Putting our children at risk

David Webb
The Rare Reporter

Child sexual abuse a concern for everyone, especially LGBT parents

Most people would probably agree there is no resource that a society cherishes more than its children. So it is hard to fathom how sexual predators manage with such apparent ease to carry out horrendous, undetected assaults on children practically under the noses of their families and others who are charged with their protection.

As horrific as the crime of child sexual abuse is, there are no firm estimates of its prevalence because it often goes undetected and is seriously underreported, according to agencies that study child abuse.

Less than 100,000 crimes of sexual abuse are reported each year because children fear telling anyone, and adults who become aware of the activity are often reluctant to contact law enforcement agencies, even though there is usually a legal requirement to do so.

With so many LGBT households now raising children, it is obviously vital that all parents be aware of the tactics used by sexual predators to seduce children without arousing the suspicion of their families, and aware of the symptoms victims of child sexual abuse exhibit.

The critical need for sustained intervention into child sexual abuse recently gained national attention following a grand jury’s indictment of retired Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on 40 counts of child sex abuse involving eight victims over a 15-year period. The victims reportedly came into contact with the now 67-year-old, married Sandusky in connection with the Second Mile, a children’s charity the former football coach founded.

Although Sandusky denied, this week in an NBC interview, engaging in any type of sexual activity with the pre-pubescent boys, he acknowledged showering and “horsing around” with them after exercise. He also admitted hugging young boys and putting his hand on their legs when they sat next to him.

His admissions shocked viewers and confirmed in many minds what was already suspected — Sandusky is most likely a pedophile that has taken advantage of young boys with the unwitting complicity of their families.

It is a devastating scandal that will likely rival the one that rocked the Catholic Church a decade ago when it became known that untold numbers of Catholic Church priests sexually abused young boys and violated the trust of their families.

If the charges against Sandusky are true, the accounts by the victims portray a classic pattern of enticement and betrayal practiced by the former football coach in his pursuit of the young boys. Likewise, the lack of action by those who knew about Sandusky’s alleged criminal activity parallel what often happens when the abuser commands power and respect in a community.

Much of the difficulty in combating child sexual abuse can be attributed to its relative youth in terms of public awareness about the crime. The first studies on the molestation of children began in the 1920s, and the first estimate of the prevalence of the crime was reported in 1948.

In 1974 the National Center for Child Abuse and Neglect was founded, and the Child Abuse and Treatment Act was created. Since then, awareness about the problem has grown dramatically, and much more is known about deterring the crime and assisting victims of it.

Children’s advocates have identified “red flags” to help parents and others protect children from sexual predators. They warn parents to be wary of someone who wants to spend more time with their children than they do, who attempts to be alone with a child, who frequently seeks physical closeness to a child such as hugging or touching, who is overly interested in the sexuality of a child, who seems to prefer the company of children to people their own age, who lacks boundaries, who regularly offers to babysit,who often gives presents or  money to children, who frequently walks in on children in bathrooms or locker rooms, who frequents parks where children gather, who makes inappropriate comments about a child’s appearance or who likes to photograph children.

Signs of possible sexual abuse in children include a fear of people, places or activities, reluctance to undress, disturbed sleep, mood swings, excessive crying, fear of being touched, loss of appetite, a drastic change in school performance, bizarre themes in drawing, sexually acting out on other children, advanced sexual knowledge, use of new words for private body parts and a reversion to old behavior such as bedwetting or thumb sucking.

Aside from the moral responsibility to protect children and other weaker members of society that all people share, it is essential to intervene in child sexual abuse because of the long-lasting psychological damage it usually causes. The problems can include feelings of worthlessness, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and distorted views of sexuality.

Also, victims of child sexual abuse tend to become sexual predators as adults, making it a crime that begets more crime.

The Sandusky scandal will undoubtedly lead to devastating repercussions for Penn State, for the Second Mile charity with which the former football coach is no longer affiliated and for law enforcement and university officials who became aware of concerns about the former football coach’s activities and failed to act on them.

