My Advice to Jordan Powers: Read Between the Lines
It seems like everyone wants to be the next Howard Stern, saying things simply for shock value. I don’t do that. I don’t make shock statements. But sometimes I’m saying more than meets the eye.
Like last week, when I said Jordan Powers should apologize to James Hooker’s family. Several people took exception to that comment, or perhaps it was something else in my Huffington Post piece that upset them. I said it for several reasons, including the fact that as a reporter, I’m often privy to more information than the general public. (I’m guessing that maybe 50-percent of what we know as reporters makes its way into the collective public eye.)
So my readers couldn’t possibly know about a certain email I got not long after this case broke, and prior to my first piece about Powers and Hooker, that indicated there was more to the story than most people realize. The email was from someone quite close to the case, who knew far more of the facts involved in this story than your average bear. Present company included.
So while I didn’t let that information affect the first piece I wrote, by the time the new information came to light, i.e., Powers up and left Hooker for what she believed was his infidelity to her (by, I’m assuming, learning that—unlike he probably told her—she was not the only teenage girl he’d “fallen for”) I did allow it to color my perspective.
Maybe that’s due to the ongoing discussions Ken Lanning and I have, about victims and predators and their culpability, or lack thereof, and last but not least, about the difference between a child under the age of say, eight, who is molested, and a girl like Powers, who claims nothing sexual happened between her and Hooker prior to her turning 18.
Legally, before that day, Powers isn’t responsible for anything she did, as it pertains to this case. That’s simply what the law states. The law also says she’s a victim. And she most certainly is. Her victimization is going to be more difficult to overcome, given the grooming that she’s gone through at Hooker’s hands.
Yet this is what I’ve noticed about victimization: some victims are still stuck years after their initial abuse, and they remain stranded in the status quo. They cannot figure out how to get out, and so they might not be able to have healthy relationships, or hold down a job, or even leave their own homes. This is understandable, given the severe abuse that many, many victims have endured during their lifetime. Especially if that abuse began when they were still very young and were powerless to defend themselves.
Please don’t get me wrong: all abuse is bad and evil and should never ever happen. But does that mean that all abuse is the same? No, for the very fact that so many victims do manage to turn their lives around and get past the abuse, becoming not just survivors, but people who thrive in their homes, their families and their communities, shows that it isn’t the same at all.
So just as all abuse is not the same, neither are all victims. I’m really not sure what to make of Powers, and perhaps that’s because she had no compunction about going on national TV with Hooker. (Again, though, one could argue, as I do myself, that he was to her what Patty Hearst’s captors were, and she was so thoroughly under his power and control that she would do whatever he said.)
That might be the case. But it might not. It’s irrelevant, anyway. That’s because the primary reason I suggested Powers should apologize to Hooker’s family is because they deserve an apology from someone. And they won’t get it from Hooker. But what if this young woman could somehow extend an olive branch, that would not only help the healing begin for them, but for herself as well?
Who cares if she doesn’t owe them one. Who cares if she shouldn’t have to give it. How many times have we apologized to people because, at the time, it just seemed like the right thing to do?
Beyond that, though, I strongly encouraged Powers to analyze how she came to be chosen by Hooker: what led her to accept his attention and affection, when another girl her age might have steered clear of him? And I still think that’s great advice, since she has to understand the underlying reasons for her own actions—if and only if, she wants to avoid them the next time. (Or run back to Hooker, as her mother said she fears Powers might do, if he keeps hounding her.)
Avoidance is key to becoming someone else’s victim down the road. It’s also key to becoming mentally healthy again. And a healthy survivor who refuses to be victimized a second or even a third time stands a much greater chance of forming healthy attachments, of being able to leave home, and of holding down a good job.
That’s my wish for Powers.
Editor’s note: Daleen Berry has expertise in overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment, and can be pretty funny when she wants. She’s an award-winning author, editor and journalist who speaks at conferences around the country. Berry was one of two keynote speakers addressing a national audience at “The Many Faces of Domestic Violence,” the 18th Annual Conference of the Association of Batterers’ Intervention Programs on March 1, 2012, in Anaheim, Calif. She recently spoke to social workers from all over the country at the “Hope for the Future: Ending Domestic Violence in Families” conference at the University of California, Berkeley.
Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read the first chapter free, please go to Goodreads. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”
If you want to read 30 other five-star reviews, check out this title on Amazon. To see a mock up of the SOS t-shirt, check out Berry’s Facebook page.