If you asked me, on paper, if I could ever feel compassion, even love, for someone who had committed sexual assault, I would say no. Absolutely not. No fucking way. But the world is full of nuance and dialectics, which makes it both wonderful and confusing.

I’ve written about The Convict, and how I got back in touch with him about eight months ago, after not speaking with him for a while. He was working really, really hard to better himself and work on his issues. He was going to therapy weekly. He had a place to live, and a job, and was slowly ticking out his probation. So I allowed him back into my life. Because I thought he deserved some sort of second chance, even if I wasn’t going to date him.

And then, this summer, he was walking around after dark somewhere, and a cop stopped him. Just that. Police contact. And he was back in jail for four months. He wasn’t even charged with anything. But he lost his job, and his home, not to mention the emotional cost of going back to jail again – a place he had worked so hard to distance himself from.

He got out a few weeks ago, and I decided to buy a ticket to see him. I make lots of stupid decisions regarding men, but this isn’t one. I actually trust him more than I do most men. And part of that is that he’s working so hard, but part of it is that I’ve just been there for him through some pretty intense shit.

Bottom line is, I really feel for him. He works so hard, and the system is so flawed. He’s been so good, and was rewarded with jail. His life has dissolved again. I can understand his discouragement.

“Sometimes I just want to go back to jail,” he said to me today. “It’s easier than being out here.”

I’m conflicted, here. On one hand, I know that he absolutely destroyed several women’s lives with what he did. But I can’t help but feel like he should get another chance – that a(n admittedly huge and terrible) mistake shouldn’t leave him miserable for his entire life. He hates himself for what he did, and alway will. I feel like, at some point, the punishment should stop.

And here’s the thing. I don’t wish revenge on the men who sexually assaulted me. I don’t need or want to cause the kind of pain they caused me. What I do want is for them to genuinely understand how much harm they caused, and feel true regret. I just want them to have some sense of what it’s like to be devastated and empty. I wish compassion on them, not revenge. And my friend the convict has learned that. So I think he deserves a break.