Do you ever really know your friends, your family members? This must be the question that the relatives and friends of elementary school teacher Shane Vicars are asking themselves. Shane has been convicted on 13 counts for molesting boys in an after-school program. He was sentenced to 26 years in prison. And yet do we ever really know anyone? Because Shane has so many friends, so much support in the community, despite his horrific acts, that the judge called him "a good man and instructor who lost his judgment in the most horrible way."
Wow. A "good man" who merely "lost his judgment"? Not only that, the judge received 24 letters of support for Vicars, and a large group of supporters wearing "I Support Shane" T-shirts showed up at his sentencing. Are these people just nuts? Or are they ... us?
Vicar's victims were all between the ages of 7 and 11 years old. Vicars was their instructor at an after-school program when the offenses took place. Last year, the case presented six boys as victims -- and the jury was undecided. This year, they narrowed it down to two victims and he was found guilty. The judge told him:
I find that you took advantage of a position of trust and confidence to commit these sexual offenses.
These children will have to live with this their entire lives. The sexual molestation. The emotional turmoil. The breach of trust. They may grow up to be very different people from what they could have grown up to be. Their pain will never go away.
But thinking about myself, and what I would do if someone I loved, cared for, and trusted, who had never proven himself to be anything over than a good person to me, had done these things ... would I still support him or her?
I honestly don't know. I'd like to say I would not. But what if this was someone I'd known for 10 or 20 years? Someone who had helped me out numerous times?
The fact is, molesters can be charming people. It's how they go undetected for so long. People trust them; that's why they're in positions overseeing children.
Vicars has two sides to him. The man everyone likes. And the man who committed these crimes. It's always extremely difficult to merge those two sides in your mind when you encounter someone like that. Think about how we feel when someone we like and trust talks badly about us behind our backs or otherwise betrays us. We're stunned. We're outraged. We're confused.
So I can only imagine what Vicars' supporters feel.
I do not know what I would do. It would depend on my relationship with him, and what he was saying happened. I think there would be a real temptation to not want to accept reality. To think there's some sort of conspiracy. To think people got it wrong. To think people like that don't really exist. Molesters are scary-looking wild-eyed strangers who smell like tequila and haven't had a shower in two weeks, right? Not the guy we hang out with! Not the man who teaches our kids!
Human beings are capable of so much good -- and, unfortunately, so much bad. The worst is when they are capable of both.
What would you do?
Image via Sacramento Police