Hannah starts to come into the present a bit, which sounds like a good thing and yet never goes well. When this happens for the parts, they nearly always freak out.
Very often, the freak out centers around having an adult body. So Hannah notices having breasts only it absolutely does not compute for her that these are breasts and she thinks she has some kind of rare, horrible disease. I try pointing out breasts on other women in the music videos she is watching, but there is just no connection. It does not register at all that these are the same bit of anatomy.
When she finally calms down, her next thought has to do with time. Time has passed—a lot of it—and Nata has been dead for all of it. What takes over at that point is shock. Somehow, it is more horrible for Nata to be dead for decades than it is for her to be freshly dead.
I am not very good with shock. I don’t know what to do about it. I try to stay warm and make sure I eat and stay hydrated and beyond that, I’m not very sure what helps. It is not clear-cut in my mind the way fear or sadness are. So I struggle with it.
I think also it’s harder on me because I tend to look at it as an emotion I ought to be able to skip over. More than other feelings, I want a shortcut for it.
But shock and horror are a big part of what happened. Despite the routine nature of the abuse I suffered, as a child there was always one piece of it that was just unfathomable: Why would you want to do this? Why would you want to hurt a little girl in this way? How can you not care it is hurting me?
Every single time. How can you do this? How can shattering my mind be worth less than a pair of shoes?
And in Natalya’s case, Why would you kill a 17-year-old girl?
And not just execute her, but beat her brutally to death?
I know quite a lot about sociopaths now, and I can imagine why Yuri behaved the way he did and why my father behaved the way he did, but I didn’t know any of that then. All I had was horror at how other human beings can behave. And maybe what I know now doesn’t really help.
There’s something else about it that is hard to deal with also: Natalya’s sacrifices make it very, very clear how dreadful being trafficked was. I can minimize it in my own mind to some extent so that I can avoid confronting the full extent of the horror of it, but Natalya’s choices won’t allow me to.
Natalya willingly sent her baby off with strangers knowing she would never see that child again because almost any life seemed better than growing up being trafficked. Natalya thought her own life worth risking to get me away from it.
It was that bad.
And human beings did that. It’s easy to see Yuri as a monster and to assume he did what monsters like that do.
But he was a human being, just like the rest of us, with the same knowledge of right and wrong, the same capacity to see the suffering he was causing. He may have lacked affective empathy—watching us suffer did not make him suffer—but he didn’t lack cognitive empathy. He did not lack knowledge of the law or of society’s standards. He knew.
He knew he was hurting us. He knew it was wrong. And it is so hard to fathom that he did it anyway. He did it for things that seem to matter so little in comparison to what we lost: He did it for money and he did it for power, and it’s so hard to imagine how either one of those things can be worth another human being’s basic sense of safety or dignity.
I cannot understand that degree of evil. I have tried, and I cannot.