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

Movies: New Releases, Disturbed Nuns, Black Swans and Musical Bios





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Patrick Wilson, sperm donor of choice.

GuestbloggerNATHANIEL ROGERS
…prefers air conditioned movie theaters to hot beaches in the summertime. He blogs daily at the Film Experience.


Now Playing
It's a crowded weekend for new releases. Nanny McPhee Returns and Bow Wow has a winning Lottery Ticket. If you're in the mood for gore comedy, there's Piranha 3D. Meanwhile over in The Switch, Jason Bateman spills Patrick Wilson's sperm and — uh, wait, that sounds way more interesting than it is — and he improvises with his own to make sure Jennifer Aniston stays on her babymaking track. In limited release you can see Mao's Last Dancer or the very funny and horny Soul Kitchen from acclaimed Turkish-German director Fatih Akin.

Bonus Scenes

Road Fall film festival season is almost upon us. New York, Toronto and Telluride are finalizing their glittery lineups and pedigreed Oscar hopefuls will follow those premieres into regular theaters in time. Venice will kick off their fest with the psychological ballet thriller Black Swan which stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis as rivals and more.  

Don't look so worried Natalie!

More, AFTER THE JUMP

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If anyone can pull off a possibly supernatural ballet thriller with psychotic breaks and lesbian mashing, it's director Darren Aronofsky who knows from hallucinatory visuals (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain), self immolation (The Wrestler) and general psychosis (Pi). I'm totally obsessed with this already and it's only a trailer. "What happened to my sweet girl?!?" Chilling. Watch it.

RoadThe Awl has published a hilarious celebrity forgiveness chart. Oh, the court of public opinion. It's a sometimes nonsensical place but some of the "forgiven" people never fully got their careers back so is that true forgiveness? Do you hold any grudges with celebrities? I would gladly forgive Lindsay Lohan all if she would only become a good actress again.

Sisterruthiscreepy
Road Did you know that the technicolor marvel Black Narcissus (1947) about a group of nuns overwhelmed by the Himalayas was recently rereleased in a special Criterion Collection edition? See it. Trying to choose a favorite shot is hugely difficult since the whole thing is such colorful fascinating weirdly erotic cinema. It's way ahead of its time for 1947 which is why this fanmade trailer, setting it against 2010 Inception music is such a treat. But be warned. That faux trailer is kind of spoilery. Why do nuns always make such smashing movie characters?


Road Toy Story 3
became the highest grossing animated film of all time (unadjusted for inflation) a short while ago. Yay Woody! A box set of all three Toy Story films arrives in November. Let's hope they make a promo reel about Ken & Barbie losing their minds over what to wear for Oscar's red carpet in February 2011.

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Road Broadway's Fela, which tells the life story of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, is closing in a few months and Patti LaBelle is just the diva to wrap things up as Fela's mother. Whoever plays Fela in the movie –with Will and Jada as producers, someone has
got to have considered making it a movie by now — will be Oscar nominated. It's a juicy 'star' role: sex appeal, comic and tragic beats, opportunities for biopic mimicry, political fire at a safe distance (read: the past and in another country). It could easily add Oscar gold to its already exuberant colors.

Road Maggie Gyllenhaal & Peter Sarsgaard probably don't say "no" enough to movie offers given their respective talents (better suited to actual full bodied characterizations that one-note support) but maybe the marrieds will rock a supposedly Sid & Nancy type love affair in a biopic about bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe.

Peter is still waiting on his first Oscar nod (if you can believe it) but which Gyllenhaal will win the race to a second Oscar nod, Jake or big sis Maggie?


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright