shared family, that has done something to other individuals in the family, and it’s hard because often you find yourself sitting at the same table with that person and there’s no charge against them, there’s no legal charge against them, but you know it. You have some family members that know it, some family members that won’t believe it, some that do believe it, some that suggest it’s been embellished, some suggest you’re lying to get attention. You know I’ve heard it and I’ve actually seen another family member besides Betsy…Betsy’s a little more outspoken, in more recent years, but I seen others that completely would back down from the allegation because they didn’t want to be a square peg. It was too difficult for other family members to accept so they…they don’t deny that it happened, they just kind of drop it.
BETSY: Yes. Let it go.
TODD: And you’re in this room, and it’s the very same family…we said last night, you’re in the room with a 400-pound gorilla and everybody plays like they don’t see it. And, you know, look at what we do. Betsy helps me a lot with what I do. You know, we…of course, you know I’ve been working with crime and this type of situation for 20 years now and I’m no pro, by no means, but we have got attention and we have brought attention to some important causes, but yet, we’re living in this…in a family that we’ve had to ignore something, so I know how easy it is to have to ignore situations to have to keep a greater peace. And that individual, the victim, often sacrifices themselves, you know, in so many ways. They always say it’s to protect this one, it’s to protect that one, but they themselves are sacrificing.
BETSY: Yeah, the victim, them self, will say, totally alienate their way away from the family…
BETSY: …from having to face it, to deal with it, to cause trouble. The victim is more of an outcast.
TODD: Well, you have no choice.
BETSY: And I haven’t done anything.
TODD: Yeah. What do you do, you know? I felt like, you know, there are times that I brought up the situation that I felt like they wanted me to go away. It’s like, “If that’s going to be the conversation, then you know, there’s no conversation to be had at all.”
BETSY: “We don’t want to talk about that.”
BETSY: I heard it so many times. Yes, I do. I want to talk about it. I want to confront it.
TODD: And they want you…I think I’ve seen some that want you to just, “Well, it’s been so long, why can’t you just forget about it?” And this hasn’t happened to me. Personally, it’s not happened to me, but I’ve seen people that it did happen to and I have a hard time thinking, “You know, this just ain’t okay to just pretend like this,” and I think, I think I’m closer to Betsy than her sisters are.
TODD: Because we’ve been able to talk about things that they don’t, you know, and you’re older than your sisters, you know, there are half-siblings in this family, but you’re not so much older than them that you’re in a different generation.
TODD: Totally not, I mean, you and I have been able to have a lot of conversations that you’ve not been able to have with my wife, Lori.
TODD: At all. Ever. And it’s not always the bad talk, it’s the alienation, and Lori doesn’t want to push you away, but you know, you see things that happen, and I’ve seen people have an uncomfortable look on their face, if you’re there, because they’re afraid of what you might bring up. And I’ve seen people look at me the same way.
BETSY: Yeah, and that’s just it, and I guess by now everybody probably knows this, I have been a victim…
BETSY: …and, you know, by a family member…
BETSY: …that is a part of our family, and is a part of our get-togethers and stuff, and I have just totally…I have found excuses not to go or have to deal with it, or when I do go, act like nothing is wrong, you know, and try to be nice, you know, to keep the family from causing problems within the family. Usually, by the time I leave and I get home, I’m physically ill and I’m ill for probably a week or two.
TODD: But, you know, the ones that don’t want to accept it, you know, there are times I got…I was mad at them because I thought, “Well, you know you just don’t care,” but then there are some that maybe they don’t just care but then there are others I think, you know, they can’t process this, or maybe they don’t realize how bad it was because it wasn’t them. Or maybe it was them, and they don’t want anybody to know.
TODD: And I am thinking, “Could it have happened to them too and now that people are bringing it up, they’re not ready to talk about it?” You know, who knows? I don’t know what all went on. We’ve been here for 20 years, Betsy, and you, how many…and we’ve still not figured it out.
BETSY: Well, and you’ve got to look at it too, I was 34 years old before it hit home.
TODD: Well, I remember when that awakening came through. We’d actually…I think we’d touched base on it a few times before then. I’d mentioned another situation to you and then, it was just like one day, and I don’t think you wanted to hear what I what I talked to you about. I don’t think you did want to hear what I talked to you about. Not that you were pushing it…but, you know, maybe there was a reason why you didn’t want to hear it at the time. It was difficult to listen to it, for one thing, and another thing, I have a feeling that it touched another nerve for you.
BETSY: Yes, because, you know, at that point, I was already having flashbacks.
BETSY: And I couldn’t…you know, when you have flashbacks, it’s like still photos…you see a little part here…
BETSY: …and a little part here, you know, and you try to put them all together, so it takes years and years of counseling, and still, you don’t ever get over it. I think the only way you ever really get over it, is to confront it. But yet, what we’ve been talking about, the confronting…
BETSY: …never really happens because the victim feels more like the one that has done it.
