CULTUREAug 1, 2016Rob Loggia
Most people have the luxury of reporting for work knowing that their loved ones remain safely behind, in the shadows. We take comfort in the fact that disagreements at work, or things we may do and say, tend not to spill over into our personal lives and result in the people we love being attacked as well. Unfortunately, these protections generally do not apply to people who work in the public spotlight. And they definitely don't apply if you're married to a technology legend and recent candidate for President of the United States.
When John McAfee made the decision to run for public office, the highest and most visible office in the land, he could not proceed without first discussing the matter with his wife, Janice. As important as he felt the decision was, he knew he would be doomed without her approval and support. He also had to be sure that she understood the risks, and was willing and able to live with the consequences.
Predictably, shortly after announcing his bid in an online video and series of television appearances, some of these consequences began to materialize. Internet trolls and political opponents, in an effort to cause damage to McAfee, turned their attention towards Janice and tried to "expose" her past. For after all, Janice McAfee is a woman with a past.
Perhaps the best place to begin to understand Janice McAfee, and the type of woman that John McAfee would actually consent to have as a wife, is here. For she was well aware of the potential consequences of stepping further into the public spotlight. And part of her was frightened and intimidated by some of those consequences. Yet despite this, she told her husband that he must proceed. Not only would she not stand in the way, but she would support his efforts in any way that she could.
The courage to do so was not bestowed on Janice at birth, or found in the bottom of a Crackerjack box. It was forged through experience over the course of a life that most people would not choose for themselves. It was tempered by blow after painful blow of the physical and emotional abuse that Janice has endured for much of her life. And it finally found form and expression when she escaped her oppressor and broke the cycle of abuse she had been living under.
Janice grew up in the Bay Area in California, born to two very religious parents. They were "Holy-Roller" Pentecosts and, like most people in their demographic, really fucking serious about getting themselves and their families Saved. Her father was a civil engineer, and did well enough to allow Janice's mother to stay at home with their five children. Janice was the youngest of the five, and also therefore the statistically most vulnerable to slip through the cracks.
Religious parents usually come with very strict rules for living, and Janice's parents were not destined to be an exception. Despite the beliefs of those that promote such environments as healthy in all cases, the fact is that growing up in this way can have a wide range of effects on the psychology and development of a child. For willful, free-spirited children the usual response is to rebel. And here it was Janice that was to prove to be no exception.
As usually happens in these cases, Janice's rebellion drove a wedge in between her and her parents, and magnified the influence of relationships outside of the family. And the most attractive associates for someone in this situation are other people that exist in a state of rebellion as well. This fatal attraction proves lethal for thousands of teens every year, and dooms countless more to adulthoods that they would not have chosen on purpose. In Janice's case, she began dating a dope dealer that was heavy into crime and had little to lose.
Janice bore her first child with this drug dealer four years into their relationship. Shortly after this momentous event, he realized the four years of fun was over, and the relationship was terminated. The prospect of raising a child alone was daunting and unappealing, and Janice was open to the prospect of meeting someone else. Turning 20 she did meet someone else, and soon became pregnant with her second child.
What she did not know was that the father of her second child was actually a professional pimp, a trafficker in sex using the bodies of other people like property. Slavery. This she learned, also learning quickly that this man was no more interested in raising a child than the first. She learned this lesson not through him leaving, but rather when he began ruthlessly beating her in hopes that she would miscarry. This physical abuse was to become the hallmark of their relationship, and Janice still bears plenty of scars as silent witnesses. She was forced by her tormentor to work the streets to earn "her keep" and was arrested many times for her troubles. Again there were strict rules to be followed, only by now much of the fight had been beaten out of Janice, and she could no longer see how to rebel.
No victim of systematic abuse will dare ask why she didn't just leave. They know intimately, as does Janice, that abuse and the accompanying web of psychological control creates a perceptual container, a cage, from which the victim views the entire world. There is no way out; no door to this cage can be seen.
If there was no way out for Janice, she at least saw a way to try and protect her children from the lifestyle she endured. Despite her estranged relationship with her parents, they agreed to take custody over her children and have the children live with them, out of harm's way. Janice's pimp allowed this, reluctantly, but also threatened the safety of the children and her parents if she did not continue to do what she was told.
The ability of human beings to adapt to their surroundings is both a blessing and a curse. For while it can allow us to survive situations we otherwise would not, it also allows us to become accustomed to living in circumstances that we really should not stay in. We can adapt to a toxic environment so well that we reduce our ability to see a way out.
For most victims of abuse, it either takes a life changing event or an intersection with another person to serve as a wake-up call. Sometimes this intersection involves meeting a person with a powerful personality that can help navigate a course out. Other times, meeting someone at an all-time low themselves can forge a relationship of mutual benefit, allowing both to help each other see what they had been missing. In Janice's case, her life changing event was an intersection with a man that represented both.
Janice met John McAfee in December of 2012. She had no idea who he was, or that he had just returned from Belize, via Guatemala. He had nothing but the shirt on his back, and from his perspective very little to continue living for. It did not take long for each to realize, through talking and sharing, that they each held some of the answers for the other. Janice had found someone willing to help her, and John had found someone and something worth fighting for.
A relationship that began as a platonic association developed into friendship and then into the mutual love that they have for each other now. Speaking with both about their lives and outlook, one is struck by the emotional stability the relationship has brought them both, and by the optimism and zest for living both now enjoy.
Now her husband has returned to the world of business, and more trolls have emerged to make their very public attacks in order to promote their agenda. And just as they mischaracterise elements of John McAfee's past, so too have they twisted and warped Janice's life story into a weapon of shame. It is a puerile, contemptible vector of attack born of the impotence of the aggressors to stop McAfee from succeeding. But it must be addressed.
Far from shame, far from whispers, Janice McAfee's story is one of personal development, courage and ultimately triumph. It is an authentic love story with all the trappings, and an inspiring example of the ability of the human spirit to overcome. To become better. It should be told loudly, and it should serve to remind us of all of the people in similar situations that have not had the good fortune to find a way out. Having a past should never, ever mean someone is not welcome to participate in the future, and for John and Janice McAfee and their family the future, finally, does look bright.