Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Name is Carla - But Please Don't Look At Me Like That

Karla Homolka.

Just the mention of that name trips a rage trigger in just about every adult Canadian I've ever met in the last nearly 20 years I've been living in southern Ontario.  And it's 100% understandable.  If you're among those who don't know who she is, a quick google search will tell you all you need to know about the facts of the case.  But what you will not find in any of the articles you'll read, is the level of anger, horror, disgust, pain, sorrow and devastation felt by so many in the wake of her (and her then-husband Paul Bernardo) unthinkable crimes.

Of course these feelings were experienced most profoundly by the victims and their families, The French family, The Mahaffy family, and Karla Homolka's own mother.  Three teenage girls, Leslie, Kristin and Tammy (her own little sister), brutally sexually assaulted and murdered by Homolka and her husband.  I won't give the gruesome details but they're easy enough to find on google. Three lives snuffed out, and thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people deeply affected by it.

I didn't live in Ontario at the time, but I knew of the case as it was being covered by US media. I distinctly recall watching an interview with Homolka and thinking to myself how it's almost never the people who actually look like the boogey man, that actually are the boogey man. (Charles Manson is the exception of course - but even during his reign of evil and madness, he didn't look like a the lunatic he does today) Sometimes it's a boogey woman, and sometimes she looks very charming, stylish, and well put together.  That just makes it all the more horrifying.

Karla Homolka is a free woman today, because she's a lying, manipulative, cunning and evil woman who made a deal and got a lesser sentence.  She's been free for several years now, married and with children of her own.   Had they survived Homolka's brutality, Kristen, Leslie and Tammy might also be grown women, married, with children of their own.  But Homolka saw to it, that was never going to happen.  And she walks free.  That fact alone stirs up a level of anger and sense of injustice among Canadians in a most remarkable way.

Just today, Homolka is back in the news as local parents discovered that not only is she living among them, but that her children attend the same school as their own, and that she herself drops them off and picks them up every day at school.  A convicted sexual deviant and murderer, not only walks among them but in all likelihood interacts with other people's children on a regular basis. Homolka herself has set the standard of what it's like when she's free to interact with other people's children.  No doubt the Mahaffy and French families can testify to what a nightmare that turned out to be.

Parents, understandably are very concerned:

When I first read this on social media today I was very reluctant to comment.  It may sound petty, or even ridiculous but for someone with the name of Carla, to this day, I get the looks.   Whenever I'm in the position to have to give someone my name, such as the doctor's office, chiropractor, customer service at any store, it's almost always the same thing:

Them: "your first name again?"
Me: "Carla, with a C"
Them: [looking up from what they're writing to look at my face] "okay, and spell your last name?"

I started stressing "with a C" after I moved to Ontario in 1998.  Simply because I share the same name with a vile rapist/killer and didn't want to be associated with her, even by name.  Since her release, that's when the looks started, because no one was really sure where she was, and Carla isn't the most common name in Ontario, let alone the most admired name. Especially after what she did.

The thing is, I don't blame anyone for the looks.  I'm pretty sure I'd do it too.  This name, my name, stirs up a justified revulsion in people. Especially people of southern Ontario.  More than a few times over the years I've wanted to say "my name is Carla but please don't look at me like that".  Of course I don't say it, but I won't lie, it's a look that sends chills down my spine.  I'm fairly certain people don't even realize they're doing it, but it's just one of those reactions people have when they hear the name.

The latest reaction by the public in learning that she's living among them, still represents a very raw, very anxious and concerned tone.  Some are so angry they're calling for her children to be withdrawn from the school (no links, just random public comments I've seen on social media links to the news articles), and this is even more disturbing to me.  Of course it's not her children that are the problem, it's HER.  But sadly, whether they wanted it or not, those children carry around her legacy.  It's awful and unfair, but it is the way it is.  Homolka willingly and and intentionally handed down her wicked and repulsive legacy to her children.

And it will never, ever go away. No matter where she lives in Canada, no matter where she goes or what she changes her name to, eventually she will be found out and she'll be back in the media again.

It is a cruel injustice to her children to carry her wicked legacy.  And I don't think there is any solution to it.  Yet.

Maybe these kids will grow up and do phenomenal things, and their successes and compassion and dedication to community will outshine the evil of their mother.  One can only hope.