TODD: The troublemaker.
TODD: The troublemaker…because there you go, everything’s going really fine, and you’re bringing this up again, and when you bring this up, it hurts this family member really, really bad for that person to have to hear this and they’re the one that’s connected to all of us and it’s too difficult for that person to go through it. You know, “Don’t do that to that to that person because of this one.” How many times have we been there?
BETSY: “That happened when you were younger.” You know, “That happened when you were younger and they were younger.”
TODD: Uh-huh. Yeah.
BETSY: “You know they’re older now.” Well, you know, you can’t…I guess, when you try to confront people and then they just like…they don’t want to admit to it.
TODD: And would it help it somebody said, “Yes, I did. And I’m sorry”? Would that matter?
TODD: Would it fix it?
BETSY: It won’t fix it, but it would make the family things so much better.
TODD: Uh-huh. Because then there are the other people that you’ve had to deal with.
BETSY: I’m not crazy, you know. Right.
TODD: Yeah. Yeah, you know, acknowledge me. Because it’s almost like you’re somebody crying ‘wolf’ and finally somebody comes and says, “You know what? There was a wolf. She wasn’t just crying ‘wolf.’ There really was one.” Now, what if, in our family situation, what if the death penalty were used? How could we deal with what would happen to our family as a result of that? Because we actually still love those family members; there is still some degree of care for that person. You don’t necessarily want to be with them, but you know, when you see them suffer, you think…you hate it and then you know their immediate family, and sometimes their immediate family’s children are very precious to you too. And what would it do to that person, or that one, to cause that to happen to that person? It’s so hard. It so hard, but this could literally rip a family completely in half, and I think we’ve stretched the…we’ve stretched the seams in our family many times with it.
BETSY: Yeah, and you also, you kind of look at it like this, too. There would be less people coming forward…
BETSY: …if the death penalty passed.
BETSY: Because, normally, it’s family.
BETSY: I, myself, when this started coming to…and, Todd, you know, I’m just now, I’m almost 49 years old, and just now starting to able to really talk to people about it.
TODD: There was even a time, after you had admitted it to me, that you know you actually said, “Yes, you know, it did,” and you were really very descriptive and I knew exactly who and what you were talking about and then you still weren’t able to have a really good conversation. Now, you’re…this is not an easy night to talk, but you’re able to do it.
TODD: You’re still able to do it now. I think it’s a milestone for you.
TODD: This has been a milestone for so many things. I’ve never had to deal with something in our own family. You know, we’re dealing with other people’s problems with Missing Pieces, other people’s situations, other people’s pains and maybe this is why it took me so long to get this particular episode pulled together because this was why…this is why I was even interested in that topic in the first place, is because, you know, you always think, well, and I’ve thought this, “You know, if that person that did this, or persons, if they’d just die, would everybody be happy? If they’d just go away…if they’d just vanish off the face of the earth, would that take away what happened and we could all…that gorilla wouldn’t be in the room and you wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore?”
TODD: But, you know, you think that. You think, the fantasy is if they were to just go and die or just vanish, and not with something that we’ve done ourselves, but nature itself takes them away, but you know what, I don’t know if anything would fix it.
BETSY: No. I think that number one, the molester needs to go to the one that they hurt…
BETSY: …especially if they are older and are getting their life together.
BETSY: It would erase some of the pain to just be able to hear them say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize, at the time, what it would do to you.”
BETSY: “I was a kid playing a game,” you know? But it’s not a game.
TODD: Do you think that there is a possibility that they…they were just…I don’t know how to put this. You know, when people go through adolescence, you go through periods of changes, could this have been sort of like a period of change and it almost seemed normal to them? Like, “That’s not unusual for me to be doing this”? Could they have been so far gone in the way that they thought that they thought that it was okay?
BETSY: Well, I was told many times that it’s okay because of who we were to each other. It was okay because of that.
TODD: Well, and I know that there was the situation where it’s okay because we’re not…we’re only half.
TODD: We’re only half.
TODD: That doesn’t count, you know, half-brother, half-sister, it doesn’t count. (Sighs)
BETSY: It doesn’t matter; it counts.
TODD: Well, you know, we’ve tried to have a family with no ‘halves.’ You know, I know you’re Lori’s half-sister, I know that, but you know, we love all of you. I don’t see you as Lori’s half-sister. You are my sister-in-law.
BETSY: Yes I am.
TODD: You know, and that’s…
BETSY: They’re not my ‘halves,’ they’re my ‘wholes.’
TODD: Oh, man. Well…
BETSY: Well, you know, like I say, we can’t be close.
TODD: No, it makes it hard.
BETSY: It does.
