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Would you keep in touch with a criminal relative?

(10 Posts)
ILoveStripeySocks Tue 13-Oct-09 16:06:50

I have posted this in chat in error, think it belongs here really ...

I have a relative who has been jailed for a voilent crime. I was quite close to this relative beforehand, but I am also very sickened by their crime. I have had no contact with them since the crime happened, though have been in touch with the victim, and they have my full support.

Recently though, my relative has been in touch and it has stirred up a lot of emtotions that I didnt realise were there. I miss this person, and against my better judgement, I am feeling a little bit sorry for them being lonely in prison. Whats wrong with me? I know the deserve to be there, nor do I think they should be released anytime soon. But a small part of me wants to write back, let them know I still think about them an dthat I miss them. Also, my DD looks like them, and a part of me seems to want to tell them (they have never met). Why, why do I want to do that? I dont understand

Has anyone else been through this? How do you deal with it? Would you write back? Or would you keep your distance?

I cant give too much detail as to what they did, as it may out me in RL. But it was a domestic violent crime (not murder/manslaughter) to someone close to them, carried out in front of their children.

HarlotOTara Tue 13-Oct-09 16:28:43

I can understand your dilemma. I think it is possible to care/love, someone who has committed a crime - even a violent one - without condoning what they have done and would imagine there are a lot of people who are doing this all the time. It is hard to say how I would react if I was you but personally I would probably reply as I would feel that they are being punished for what they have done and would have compassion for their loneliness but then again it would depend. If they had abused a child or a member of my family I might think differently. It sounds as if you are close to the victim so maybe you feel there are divided loyalties. However very little is completely black and white in life and it is understandable that your feelings are stirred up. Are you wondering if the perpetrator is trying to manipulate you?

I imagine there is no rush to do anything so maybe mull it over for a while and talk it through with someone. I often find my initial reaction to something isn't necessarily the one that sticks.

TracksuitLover Tue 13-Oct-09 16:31:25

I have a relative in prison for multiple sexual assaults on women. I am in contact with him.

I recognise the feelings in what you wrote and wish I could make you feel better.

I had a lot of anger about him from the past and from his crimes which was buried. I tried to ignore it and I got very close to him at the beginning of his sentence. Talking to him about his issues stirred up all of mine. When I started to deal with my own issues I realised I needed to feel the anger I had towards him. This was very difficult though when I had become so close to him and has caused me a lot of confusion.

You may not be the same as me but this is just a warning I suppose. If you are angry with him and haven't fully dealt with this yet, maybe it would be wise, if you are going to have contact, not to throw yourself right into getting closer to him as it is then hard to detach if you need to detach a bit.

It is hard to detach partly because it hurts you but partly also because prison is so horrible that he might develop dependence on you which makes you feel guilty if you detach.

ILoveStripeySocks Tue 13-Oct-09 16:39:44

Thanks for your replies.

I am picturing them in prison, all alone and waiting for my reply. I keep thinking of them being hurt that I have not responded. I keep wanting to tell him about my baby who he knows nothing about (he would be no danger to me or my children). But I also know I cant deal with what he has done, like you have said TSL.

Its hard totalk to my family about it, as they are feeling pretty much like me. One younger relative is quite distressed about it, and it has messed him up a bit.

So far none of us, execpt for his victim & his children, have replied to contact. I think this is contributing to it, the fact that he will feel so abandoned by us.

I need to get past the guilt of breaking contact

TracksuitLover Tue 13-Oct-09 17:07:33

I know what you mean about the abandonement thing. I have abandonement issues myself and couldn't bear the thought of him feeling what I had felt but even more intensely. If I cut off contact I would feel, how could I do that when I know how abandonement feels. But some people would say that is part of the punishment and we know that they do have to face a consequence for their crimes.

It is a hard decision to make and nobody can tell you what to do. I have kind of weighed up how much I feel he needs to be punished for what he did. He is still getting a big punishment even with me still being in contact. When I think of certain things that could happen to him I can't make myself feel that he deserves those things. I think I would feel differently if he had hurt a child but it is hard to know unless you've been in the situation. I made a decision that I didn't feel he deserved to lose all contact with everyone (he lost it from almost everyone). He did very bad things but he isn't totally bad. How bad do you feel he is on a scale of other people's crimes? (sorry if that is an inappropriate/offensive question. I'm not expecting you to answer it on here, just to answer it to yourself in your head.)

Contact with you could help him to change and make him less likely to reoffend. On the other hand it could harm your mental health if getting emotionally involved with his situation makes you stop yourself from dealing with your own feelings about things he has done (if feeling sorry for him overshadows your own feelings for yourself). You don't have a responsibility to help him, you only have to do it if you want to. He committed the crime/s and that was his responsibility and is now his responsibility to deal with the consequences. He made the decision to commit the crime (unless he gets diagnosed with a mental illness that caused him to not know what he was doing or not know that it was wrong).

I hope this is helping rather than confusing you even more.

TracksuitLover Tue 13-Oct-09 17:15:41

I felt a need to understand the reasons behind my relative's crimes and it helped me to some extent to learn about his reasons by being in contact with him. Do you feel learning your relative's reasons could help you with your feelings?

But bear in mind that even if you learn the reasons and understand the reasons, the reasons might explain his criminal behaviour but they do not excuse it.

ILoveStripeySocks Tue 13-Oct-09 17:30:10

I am pretty sure of his reasons as to why he did it, even his victim has said she knows why it happened. Doesnt excuse him in the slightest. His crime is not the worst, no child abuse and a health issue contributed greatly to his actions. Its purely the abadonment of him that is affecting me, plus the loss of a close family member (I probably will never see him again). I dont think I would ever want to see him either. But I dont want to cut him out 100% either.

Thanks for sharing your experience, I am going to have to give this a lot of thought.

TracksuitLover Tue 13-Oct-09 17:40:28

There are different options to choose from:

-no contact at all
-letters only
-letters + phone calls (when he phones you)
-letters, phone calls and visits
-frequent visits
-infrequent visits

I guess this is obvious though.

Letters only could feel easier than having to face him on visits and you would feel you hadn't cut him off totally, just face to face contact.

It is hard to know whether it is just guilt that is driving you or if you feel you want to do something for him. Doing it only out of guilt seems emotionally unhealthy for you. I've had a phase of doing it because I wanted to, then a phase of doing it out of guilt - which really messed with my head, and now I'm really trying to focus on just doing what I want to do and no more rather than doing anything out of guilt.

He got used to me writing very frequently and visiting fairly frequently and then when I felt I wanted to cut down a bit on contact this was painful for him and caused a lot of guilt for me. That is why I went on about not getting them used to a level of contact that you might not be able to keep up.

ILoveStripeySocks Tue 13-Oct-09 18:13:53

Its almost impossible to visit - he is imprisoned too far away. I do not want to physically see him anyway, so thats those options out. I think my options are realistically letters or no contact.

I feel like I should hate him, but I cant seem to wipe out years of being close. I obvioulsy hate what he has done, and the lives he has affected. I cant forgive the things he did either.

He will probably be in for a very long time, so I think Ill keep to no contact for now and see how I feel further down the line. I think it is guilt, and family loyalty thats driving my feelings.

TracksuitLover Tue 13-Oct-09 20:12:35

Good luck with sorting your thoughts and feelings out. This is a shock for you and similar to a bereavement as you have lost him in the way that you had him before. Be easy on yourself for a while and don't expect too much from yourself x

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