But the real tragedy — if the allegations are true — will be the lasting impact upon the victims.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.        

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

The Bizarre World Of The Bisexual

Joe. My. God.

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Kerry Eleveld @ The Advocate: Gates, Obama deliver advances after bizarre week

In a nutshell, it looks like the Obama administration, specifically the President and Sec Def Robert Gates were trying to score some points with the LGBT community after a pretty embarrassing week on the PR front (see Valerie Jarrett’s implosion on CNN).

President Obama released Thursday evening his contribution to LGBT activist Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project, video messages intended to lend hope and perspective to queer youth who may feel alienated, disheartened or even desperate.

…But until this week, the president seemed mostly oblivious to the present-day equality movement staring him in the face – unaware that he and his administration are standing as an impediment to freedom’s progress through their inaction on so many fronts.

However, his video was a signal that some realization seems to have crept in based on the shocking and inescapable spate of queer tragedies – ranging from heart wrenching suicides to horrific acts of violence – that preceded a blistering couple of weeks for the administration.

And if you kept up with your PHB reading this week, DADT news was fast and furious, and the WH was losing the battle the stay ahead of the criticism.

So where the politicians have failed, the courts are now picking up the slack. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has been forced to dole out a number of convoluted answers about DADT over the past several weeks, but he has been crystal clear about the following: “The courts have demonstrated that the time is ticking on the policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”

…Whatever they are planning for now, it appears doubtful they spent much time seriously prepping for the headache that Judge Virginia Phillips visited upon them last week. In fact, it took them two days to circulate new orders regarding the injunction and yet another day to redirect recruiters.

Given the situation’s volatility, Thursday of this week, Secretary Gates designated just three people – the secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force – who have the authority to finalize discharges. The memo from Gates was nothing short of an acknowledgment that even DOD had finally lost control of the fate of this misbegotten policy.

As Blender Paul Barwick noted, this means DADT discharges have effectively been stopped.

To me this reads as if we have accomplished the first step that we have asked for.

Admittedly it has been several decades since I served in the Army, but I suspect that one thing has not changed.  No low or middle level commander is going to want her or his name on a request that is guaranteed to not only be read by the secretary of their branch of the service, but also personally perused by the Under Secretary of Defense. By saying that he wants to hear about each and every case, the Secretary of Defense is saying in essence that he doesn’t want to hear about any case.  In effect the discharges have been stopped.

Why the Secretary of Defense felt the need to do this now will have to be explained by someone more knowledgeable than I.  One might wonder if the Commander is Chief finally caught sight of a chart listing the chain-of-command in the military?  Hard to say.

This is a big deal.  My heartfelt thanks to each and every person who has raised their voice, scrawled “No more donations until DADT is repealed, lobbied their congress person, chained themself to a fence or any of the other multitude of actions that we as a community have used to wipe this shameful law from the books.  Draw strength from this.  We are being heard, and the forces of bigotry are being forced to slither back under the rocks from which they came.

It’s a victory of sorts, but Gates has just started a trickle out of dam that is about to burst. So he wants gays and lesbians not to be discharged, but they cannot still cannot come out of the closet safely; they are still without any benefits that would give them rights equivalent to their straight counterparts (see: DOMA) and it looks like an attempt to get the wider public to believe that DADT is dead, when there are myriad issues connected to the policy that are unrelated to discharges. What it indicates is that there is little confidence that the Senate is going to pass repeal in the Def Auth bill in the lame duck session.

Cinderella crumbs again…wholly dependent on a commander who is not willing to send a discharge up the military food chain. Looking at the glass half full, as Paul has, it means the pressure on this administration from the outside DOES have an impact. And that’s why the pressure to stop any meme that DADT is all but dead must be countered, and to stress these moves are coming down the pike because of the courts, not lobbying on the Hill.

Further reading: The DADT Appeal and the District Court’s Worldwide Injunction by Tobias Barrington Wolff
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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