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Criado case prompts personal reflection

We remembered the one-year anniversary of the violent death of Tabasha Criado and her four young children on July 18. The husband and father, Jordan Criado, is awaiting trial for killing them and setting their home on fire. It was the worst homicide in modern Medford history.

As a part of that remembrance I spoke with Tabasha's biological father, Marzuq. He told me with tears streaming down his face that we don't deal with domestic violence correctly because we don't include the victimizer and the victim in our conversation.

Marzuq asked me; "How are you going to fix a problem if you don't make use of everyone involved? Jordan wants to die. How does giving him what he wants help us?"

I had no answers for him, just as I had no answers for me. Certainly bringing Jordan Criado into the discussion may give us answers, but it may not. How do we speak of the unspeakable and understand the unfathomable? I don't know if we can, but we have to try.

I tell myself I must try to understand all that is human, all of life's possibilities if I am to grow beyond myself. So that is my goal now, by admitting the truth of my story to you today. It's something that shamed me and kept me quiet. But no longer will I allow someone else to have the last word about my life and my experiences. It belongs to me, and now to you.

As a little girl I read early and spoke up in class. My teacher would not have guessed that I went home to beatings with a belt or the excruciating tantrums of an adult man, my father, who I was told kept me safe but in reality took me to a terror where even my words could not follow. I learned to speak softly, walk on tiptoe and hold my breath to avoid being noticed.

This habit followed me, as it often does with childhood victims, into adulthood. I picked a man who could not stand to be in the same room with my father because he was the same man under the skin. I walked quietly by night and by day grew a career and reputation as a tough journalist who could ask difficult questions. I was fearless at work and terrified at home. I wore two separate lives until one day I did not.

No one gets out of this life without scars, many worse than mine, but something can be gained by reflection. We can learn by sharing our experiences. So while it may seem impossible to simply open the door and walk away, it is not. While it may seem unlikely that support is all around you, it is. I suspect it was there for Tabasha and she might have reached out more broadly had she known.

My own transformation came from the cumulative effect of loving people who did not give up on me.

So as I reflect on the sad anniversary of Tabasha's death and the death of her four sweet children I do not have answers but I have some good questions:

Why do those who are abused fail to question their abuse? Had I questioned I might have understood sooner.

Why don't we demand abusers talk about why they do what they do? Those who hurt others also have a story and we need to hear it to begin solving the problem. You can never kill a medusa but you can turn him to stone if you know how.

Why do we think that victims and victimizers are identifiable by rudimentary socioeconomic indicators? The truth, I believe, is that you don't need to look beyond your own workplace or neighborhood to see the cycle of violence. In fact, you may not need to look beyond your own mirror.

That brings me to my last question, which I ask myself often: Why are we so quick to cast shame and so slow to cast light? With a lot less shame and a little more light perhaps we can figure this out so that next year, when we reflect on the Criado family, we can rejoice in what we've done rather than languish in what we've failed to do.

When we learn to share our stories openly we may see we are all that is human, that all we experience no matter how ugly can be turned to something helpful if we are willing to try.

Julie Akins, who lives in Ashland, is news director for KOBI-TV Channel 5.