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

Arlington man sentenced to 14 months for hate crime arson at mosque

Henry Clay Glaspell

U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means this week sentenced Henry Clay Glaspell, 34, of Arlington, to 14 months in prison after Gaspell pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge in connection with an arson fire at the children’s playground at the Dar El-Eman Islamic Education Center in Arlington in July 2010, according to this report from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Means ordered Glaspell, who has been free on bond, to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on Nov. 21.

Glaspell also admitted that he had stolen and damaged some of the mosque’s property, that he had thrown used cat litter at the mosque’s front door and that he had shouted racial and ethnic slurs at people at the mosque on several occasions. Glaspell said his actions were motivated by hatred for people of Arabic or Middle Eastern descent.

Texas legislators passed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, which allows enhanced penalties to be assessed to those convicted of hate crimes. But while hate crimes are frequently reported and labeled as such by law enforcement, prosecutors rarely take hate crimes charges to court for fear that it would be too hard to prove a perpetrator’s bias-based intent to a jury.

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Snap shots: ‘Bill Cunningham New York’ turns the camera on fashion’s most influential paparazzo

LENS ME A SHOE | The Times photographer documents foot fashion in ‘Bill Cunningham New York.’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

Maybe Project Runway’s to blame, maybe The Devil Wears Prada, but for the past few years there has been a surplus of documentaries about the fashion industry, with profiles of designers like Valentino (Valentino: The Last Emperor), Yves Saint-Laurent (several in fact), even young designers (Seamless) and Vogue magazine’s editor (The September Issue). (By contrast, I can only recall one fashion doc from the 1990s: Unzipped, about a young designer named Isaac Mizrahi.) Is there really that much to say about dressmaking?

Maybe not, but while Bill Cunningham New York fits broadly within the category of fashion documentaries, its subject is unusual because he eschews the trappings of haute couture even as he’s inextricably a part of it — a huge part, really.

If you don’t read the New York Times, you might not recognize Cunningham’s name, and even if you do read it, it may not have registered with you. For about, well, maybe 1,000 years, Cunningham has chronicled New York society with his candid photos of the glitterati on the Evening Hours page. At the same time, however, he has documented real fashion — how New Yorkers dress in their daily lives — with his page On the Street, where he teases out trends (from hats to men in skirts to hip-hoppers allowing their jeans to dangle around their knees). Anna Wintour may tell us what we should wear; Cunningham shows us what we do.

“We all get dressed for Bill,” Wintour observes.

What makes Cunningham such an interesting character is how impervious he seems to the responsibility he effortlessly wields. He loves fashion, yes, but he’s not a slave to it himself. He scurries around Manhattan (even in his 80s) on his bicycle (he’s had dozens; they are frequently stolen), sometimes in a nondescript tux but mostly in jeans, a ratty blue smock and duck shoes, looking more like a homeless shoeshiner than the arbiter of great fashion. He flits through the city like a pixie with his 35mm camera (film-loaded, not digital), a vacant, toothy smile peaking out behind the lens, snapping the denizens of Babylon whether they want it or not.

One of the funniest moments is when strangers shoo him away as some lunatic paparazzo, unaware how all the well-heeled doyens on the Upper East would trade a nut to have Cunningham photograph them for inclusion in the Times. Patrick McDonald, the weirdly superficial modern dandy (he competed as a wannabe designer on the flop reality series Launch My Line a few seasons back), seems to exist with the hope that Cunningham will shoot him. And shoot him he does.

Many artists are idiosyncratic, even eccentric, but Cunningham is supremely odd by any standards. He lives in a tiny studio near Carnegie Hall filled with filing cabinets cluttered with decades of film negatives on the same floor as a crazy old woman, a kind of urban variation on Grey Gardens. He knows tons of people but most of them seem to know very little about him. By the time near the end when the filmmaker, director Richard Press, finally comes out and ask him outright whether he’s gay, Cunningham arches in that prickly New England way, never really answering outright, though he says he’s never — never — had a romantic relationship. Things like that were simply not discussed by men of his generation.

In some ways, we never really know any more about Cunningham at the end than any of his friends do, and perhaps even him. Cunningham comes across as defiantly non-self-reflective. He lets his work do all the talking for him. And that work has a lot to say on its own.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.

—  John Wright

NCLR: Frequently Asked Questions About Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in California

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) has a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for Californians. This was updated on December 6, 2010. The FAQ is posted in full.