TODD: Because, if I know somebody…they might not say anything, but if they’re dreading one person or another person showing up, and you know of course, it’s everybody’s dream to get your whole family together, but if they’re dreading like, “If he comes, it’ll be this; and if she comes, it’ll be that.” Or, “I hope maybe they just won’t come and it’ll be okay and nobody will say anything and we can play like nothing is wrong,” and that’s almost like having cancer and just pretending that you don’t. Like, “I’ll just pretend like I don’t today and we’ll go about our business and it’ll finally go away.”
BETSY: But it doesn’t go away.
TODD: No, it can’t go away. It can’t go away. And I don’t know if anybody knows what to say, you know, when they know and you step forward, and you’re like, “Uh oh.” You know, what do you say…what do you say to you, you know, as a victim?
BETSY: You just don’t say anything. You know, really and truthfully, I guess the hardest part of dealing with this…
BETSY: …is seeing how comfortable they are with everybody and how uncomfortable you are.
TODD: That’s because they are afraid of what you’re going to say or they don’t know what to say to you.
BETSY: That’s just it. I don’t think they’re afraid; they know you’re not going to say anything.
TODD: You know, I know there have been times, I’ve seen you there, and I knew you wouldn’t say anything, but you know, just looking at you, I knew what you were thinking and we could even look at each other across the room and we were both thinking the same thing and it was like just everybody else was oblivious to what was going on, or they’re pretending to be oblivious, and it’s just hard for me to do that. I come from a very, very small family; you come from a big family, so it’s easy to kind of get lost in a big family. You can go talk to this one or that one, you know, and kind of ignore it a little bit, but I come from a family of just one living brother and we just…there’s nothing that we don’t know between us with our family, you know, we…there’s no place to hide. I can’t go hide anywhere from him and he can’t hide anywhere from me, but luckily we don’t have a situation where we’re having to deal with it. I don’t know how I’m equipped to deal with it on this end.
BETSY: Well, you know, up until, how close I was to my family, how much a part of my family’s life I was until I had the breakdown and it all came to a head.
BETSY: And from that point on, I feel like I’m the one that needs to stay away, which is wrong. You know, I was the one that tried to get people together.
TODD: You’ve tried to get people together and I’ve seen you get sick and not come and, Betsy, I knew you weren’t…you might have been sick, but I knew why you were sick. I could almost set my clock and say, “Betsy will not show up.” I knew you wouldn’t.
BETSY: Because I couldn’t. I couldn’t physically walk out that door.
TODD: But, you know, what do I do? Call you and say, “Betsy, I know you’re not really sick and you’re not going to show up anyway”? You know, Betsy made up her mind that she wasn’t going to be able to do it and, you know, what do you say?
BETSY: But, you know what, Todd, I was. Todd, I was. I was very sick.
BETSY: I literally would be sick to my stomach.
TODD: But, I mean, it wasn’t the flu.
BETSY: That’s right.
TODD: It was the situation.
TODD: Now, you’ve been to a therapist and you’ve told us about this before. How long did you go to that therapist?
BETSY: Well, I’ve been going to this last one for 3 years and she has helped me more than the other 15 years.
TODD: So that helped you become more functional in your day-to-day life?
BETSY: Yeah. It made me walk out the door and realize that, “Hey, it wasn’t my fault.”
TODD: Before you ever mentioned any of this to any of us…Betsy was the one that had a good job, Betsy was the one that was on top of everything, you had a…I mean, you weren’t rich, but you had what you needed, you had a good job and you were running around and you were just so full of life. And you know, everybody…that’s…all the girls said, “I wish I had a job like Betsy’s. I wish I had a life like Betsy’s,” and I thought, “You know, maybe they don’t realize what’s going on.” It seemed like you’re just trying to stay busy.
TODD: You know.
BETSY: I was the life of the party.
TODD: Yeah, you were. I mean, you were loud and happy and it just seemed like, you know, I just wonder, “Was any of that even real?” Or was that just your way of running away from it, but you know, when the wolf’s behind you, there’ll be a day where you cannot run away from it completely. You ran through your thirties, I think, for the most part, in your twenties and into your thirties, and you know, then there’s the day that you can’t run from it anymore.
TODD: It’s going to catch you.
BETSY: Yes. It locked me in a room, big time.
TODD: I remember the change because, you know, when we would come to Kentucky before, you know, we always were with you, because, like you said, you were the life of the party, and that’s where everybody wanted to be. But then it changed, you know, you got to be where…it wasn’t like you weren’t any fun, but you weren’t okay. You weren’t okay anymore.
BETSY: I was scared of having people around me.
TODD: And you wouldn’t be there sometimes, just like, you know, before, you were always there and ready for somebody to be there and having a good time and then it seemed like it began to get difficult for you.
BETSY: Yeah. Yeah, very difficult. Very difficult. I had 10 years of really bad, difficult times. And you know, I think the sad part about it is, it’s that I really didn’t feel that I could tell anybody.
