There are certain things that are hard to come back from.
Like falling on your face outside the bar. Or making a poorly-received joke about rape. Or doing what Liz Lemon so elegantly refers to as “snarting" in front of your boss. But all of these examples seem like happy little accidents when compared to some other real-world examples. Like getting frisky… with your siblings.
Patrick Stuebing and Susan Karolewski are brother and sister. So it may take some by surprise to hear that they have 4 kids together. Man, their bar stories must kill.
All jokes aside, the duo has been a tabloid favorite for years in Germany. Newspapers have even coined them the “Forbidden lovers of the Fatherland." And their story isn't exactly a happy one.
Patrick and Susan were born into a poor, uneducated and abusive household. Patrick was made a ward of the court and eventually adopted after his father, now dead, attacked him with a knife. He was just 3-years old at the time.
Susan was born into the same family, the day her parents' divorce was finalized. And while being attacked at knife point by your father doesn't exactly seem ideal, it may have placed Patrick in a preferable environment to the one Susan was left to endure.
Their unemployed mother often left Susan home alone, or invited lovers over while the little girl was present. Susan remembers being unloved and a burden to her mother. She remains poorly educated and barely able to write, even to this day.
Six other brothers and sisters, some of whom were born with disabilities, died in childhood. One was run over and killed at age 7.
At age 18, Patrick decided to track down his biological parents. Four years later, he located his mother and met Susan for the first time. He eventually moved, and even shared a room with his younger sister Susan.
Patrick told the Daily Mail back in 2007, “We both stayed up late into the night to talk to each other about our hopes and dreams."
Six months later their mother died of a heart attack—and, that's when their relationship began to evolve into a whole new realm. Susan said, “Trust grew into a different type of love when our mother died."
Fast forward to October of 2001—after things turned sexual between the siblings, Susan gives birth to a baby boy, Erik, at the tender age of 16.
The infant was taken into care and now lives with foster parents in Potsdam. He is severely disabled and can hardly speak or walk properly.
But, that's just half of the story.
The pair was tried for incest in 2002. Patrick received a year's suspended sentence after being found guilty on all counts. Susan, then 17, was tried as a juvenile and placed into the care of youth services. But, after Susan gave birth to two more children with her big brother, their legal issues were revisited. Patrick was eventually sentenced to ten months in jail.
In 2005, after the birth of yet another child, Patrick was sentenced to two-and-a-half years for recommitting incest.
One of the children suffers from similar disabilities to Erik, while the other two appear to be developing “normally."
“We do not feel guilty about what has happened between us," the couple announced in a statement. “We want the law which makes incest a crime to be abolished."
And, it looks like they may get their wish.
The German Ethics Council recommended recently that Section 173 of the criminal code – which forbids sexual relations between siblings, or between parents and their children – be repealed.
14 members of the council voted in favor of the movement, while 9 voted for the ban to continue, and 2 abstained.
A statement released by the council reads, “The majority of the German Ethics Council is of the opinion that it is not appropriate for a criminal law to preserve a social taboo. In the case of consensual incest among adult siblings, neither the feat of negative consequences for the family, nor the possibility of the birth of children from such incestuous relationships, can justify a criminal prohibition."
“The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination has more weight in such cases than the abstract protection of the family," the council concluded. “Incest between siblings appears to be very rare in Western societies according to available data but those affected describe how difficult their situation is in light of the threat of punishment."
But, not everybody is on board. Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker, a spokeswoman for German Chancellor, Angela Merkel's CDU party, said the abolition of the law is not an appropriate course of action.
“Abolishing criminal punishment against incestuous actions within a family would go completely against protecting the undisturbed development of children," she told Deutsche Welle.
It's a nearly impossible situation. Is it a happy end to an unhappy beginning? Or is Patrick and Susan's relationship clearly one born of misfortune, that's been wrongly condoned by the Ethics Council?
There's no simple answer, just as there's no recreating the past. All we can do is hope both Patrick and Susan can move on in life in a way that brings them more happiness than their childhoods were able to.