Sex abuse becomes an epidemic

LGBT people no more likely than heterosexuals to be perpetrators, but all organizations should take precautions to protect youth

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HELPING THE VICTIMS | David Clohessy, right, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, appears at a press conference in Vermont in 2007 alongside a victim who didn't want to be identified. Clohessy said the St. Louis-based SNAP, which began 23 years ago, now has 10,000 members around the globe. (Associated Press)

 

Webb-DavidThe seemingly never-ending reports of lawsuits and criminal complaints being filed by people alleging they were sexually molested by members of the clergy might make one wonder if directing worship is, or ever was, the main objective of those seeking ordainment.

Since my youth I’ve heard people grumble that the pastors, priests, rabbis and others calling the faithful to their churches on Sunday mornings were interested primarily in personal glory and how much cash they could raise from their flocks, but I never heard anything about them expecting a donation of flesh as well.

That is, I never heard about it until the mid-1980s when the scandals involving Catholic priests sexually abusing male youths began surfacing.

When the media first began covering the scandal I imagine the reaction of most people was that a few cases would surface, and that would be the end of it. Who would have ever dreamed that 25 years later the scandal would have grown to epidemic proportions and spread worldwide to other religions and institutions as well?

Just recently after reporting about a pastor who was the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a church member, I heard from the executive director of an organization of which I knew nothing. The organization, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP (snapnetwork.org), was founded 23 years ago, and it now boasts 10,000 members around the globe.

David Clohessy, who has led the St. Louis, Mo.-based group for more than two decades, said it has expanded far beyond its original mission of providing support to people who were sexually abused by Catholic priests.

“Despite the word priest in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops  and Protestant ministers,” Clohessy said in his e-mail to me. “And in recent years, we’ve heard from and helped many who were hurt in other institutional settings such as athletic programs, schools, camps, day care centers, etc.”

The scope of what he is talking about is mind-boggling, but a quick review of the news headlines covering only the past year or so confirms what he is saying. There is an epidemic of sexual abuse of young people under way in almost every walk of life they might encounter.

Male-on-male sexual abuse seems to stand out more in my mind in connection with the problem, but another scan of the headlines reminds me of the many cases of female high school teachers accused of seducing male students and male teachers seducing female students.

Obviously, the problem is universal. SNAP notes on its website that half of its members are women.

The SNAP literature maintains that “homosexuals are no more likely to be pedophiles than are heterosexuals.” It explains that reports of boys being molested are more prevalent because men tend to express their anger outwardly as in litigation, whereas women are more likely to direct it inward. It adds that women are more likely to resolve their pain through therapy and support groups, and that male-on-male sex is more salacious and more likely to attract attention.

Whatever the nature of the revelations, it is clear that all young people are at risk of being sexually abused in some area of their lives.

Unfortunately, their relationships with members of the clergy, school teachers, caregivers and all other people with whom they come into contact must be closely monitored by parents.

It’s a world of worry that is hard to fathom based on my own childhood experiences. I never had a teacher, a Sunday School instructor or anyone else charged with my care ever make any sort of inappropriate move on me, but it’s been 50 years since I was a child. A friend of mine with whom I grew up assures me that neither he nor his brother ever experienced anything inappropriate at his Catholic Church. It was just unheard of at the time, but that could be attributed to a reluctance of victims to come forward.

A pastor I spoke with recently told me that his church had already taken steps to ensure that no employee or volunteer of the church has private access to children or other church members. All of the offices will have windows in the future, he said. Other steps will also be taken to make sure everyone behaves as they should, he said.

Those are pretty drastic steps, but it would probably be a good idea for all organizations to implement such precautions in light of what we now know about sexual abuse and harassment. It appears this unfortunately is the way all organizations need to be run today.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. He can be e-mailed at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas celebrates end of DADT

As ban on open gays and lesbians in the military ends, active-duty military personnel come out, some who were discharged consider re-enlisting

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Cully Johnson

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

As the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” became final this week, some active-duty service members came out while some who were discharged under the policy made plans to re-enlist.

Dallas celebrated the repeal with a reception at Resource Center Dallas during which

Dave Guy-Gainer, a board member of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, presented his archive of photos, papers and other memorabilia to the Phil Johnson Library.

Among the papers was correspondence with senators and representatives about supporting the repeal effort. Also included was correspondence with the White House that concluded with Guy-Gainer’s invitation to the final repeal signing ceremony in July.

Guy-Gainer said that he almost missed the invitation, because he almost forgot to check his email one Monday night. When he did remember and checked the inbox, he realized that he had received an invitation to the repeal certification signing ceremony in Washington that Wednesday.

Guy-Gainer said he immediately cleared his schedule and made plans to attend.

Despite repeal of DADT, Guy-Gainer said, SLDN’s  work is not over. Although gays and lesbians may now serve openly, those who are married will not receive 40 benefits that married heterosexual service members enjoy.

Those benefits include their partners having an identity card to get on base and using that card to shop in the PX or use the library.

Same-sex dependents will not be able to use the base attorneys to write wills and other legal papers.

Same-sex couples will not have the access to base housing that opposite-sex couples have, nor will they be eligible for subsistence payments to subsidize off-base housing. That money is offered to many heterosexual couples.

Dependents of heterosexuals also have access to full health care that same-sex partners of servicemen and women will not receive.

Across the country, a number of gays and lesbians who had been discharged under DADT started talking to recruiters Tuesday about re-enlisting, including Cully Johnson, one of the owners of Dallas Eagle.

Johnson was a captain and said he is consiering re-enlisting in the Air Force. He had an appointment with a recruiter to discuss the possibility on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Johnson said he was stationed in Germany for the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When Turkey refused to allow American planes to use its airspace, he said, he was responsible for finding alternate routes and bases that allowed the mission to happen.

After serving more than nine years, Johnson was dismissed from the military under DADT.

But like many who were dismissed, Johnson never “told.”

Another member of the Air Force asked him out on a date. When he turned the man down, that airman went to Johnson’s superior and reported him as being gay.

Johnson said there was no defense he could present. His attorney said that explaining the story of why he was turned in would just be seen as retaliation.

So Johnson was given an honorable discharge and he returned to Dallas while the closeted gay man who turned him in remained in the Air Force.

Johnson said he would like to finish his 20 years to take advantage of full military retirement benefits. Although he is talking to a recruiter, Johnson said that in addition to his business, he recently purchased a condo and has a new partner.

His partner was taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Johnson’s re-enlistment.

“We’ll deal with it when the time comes,” said his partner, who works for an employer that doesn’t offer nondiscrimination protection and asked not to be identified.

Because Johnson was an officer, there may not be an immediate slot for him in the Air Force. With President Barack Obama’s proposed drawdown of armed forces, many who want to re-enlist whose specialties have been filled will also have to wait for an opening.

Pepe Johnson had an appointment with a recruiter on Wednesday also. Before his DADT discharge, he had been named soldier of the year at Fort Sill and became a sergeant.

Today, the former Dallas resident, who still owns a house in Oak Cliff, works as a petroleum land man in West Virginia.

“I want to sit down with a recruiter and look at the options available to me,” Pepe Johnson said, adding that he holds no resentment against the Army for his 2003 dismissal.

“‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ was a law created by Congress and imposed on the military,” he said. “The Army was an incredible experience for me.”

If he re-enters, Pepe Johnson said he would have to go through basic training again because of the length of time since he served. Then, he said, he’d like to enter officer candidate school.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Postcards from Mexico: At the bookstore

The latest missive from our correspondent in Mexico, Jesus Chairez:

MÉXICO CITY — I love going into small bookstores to find treasures in the Big Enchilada. It’ll be a sad day when we go all-digital. For instance, I walked into Bodet, a small orderly bookstore located in Col. Santa Mara la Ribera, a bohemian, on-the-rise neighborhood. As I browsed, a book title glanced from the corner of my eye grabbed my attention: Cocina par Gays — Cooking for Gays. How did they mean it? A cookbook of recipes for gay people, or a way for heteros to prepare meals for their queer guests? Santa Maria added it first gay bar six months ago, so was Bodet preparing for the gays in the neighborhood?