TODD: Well, we’ve just come out of a period of kind of a…it wasn’t that nobody wasn’t speaking to each other, but we’ve just come out of a period where you kind of went your way and we kind of went ours and, you know, sickness…
BETSY: Like I say, it was just too much…
TODD: Yeah. Well, I mean, sickness in the family has kind of pulled us a little bit together again where we are forced to pick up the phone and call the other, you know. And a lot of times, if something is happening in the family, I’ll know it before Betsy does and I’ll call her. I’ll call her. I’ll call her myself and I feel like I’m the person that’s supposed to call Betsy and oftentimes, you know, nobody has ever called you.
BETSY: That’s right.
TODD: And I don’t think that it’s that somebody made a physical choice, “Let’s not tell Betsy.” I don’t…I’ve never ever heard that; it’s just like, it’s easier not to.
BETSY: Out of sight, out of mind.
BETSY: You know, when…Todd, how many times…I always…there wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t talk to you all.
TODD: Oh yeah, we heard from you all the time, you know, but then, when these…there were these demons…a couple of demons that showed up and that was the thing that pushed us apart. I was never mad at you. I don’t think that you were ever mad at me, but those demons that danced around us, pushed us apart whether we liked it or not.
BETSY: You know, my biggest problem, I think, was the fact that I needed to talk about it, I needed to tell you, I needed to say it…
BETSY: …but nobody wanted to hear it.
TODD: Well, there are things that you could have told us that if you hadn’t have told us, later on I could have been mad at you. I mean, you know, you let us go here and do that and you never told us, well, you know, that would be…that would be the unforgivable thing, for me, if you didn’t tell me. So, I don’t know, maybe I’m more understanding with you because it’s not my flesh and blood. You know, I love you, I love all your sisters, but they’re not my flesh and blood. I don’t know the blood ties that tie them to these people that have done these things. There’s a blood tie there that might make it difficult for them to break.
BETSY: Look how good this person is now. How could they do something like that, you know?
TODD: Well, it is hard to ignore that. I mean, if you don’t look at the past and you look at the present and you’re thinking, “It can’t be.”
BETSY: And then look at me. I was the one doing the runner and, you know…
TODD: Well, from the outside, if somebody just met us now, it would be easy to say, well, if they knew you and like you say, the runner and carrying on, they could say, “She’s lying to cause trouble.”
TODD: It’s so easy to say that, you know.
TODD: They do say that. It’s easier to say that than just, “By golly, you’re right.” But I wonder if there is someone else sitting there in the family that’s thinking, “You know, that happened to me too but I’m afraid to say anything. I’m not going to say anything.”
BETSY: I don’t care…I don’t care how hard it is, tell them. Because, number one, I felt like I had to tell because I didn’t want to see it keep going on in our family…
BETSY: …you know, I allowed it to happen to another part of my family before I realized that this was happening to me. You know, I…
TODD: Do you feel like guilty for yourself because you didn’t say something sooner?
BETSY: Yeah. Yeah, you know. You have to say it. Don’t let these people just keep doing it. You know, I think that’s so wrong that people are so scared of saying anything because they feel that people are not going to believe them, people are going to look at them like they’re crazy, like they have me for years, but they need to tell. They need to tell somebody…somebody that’s closest to them. I mean, you know, I went to therapists, when I first started going out to see therapists, you know the biggest thing to them is, all I heard was, “Take them to jail, take them to court, put them in jail.” I’m like, well, my thing on that is, these people need help.
BETSY: You know, jail doesn’t help them because you look, what’s the statistics on child molesters? They go jail, they come out, they do it again. These people need some extensive therapy.
TODD: Well, if they won’t admit it, you know, how do you give somebody therapy that’s says that you’re lying, and everybody is believing them? Because it’s easier to believe him than to believe you.
BETSY: That’s right.
TODD: So how do you…how do you get them there?
BETSY: Well, because there is going to be somebody out there that is going to say, “Hey, they said it, now I can. I can let them know what happened to me too,” because it’s got to start with somebody.
TODD: I mean, you know, what happened here? I mean, we’ve still not gotten any real resolution. You did the right thing; you did come forward, we didn’t get any resolution. Pretty much, you cut your nose off to spite your face. How do you put your life back together as a result of that? I mean, really, that’s what you did. I mean, you didn’t set out to do that, but you tore down a bridge, and it’s just like nobody’s supposed to…
BETSY: From one side of my family to the other.
TODD: Yeah. Yeah. How do you fix that? Where do we go from here?
BETSY: Well, I’m going to fix myself first. Number one, I have to fix myself first. My family knows where I’m at; I didn’t alienate myself from them. They know where I’m at and they know I’ve been hurt. Whether they want to accept it or not, I would have much rather, really and truthfully, for him to have killed me, than to go through what I went through these last 15 years.