The Appeal – What’s Happening Now and What We Can Expect

On August 4, 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker issued a decision in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger concluding that Proposition 8, the California constitutional amendment barring same-sex couples from marrying, violates the United States Constitution. Judge Walker wrote a 136-page decision that analyzed all the evidence submitted in the three-week trial. Thumbnail Link: NCLR's 'Frequently Asked Questions About Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in California'He ruled that Prop 8 violates the federal constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. The group that put Prop 8 on the ballot, known as the Prop 8 “proponents,” has appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard oral argument in the case on December 6, 2010.

1. My partner and I want to get married in California. Now that Judge Walker has ruled that Prop 8 is unconstitutional, when/where/how can we do that?

Same-sex couples in California cannot yet marry because the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals “stayed” Judge Walker’s ruling while the appeal is pending. That means that same-sex couples will not be able to get married in California until the appeals court has finished reviewing the case.

Same-sex couples can currently get married in five states in the U.S.: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Vermont, as well as Washington, D.C. A number of other countries also allow same-sex couples to marry, including Canada.

Same-sex couples in California can also register as domestic partners, a status that provides most of the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage under state law.

[More below the fold.]

2. How long will the Ninth Circuit take to issue a decision?

The Ninth Circuit is not required to issue its decision within any particular time frame after oral argument, but when an appeal is expedited, the court tends to issue decisions more quickly. It will probably issue a decision within a few weeks or months.

Once the Ninth Circuit rules, the losing side can ask the United States Supreme Court to hear the case. The Supreme Court can choose whether to take the case or to let the Ninth Circuit’s decision stand.

If the Supreme Court takes the case, it could take anywhere from a few months to a year to issue a decision. If the Supreme Court were to get the case sometime in 2011, the soonest we could expect a decision would probably be the spring of 2012.

3. Why is the appeal being heard by a three-judge panel at the Ninth Circuit? Will the whole Ninth Circuit ever hear the case?

It is typical for appeals to the Ninth Circuit to be heard by three-judge panels. That is the normal process. The three judges are randomly selected in each case.

After the three-judge panel rules, the losing party can request that a bigger panel of 11 judges review that decision. That is called “rehearing en banc.” All the active judges on the Ninth Circuit would then vote on that request, and rehearing en banc would only be granted if a majority of the Ninth Circuit judges approve it.

4. I’ve heard that there is a question about whether the Prop 8 proponents have “standing” to appeal Judge Walker’s decision. What does that mean and when will that question be decided?

“Standing” means whether a particular person or group has a legal right to appeal a court ruling. As a general rule, in order to have standing to appeal a decision, you must be able to show that you are harmed by it. In the Prop 8 case, Judge Walker said that the Prop 8 proponents may not have standing to appeal because they were not able to show that they would be personally harmed in any way if same-sex couples are permitted to marry.

The Ninth Circuit judges devoted half of the time at the December 6 oral argument to the issue of standing. If the panel decides that neither the Proponents of Prop 8 nor the County of Imperial, which unsuccessfully tried to intervene in the case, has standing to appeal, it will dismiss the appeal. In that event, Judge Walker’s ruling will stand and the State of California will be prohibited from enforcing Prop 8 anywhere in the state.

5. If the Ninth Circuit decides that the Prop 8 supporters don’t have standing to bring an appeal, would they be able to appeal that ruling to the Supreme Court? Or does the case stop there?

If the Ninth Circuit rules that the Prop 8 proponents don’t have standing to bring an appeal, the proponents could ask the Supreme Court to review that decision. The Supreme Court could choose to hear that appeal or to let the Ninth Circuit’s decision stand.

The Effect the Ruling Will Have on Marriage Laws Across the Country

6. I live in a state other than California. Does Judge Walker’s decision mean that same-sex couples can now get married in every state? If not, would that be the result of a decision from the Ninth Circuit, or the Supreme Court?

Judge Walker’s decision is just about California, but other courts could apply his language and logic to other discriminatory marriage laws across the country.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over all the states in the Ninth Circuit, which include Alaska, Washington, Montana, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii. If the Ninth Circuit decides that Prop 8 violates the federal constitution, it could issue a broad ruling that that applies to all of the states in the Ninth Circuit or it could issue a narrower ruling that only applies to California.

Similarly, if the Supreme Court decides that Prop 8 violates the federal constitution, it could strike down all state marriage bans across the country or it could focus only on Prop 8.

7. If Prop 8 is eventually struck down for good by the Ninth Circuit or the Supreme Court, and a same-sex couple gets married in California, will that marriage be recognized in other states or by the federal government?

