Hands

by Megan Benninger
*CW: sexual abuse
There is blood on your hands, hands that took what they wanted,
Spread her legs, grabbed her breasts, broke her heart.
Said you’re sorry, of course.
Spent some time behind bars.
She forgave you, yet she never heals.
What right did you have to play with my kids,
with those hands that committed such crime?
Full of lies, you baptized
And proselytized.
You toyed with their spirits and minds.
God forgave you, we know, washed you white as the snow,
Made it possible to reconcile.
But you tricked and deceived
Instead of came clean,
Took a job that you never should have.
Took a job as a pastor, a spiritual leader.
Did you really think you qualified?
Above reproach, self-controlled,
Manage well your own household—
Are these adjectives that describe you?
If that wasn’t enough, you superintended
The church-run preschool in addition.
What the hell were you thinking
As you straight-faced, unblinking
Accepted that position of power?
Let me guess? God’s forgiveness gave you a clear conscience
To take such a risk with the law.
Grace provided circumstance
To give you a second chance
So you used it to work with little kids?!
Come to find there were incidents over the years
Of behavior that crossed many lines—
Sat kids on your knees,
Pushed their bums on the swings,
Grabbed a handicapped girl from behind.
When your truth was found out, you simply “retired,”
Surely that should have put out the fire.
But the truth has a way
Of fanning the flame,
Burns your house made of cards to the ground.
So you came to the pulpit one fine Sunday morning,
Confessed your past sin to your sheep.
“It wasn’t that much,
A misunderstood touch
Above the waist twenty-odd years ago.”
”Please forgive me,” you cried. “I’ve paid all my time,
And the dear girl has forgiven me.
Should have told all of you
From the start what was true.
Oh how sorry I am. Don’t you see?”
After such a display people crowded around,
Offered prayers of forgiveness and grace.
And though you weren’t  spurned,
You still never returned,
And somehow the blame became ours.
Suicidal, we heard, was your state of affairs.
Surely your blood was now on our hands.
“Cruel tools of Satan
Spreading gossip, defamation,
Don’t forget all the good I have done.”
Your confession omitted some noteworthy parts
Of the story you chose not to share:
Above the waist, then beneath,
Over clothes, then beneath,
Grinding genitals against her will.
There is blood on your hands, hands that took what they wanted,
Spread her legs, grabbed her breasts, broke her heart.
Said you’re sorry, of course.
Spent some time behind bars.
She forgave you, yet she never heals.
The police now involved started investigating
While we grieved the betrayal of friends.
We wailed and we mourned
And we suffered much scorn
From the folks we once called family.
How dare you blame me for your long-ago sins,
Heaping shame upon shame on my shoulders?
Sent this lamb to the slaughter,
Called me prodigal daughter.
I’m only guilty of telling the truth.
How could you accuse me of destroying your family?
Hunting witches for sport, so you say.
I’m the blackest of sheep.
Just how do you sleep
At night, slandering innocent me?
Narcissists, now I’ve learned, use this game you have played,
Reversing offender and victim.
Your actions denying,
Minimizing, justifying.
Making me the perceived enemy.
We started to think maybe you’d learned your lesson,
Eaten your share of tart humble pie.
Maybe we could now rest.
Kids were safe, nothing’s left
Now to fight in this wearisome war.
But no, you now preached at a neighboring church!
We found your slick sermon online.
You preached about grace,
Positively bold-faced
As you mocked that same grace with deceit.
I won’t let you do it—deceive yet again,
So I shout from the rooftops your truth!
A loud public post
Should notify most
Of the wool-covered wolf in their midst.
And just to be thorough we emailed the pastor
To warn him of your checkered past.
But not much surprise,
He’d bought your disguise,
Your secret was safe for the time.
In time, higher-ups got wind of your story.
They scurried to damage control.
Then you were blacklisted,
Your preaching restricted.
The shepherd they coaxed to disclose.
They firmly proposed that your crimes be made known
To all those in the church congregation.
Still that pastor insists,
“No kids were at risk.
We kept such a close eye on him.”
What right does he have to decide that for parents?
How dare he keep them in the dark?
Be honest, be fair,
Make people aware.
Let parents decide for their kids.
Or is he afraid that they’d walk away?
Perhaps that should give him some pause.
If they won’t remain
If the truth is made plain,
What really does that say to you?
So finally, I became tired of the wait.
Just somebody please tell the truth!
Time is up. Tell them now,
Or I’ll show him how
By informing the sheep on my own.
I gave him till Monday, a firm ultimatum
To tell them your name and your crimes.
Five days, still no answer,
No word from the pastor.
Then Sunday an email appeared!
The deed was now done, everyone was informed.
I could sleep through the night, conscience clear,
For now, for this day,
But who is to say
You won’t strike again in the future.
And you had indeed preached again, out of state.
We found video posted online
Will you ever just quit???
Will you ever admit
That you’re permanently disqualified?
There is blood on your hands, hands that took what they wanted,
Spread her legs, grabbed her breasts, broke her heart.
Said you’re sorry, of course.
Spent some time behind bars.
She forgave you, yet she never heals.

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