TODD: Because, you know, a person can only live so long; if you wait for resolution forever, you know, how long will a human being live?
BETSY: Well, that’s just it. You don’t ever expect that there’s going to be a resolution, but you help yourself by helping others.
BETSY: You say, now look, you know, I know for myself that there have been others, once I said it, admitted it.
BETSY: I’ve had a couple of others come to me and talk to me about it, knowing that I’m going to believe them because it happened to me.
BETSY: Somebody has to start it. I had to start it. Now whether they accept me back in my family for who I am and what I was, and who I am, and accept the fact that this happened to me, I’m sorry, I don’t want to talk about it all the time; we don’t have to talk about it, but we have something that has to be talked about.
TODD: Well, you know, as a parent, now think about this now, I know…if it were your children, what if this happened to your children, you as a parent, how do you deal with, okay this child did this to this child? Now what do I do? Both are hurt. Both are sick because of it. How do you fix it? Or, you know, I can see clearly why a person that I’ve been mad at over the years, because I felt like they didn’t deal with it, I got to thinking, “What if that was on your plate? How would you deal with it?” And I’m thinking, “You know what? I don’t know.” I’m wishing it wouldn’t have happened and the closest thing to wishing it hadn’t happened in the first place, is to pretend that it didn’t and try to convince them, “Well, you know, it really didn’t happen. It didn’t happen. It can’t happen.” But if it has happened more than once, with more than one person…
TODD: …you can only walk away from it for so long.
BETSY: You know, when you tell people, Todd, the saddest part about it is, these people that you love…
BETSY: …and you open up to them, and you tell them, and you’re looking in their eyes when you’re telling them, and you look and they’re thinking, “She’s nuts.” I mean, you can see it in their eyes.
TODD: I mean, I wish it wasn’t true, you know. I do. I wish it wasn’t true.
BETSY: I do too.
TODD: We’ve had to deal with it a long time. You know, I’ve actually felt personally in physical danger because of something I’ve said before and it, you know they probably wish I’d shut up, you know, and not say anything. It has caused problems between…when I’d say something or another, it would cause friction between me and Lori, because you know, she’d say, “You know, it’s not your business. You need to stay out of it. You need to stay out of it. Stay out.” But, you know, how do you do it? How do you go sit down there and think, “Okay”? You know? Everything is fine, I feel perfectly safe and nobody is going to hurt anybody, and everything is all right. It’s just hard for me to do that.
BETSY: Well, I think if people would just come out more, you know?
BETSY: It…you know, people don’t want to talk about this stuff.
TODD: Well, you’ve got to resolve it because we don’t want to pass it down to another generation. We cannot allow it to happen to another generation. And I think we’ve halted the march of it happening again too close to us, anyway. We cannot control everything but I think with just what cages we’ve rattled so far, I think we’ve actually made sure everybody is aware, whether they admit it or not, I think people are keeping an extra eye on now.
TODD: You know, I think we did do some good, and maybe somebody might look back later on thinking, “You know, maybe they weren’t really trying to cause trouble, maybe they were just trying to tell us something to warn us.”
BETSY: Right. And that’s what I think. Everybody’s just, “Oh, she just wants the attention. She just wants to cause trouble.” Well, no, believe me, I’d rather not be sitting here telling you all this stuff happened to me.
TODD: Well, how about you just trade places with me then? How about that would be you and you would just keep your mouth shut and it would be your business, right?
TODD: Well, we’ve got a lot of work to do, I’m sure, and I don’t know what to do. There are times that I know, “This is not the time.” You know, we’ve got a situation right now where one of our family members is sick and I think that this would only agitate at this point in time, you know, so you don’t really want to…but you can’t wait for a person not to be around anymore, because you could wait a lifetime thinking, “Okay, I’ll deal with that after that person is gone.” That’s not the way to do it. But, I mean, it can cause divorces, it can cause isolation in the family, and it has caused isolation in our family, a lot. A lot.
BETSY: Yeah. I mean, like I said, I see nobody, I hear from nobody, I talk to nobody, because I don’t even feel…I used to be so excited about calling everybody.
TODD: Oh, and I know it.
BETSY: Now it’s a dread.
TODD: Because your children were there with the greater part of the family, a lot. I mean, I saw your children a lot as they grew up and you were around a lot.
BETSY: We came to Tennessee at least once a month.
BETSY: If not more. I mean, I was the one that was always going and coming and loving being around my sisters, and doing things with them and for them and…
TODD: And I know you’ve helped them.
BETSY: …and take my shirt off my back and give it to them. I’d give them the world, if I could.
TODD: Well, I know you helped them at Christmas a lot, because it’s a big family and it was hard to provide for…you know, there were 8 children living at home at one time and it’s hard to provide for them. You know, I remember when I first met the family…I grew up, like I said, just two of us, so we had more, and then you see something and you think, “I can’t believe they’re having to share all these resources, or don’t have it.” And it was just unreal to see it and I know you’ve helped them out a lot. I know you have. I know it…many times.
BETSY: But then, when I needed them.
TODD: Yeah, but you’d already done it then, though, you know what I mean? You had already done it. You had already said something that you shouldn’t have talked about. You might have upset somebody and a lot of people are trying to avoid upsetting certain individuals in the family, and I don’t know why, but they just do. “Just don’t upset that person. This will only upset her,” and that, I’ll think a lot of it, it’s not because that person demands it, so much as that’s a good excuse not to say anything. “It’ll upset that person, let’s not say anything,” you know, and it’s not that person so much. You know, I’ve seen people that I was mad at for one thing and later on I began to understand like, “You know what? I was mad at them for the wrong reason.” I’m still mad at them but the situation has changed so I do understand why they did that, but it still doesn’t explain the whole thing. So we’ve talked in riddles tonight and that’s your family name, is Riddle, anyway, but we really have, we’ve talked in riddles…
BETSY: Yes, we did.
TODD: … and I love all of them and we went around it, but I think people got the gist of what we were talking about. We had a real conversation; it’s a very, very personal conversation, and the only reason we did it, you know, this is not a commercial show, it’s not a show that we’re getting paid for, it’s a true public service announcement. I’m hoping that somebody that sitting in the same boat that we’ve sat in, will actually have heard this, maybe they’ll write to us through the show, you can if you want to.
BETSY: I’d love to hear from you. If somebody wants to tell me, they can.
TODD: So, and you’ve been there, and you know, I know you can’t solve their problem but at least maybe you can help them deal with it.
TODD: So, we can’t offer therapy, but we can offer a little bit of understanding and maybe some advice on where to go to, and you know what, you might give us some advice.
TODD: Somebody out there might tell us something a little more. We talked about it as clearly as we could state it without, again, without hurting individuals that were guilty or innocent, we try not to, you know, you can’t make a victim say, “I need help.” We can’t make somebody say that, so we didn’t name anybody, except ourselves, and the situation we’ve dealt with, and I’m so glad we finally did it.
BETSY: Yes, me too.
TODD: So, and I didn’t know until last night exactly who was going to be the guest for this, and now I knew when I read what you had written, you were to be the one.
TODD: So, it’s very important and I’m glad you got to the point where you could do it, because I…short of not seeing you having written that, there’s no way I would have called you and said, “Hey, would you like to air your dirty laundry to the world?” you know, basically.
BETSY: Maybe it was me letting you know that I was ready.
TODD: Well, and you know, I left it up there for a long time, the promo for this particular show and I guess it’s what I was hoping for, because when I saw it, it was just like, “That’s it.” Because I work, when I do the things I do, when I do my writing or interviews or whatever I do, and I’m not a professional writer, I go with the heart, and when my heart says, “Now. Today, this is it,” that’s when I do it. That’s when I say, “Okay, this is the right path,” and I know a lot of people that work with me, Kimberly, she puts the show together for me, and I know I drive her crazy because of last-minute schedule changes, little twists, but I think she understands, but I know my quirky ways really set her schedule on its ear at times, and I apologize to her. And, you know, we have a very good transcriptionist, and she’s anonymous, and she wants to stay anonymous, but...and she’ll read this as she types this she’ll smile because she knows I’m talking about her; she works very hard. But Kimberly and the transcriptionist work every bit as hard as I do on this, it’s just not as visible, but when you read something that’s written down, they did it. When you see these nice pictures on the website, they’re the ones that put it together. You know, I’m talking to the actual guest behind the scenes or having known them for years, and then this segment where I actually interview them, but you know, those two ladies are the two ladies that actually pull it together and make it be what it is, and 100 episodes, we’ve worked hard and hopefully it has helped somebody, and we’ll keep doing it as long as we’re getting good feedback and people are happy and hopefully it will work. It’s all I hope for, so…
BETSY: That’s right. I hope that it helps somebody.
TODD: Well, maybe it will. So, we’ve bared our souls…hopefully we didn’t cut our throats doing this, so…
TODD: …we tried.
BETSY: You know what? Mine couldn’t be cut any deeper than it’s already been cut.
TODD: Well, and I know that’s true, and the thing of it is, the good thing, and I’m going to say this, this is me, I don’t think that there are many people in our family that’ll actually even hear this. (Laughs)
BETSY: I know, isn’t that sad?
TODD: That’s the crazy thing; we’ll hear from people in another country, and most of them won’t even know it. You know, I don’t know if it’s the technology that’s the challenge or they’re just so disconnected from us and don’t want to hear it, but you know, we can say all kinds of stuff and they’ll never even know it; that’s the funny thing.
BETSY: We could send it to all of them.