A victory in the Prop 8 case will not automatically require other states or the federal government to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who marry in California. Right now, at least seven states and the District of Columbia recognize marriages between same-sex couples. Those states include the five states that permit same-sex couples to marry: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Vermont, as well as Washington, D.C. In addition, New York and Maryland do not permit same-sex couples to marry within their borders, but they recognize marriages from other places. Unfortunately, many other states deny recognition to marriages between same-sex couples.

The federal government currently doesn’t recognize any marriages between same-sex couples due to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Legal challenges to DOMA, brought by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and the ACLU, are underway in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. In the Massachusetts case, a federal district court ruled in July 2010 that the part of DOMA prohibiting the federal government from recognizing valid marriages of same-sex couples is unconstitutional. That decision has been stayed (i.e., put on hold) pending an appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

8. If the Ninth Circuit or the Supreme Court ultimately rules that Prop 8 is constitutional, what will that mean for the fight for marriage equality in California? Will it be over for good?

The fight for marriage equality in California will still go on, even if Judge Walker’s decision is overturned on appeal. Prop 8 can always be repealed by another ballot initiative – and in fact, efforts in support of a repeal measure are currently underway. Contact Equality California to find out how you can get involved: www.EQCA.org.

9. What will be the effect on other states if the Supreme Court rules that Prop 8 is constitutional? Will that mean that same-sex couples can no longer marry in states like Massachusetts?

Prop 8 is blatantly unconstitutional, and the United States Supreme Court should affirm Judge Walker’s decision striking it down. But even if the Supreme Court reverses Judge Walker’s decision and says that Prop 8 is valid, that would not take away equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in any states where it’s currently legal. State courts would still be free to strike down marriage bans under their state constitutions, just like the state supreme courts in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa have already done. And state legislatures (and Congress) would still be free to repeal marriage bans.

Current Marriage and Domestic Partnership Rights in California

10. My partner and I are registered as domestic partners with the state of California, but we want to get married as soon as it’s allowed. Will we need to dissolve our domestic partnership in order to marry?

You do not need to dissolve your domestic partnership in order to marry your domestic partner. Under California law, an individual can be married and in a registered domestic partnership at the same time, as long as it’s with the same person. As a practical matter, it is a good idea to do both to get the maximum legal protection.

11. We got married in California between June 16, 2008 and November 5, 2008. Is our marriage still recognized in California?

Yes. In 2009, in the case of Strauss v. Horton, the California Supreme Court held that it would be unconstitutional to take away the marriages of same-sex couples who married in California before Prop 8 passed. If you married in California during that period, your marriage is completely valid and entitled to full recognition and respect.

12. If my partner and I got married in another state or country before Prop 8 passed, does California recognize our marriage? Should we remarry in California when we can?

California fully recognizes the marriages of same-sex couples who married outside of California before Prop 8 passed (Nov. 5, 2008). If you married in another state or country before Nov. 5, 2008, you are entitled to full recognition as married under California law. There is no need to remarry in California.

For more details about the current rights of same-sex couples who get married outside of California, please see www.NCLRights.org/SB54FAQ.

13. If my partner and I got married in another state or country after Prop 8 passed, will California recognize our marriage? Should we remarry in California when we can?

Same-sex couples who marry outside California after November 5th, 2008 currently have all of the rights, benefits, and responsibilities of marriage under California law except for the name “marriage.” That means the state of California will treat you as married, but it cannot officially recognize your marriage as a marriage.

If Judge Walker’s decision is upheld on appeal, same-sex couples who are already married will not need to remarry in California. Marriages between same-sex couples from other states or countries will be recognized as valid marriages in California, no matter when the couple got married.

For more details about the current rights of same-sex couples who get married outside of California, please see www.NCLRights.org/SB54FAQ

Winning Marriage Equality Across the Country

14. How can we help in the fight to win marriage equality in every state?

The only way we can ultimately win marriage equality across the entire country is to build public support for full inclusion and acceptance of our relationships and families. That will give legislators and courts the confidence they need to do the right thing and repeal or strike down discriminatory marriage laws. Polls show that around half of the public supports marriage equality, but we need to make that number higher. All of us can help make that happen by talking to everyone we know about why marriage equality is important to us.

To find out other ways you can get involved with the marriage equality fight in your state, contact your local LGBT-rights organization. You can find a listing of the statewide groups at www.EqualityFederation.org/template.aspx?id=502. For information about how to get involved in California, contact Equality California at www.EQCA.org.

For more information about your legal rights and how to protect your family, you can contact NCLR’s helpline anytime at www.NCLRights.org/GetHelp or call 415.392.6257 or toll-free 1.800.528.6257.

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