TODD: We’ll have the transcriptions and we’ll hand them out next time. None of this was ever intended to hurt any of them…any of them, not even the people that did this, that started all this. I didn’t want to hurt any of them, and there’s more than one. There’s more than two.
BETSY: They just need to get help.
TODD: There are more than two of them.
BETSY: Get help and quit hurting people. Quit hurting people.
TODD: Yeah, it’s got to stop. I know we all know it.
BETSY: No matter what age, it doesn’t matter what age, it’s not right.
TODD: The secret’s out, guys. We know. We all know. We’re just pretending that we don’t, okay? So, it’s not like you’re going to be giving anybody breaking news to go tell them, “Hey, this is wrong and I shouldn’t have done this to anybody.” It…you’re not telling us something that we all don’t know and are all just pretending. You know what? I lot of them are pretending to keep you, as the person that’s done this to people, from hurting further. So, remember that, if any of you ever get to see it, you know, I never wanted to hurt any of you…
BETSY: Me neither.
TODD: …but, you know…
BETSY: I backed away; I backed away from hurting anybody. I backed totally away from my family.
TODD: Even the people that had done it to you, even the ones that have done it, we have turned away and distanced ourselves, even not to hurt them.
TODD: Even when there were times when I wanted to hurt them really bad, I’ll admit it. You do want to hurt them really bad, but you know…
BETSY: You know what though, Todd? I feel sorry for them.
TODD: Yeah. Yeah, I’ve seen them and I’ve thought, “They’re the most pitiful things I have ever seen in my life.” But you can turn around and get mad at them again, and then you think, “There’s something really wrong, but if they’re not asking for help, how can you have any sympathy for them?” How can you offer help and hand it to them? It’s like a caged animal, you back in the corner and try and help it, it’s going to bite you, and I’ve been bit. Let me tell you, I’ve been bit, but I won’t be bit again.
BETSY: I guess the angry part is over with.
BETSY: You know my anger part is over with. I’m finally healing, you know, because the wounds that have been laid upon me these years are finally healing. And I guess that’s why I agreed to do this is, hopefully, somebody else can heal or it can stop somebody.
TODD: Do you feel better having done it?
BETSY: Even somebody that’s done it, if they hear it.
TODD: Well, you know, this is reaching out to them as a victim as well. Not just our family, but other people’s, if you’ve done this, you have done something very wrong to somebody and hopefully…
BETSY: Admit it and get help. Don’t do it to somebody else. I don’t want to send you to jail, but get help!
TODD: I mean, you, as a victim, you’re turning away the possibility of the electric chair…
TODD: …in hopes for a better way, and that’s what I think we all want.
TODD: Do you feel better having done it?
TODD: Told you it was very conversational. This is a real conversation, that we really had, and I think we’ve helped each other quite a bit. We’ve avoided it for a long time and we finally had it. So, and we have avoided it. There were times when we started and then thought, “Ehh, well this is going on and we won’t do it right now.” But, you know what, if we wait, our life, it’s going to be gone.
TODD: See, I’m 38, and you’re like, what…you like 60-what?
BETSY: What? I’m 49.
TODD: (Laughs) You’re not that much older than me. You’re not that much older than me, but I mean, you know what, our lives are…
BETSY: I’m 49.
TODD: Those 20 years went by really fast and, you know, that’s the scary part, and I don’t want to wait another 20 years.
BETSY: That’s right.
TODD: Well, we’ll tell everybody ‘goodnight.’ I think we had a good episode and I hope everybody can enjoy it and learn from it and help us.
BETSY: And accept it and get help. Turn to somebody. Talk to somebody.
TODD: And not be ashamed.
BETSY: Yeah. Don’t be ashamed. You didn’t do it.
TODD: All right. Well, I love you very much and hopefully I’ll see you soon…probably sooner than later, but I’ll definitely be seeing soon, I’m sure. And let’s make an effort not to be so far apart…if we can.
BETSY: I second that.
TODD: At least us.
BETSY: I love you all.
TODD: All right. Well, goodnight, and goodnight everybody.
April 14, 2008:
Child Rape Tests Limits of Death Penalty
La. Law Spurs Review Of Eighth Amendment
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 14, 2008; A01
Ever since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty more than 30 years ago, justices have been finding ways to limit it.
In the intervening years, they have employed their interpretations of society's "evolving standards of decency" to remove juvenile and mentally retarded killers from death row.
Before that, they excluded kidnappers who did not kill and even some accomplices to murder. In 1977 the court also concluded that a state could not execute a man who raped an adult woman.
But on Wednesday the court will consider whether a person who rapes a child is different. Louisiana prosecutors will argue that the same societal mores that have persuaded justices to spare certain categories of criminals lead in the opposite direction when it comes to child rapists, demanding an expansion of capital punishment, not a retrenchment.
Proponents say society demands retribution for those who harm its most vulnerable members. But some child advocacy experts say the unintended consequences of the death penalty might be a decline in the reporting of sexual assaults by family members, or even an incentive for the rapist to kill the victim.
The argument comes as the court has imposed a de facto moratorium on capital punishment while justices decide in a separate case whether the current methods of lethal injection are constitutional.
Even as the number of death sentences imposed in the United States has fallen -- there were the fewest last year since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976 -- Louisiana and a handful of other states have changed their laws to allow executions for those who rape children. They are supported by additional states that say they might want to do so in the future.
"The 'evolving standards of decency' framework is not a one-way street that may lead only towards the elimination of the death penalty," the state of Texas argues in a brief joined by eight other states. "Each state's legislature should be allowed to . . . reflect its citizens' current moral judgment regarding the just deserts for certain capital crimes."
Of the 3,300 inmates on death row across the country, only two are there for a crime other than murder. Both were convicted under Louisiana's child rape statute, passed in 1995 and still the broadest in the land.
Those facts alone are a powerful argument that executing someone for rape would violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment," argue lawyers for Louisiana death row inmate Patrick Kennedy. The 43-year-old Kennedy was convicted of raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter in 1998 in an assault so brutal that the girl required surgery.
But Jeffrey L. Fisher, a Stanford University law professor who will argue Kennedy's case, said no matter how heinous the crime, the court decided in 1977's Coker v. Georgia-- its last previous ruling on the limits of capital punishment -- that rape is not subject to the ultimate penalty.
Justice Byron R. White wrote for the court: "We have the abiding conviction that the death penalty, which is unique in its severity and irrevocability, is an excessive penalty for the rapist who, as such, does not take human life."
That might have settled it, except the court noted in that decision, and in subsequent ones, that although the victim was 16, she was an "adult woman."
To Louisiana legislators, that meant there was an open question about whether capital punishment would be allowed for those who rape children. The state's Supreme Court held that children require special protection from society and that the "the degradation and devastation of child rape, and the permeation of harm resulting to victims of rape in this age category" justify the death penalty.
And it pointedly noted that "this current court, and its new members" have not considered the issue.
Louisiana has been joined in expanding the death penalty by Montana, South Carolina, Oklahoma and most recently Texas. (Florida and Georgia have older laws that have been called into question by state courts.)
Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt (R) has asked his state's legislature to impose the death penalty on child rapists after the high-profile case of a man who kidnapped a boy and held him captive for four years. Michael J. Devlin received 74 life sentences, but Blunt questioned whether that was "sufficient" for his crimes.
"This court should not foreclose a national debate on appropriate punishment for child rape," Missouri said in an amicus brief.
Louisiana argues that such initiatives are reflective of the same sort of societal trends -- albeit in the opposite direction -- that the court recognized in 2002, when it declared the death penalty unconstitutional for the mentally retarded, and in 2005, when it did the same for juveniles. Both reversed earlier decisions by the court.
Fisher and the Capital Appeals Project in New Orleans, which represented Kennedy in his appeals, countered that more states have rejected the death penalty for child rapists than have added it, and that New Jersey repealed its death penalty law entirely. "Viewed against the backdrop of 44 years without a single execution for rape of any kind, the enactments of only four states over 13 years . . . hardly signify a shift in societal attitudes," their brief argues.
Expanding the death penalty to include non-homicidal rape would separate the United States from other Western nations and align it with "only a sliver" of the world, including China, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Fisher argues.
Even if imposing the death penalty for child rapists were ruled constitutional, he said, Louisiana's law is so broad that it fails the Supreme Court's test of narrowing classifications of offenders to the worst of the worst. For instance, while other states require previous convictions before a convict is eligible for the death penalty, Louisiana does not. Anyone convicted of raping a child younger than 13 is eligible for the death penalty, even though the typical murderer would not be.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union reminded the court of the "scourge of racial bias" that accompanied the execution of rapists during the middle part of the 20th century; nearly 90 percent of those executed were black.
Beyond legal issues, the law is bad policy, an unlikely coalition of social workers and groups that work to prevent sexual assaults told the court.
Her opposition "might seem counterintuitive," Judy Benitez, executive director of the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault, said in an interview. "But our great fear is that it will increase underreporting" of the crime.
She said the "vast majority" of sexual assaults against children are committed by a family member or friend, and that other family members would be unwilling to turn over the rapist if the death penalty might be carried out.
Additionally, the imposition of the death penalty means that abusers face no greater penalty for raping and killing their victims than for solely raping them, she said.
Benitez acknowledges those are arguments that would seem better directed at legislators than the courts. But she said lawmakers are often swayed by the emotions that accompany terrible crimes.
"It's a complex area that I think needs to be looked at in a more in-depth manner than policymakers are often willing to do," she said.
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