I asked Bernardo Plasencia, Bodet’s owner, what it meant. He giggled and said, “I think gays know how to cook, so I thought, a gay cookbook for heterosexuals that have gay friends coming over for dinner — cool. Mexicans being helpful and thoughtful. I couldn’t help but think, ‘But where is the cookbook for lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals or even a cookbook for gay Latinos, something I could give as Christmas presents to my gringo friends?’”

One salad recipe in the book caught my attention: Ensalada de besos, or “salad of kisses.” It’s made with asparagus, strawberries, cubes of cheese — your choice. Yep, something I know I would just love to eat.

Among the other recipes, nothing seemed unusual, just regular graceful appetizers, salads, soups, entrées and desserts. And as the cover says, “Recetas fáciles y creativa (creative and easy recipes).”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dealing with the ‘A’-word

We appreciate allies, but we also want to preserve LGBT-only space

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Flagging Left

As most of my friends and readers know, I am an active member of the leather community. What you might not know is that there is currently a brouhaha raging in that community about who really belongs or doesn’t belong.

It reminds me of the debates about how many letters to append to LGBT. Right now it’s up to eight with a tongue-twisting “LGBTQQAI” as the latest permutation (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Allies, Intersex).

The letter that has caused so much discussion among leather folk is the “A,” which stands for “allies” in the alphabet soup that is political correctness.

I have a great affinity for allies, and most of them would fall into the category of “straight.”

Straight people, or the “heterosexuals” as some call them, are not a bad group for the most part. Some of my best friends are straight, and to their credit they often march with us in the local Pride parade.

The problem in the leather world with straight people is that not all of them are allies. Many of them fall into the category of what I could call “sexual tourists,” free-thinking (or at least thrill-seeking) heterosexuals who poke about in the world of leather to spice up their love lives.

Now, I am not opposed to people having rich and exciting sex lives. I think that is one of the great gifts our creator endowed us with.

Sex can be fun, if you do it right, and so I have no problem sharing advice and venues with my straight fellows.

Where I do have a problem is when they take over space that was previously the venue of queer leatherfolk or, more often, state their resentment at queer leatherfolk wanting their own spaces.

In the vanilla world this is happening as well. Just look at the gentrification of gayborhoods across the country.

When the San Francisco Eagle Tavern, a landmark of leather history in that city, closed to be remodeled as a straight bar the issue became even clearer.

Right here in Dallas, the Oak Lawn/Cedar Springs gayborhood is in flux as well. New businesses and developments are springing up everywhere.

That in itself is not a bad thing, but when folks move into what is essentially an “entertainment district” they have to expect the kind of lifestyle that goes with the territory.

I have heard complaints about parking on the street — not surprising since parking is at a premium. But for those who are miffed about it, try finding a parking space in Greenwich Village in New York.

Recently, new metrosexual residents of San Francisco’s Castro District have been bemoaning the open display of affection between same-sex couples on the street. Well, when you move into the most famous gay neighborhood in the world, you are going to see that!

Same thing here in Dallas; it comes with the territory.

As in the leather community, there are spaces that have been staked out through years of struggle as “leather-space,” and though we have made our straight friends welcome, they cannot expect us to surrender the space completely.

In our LGBT community as well, we can welcome our allies, but not surrender our identity or our “queer space’ to them.

It is not a matter of hospitality, it is a matter of preserving hard-earned turf.

I understand that many LGBT folks want to fully assimilate into society, and I believe that is not a bad thing when it comes to rights and duties of citizenship in our country.

But I also do not want to blend in so completely that I disappear.

Like many ethnic minorities, I still value the culture I grew up with as a gay man, and I don’t want to see all of it surrendered to make straight allies feel welcome. They are welcome as long as they understand the importance of our space.

It is true in the LGBT community and the leather community, and it is something our allies would be better off understanding.

As a child I used to complain to my mother about Mother’s Day. “When is kids day?” I’d ask her.

And she would smile and answer: “Every day is kids day.”

Now I understand her logic.

In our society, everywhere is “straight space,” so neither we nor our allies should find it unusual at all that we want our own “queer space.”

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

—  John Wright

Let’s all get aboard the crazy train!

Lately the crazy train has picked up speed. I don’t know if it’s the upcoming midterm elections or people are scared by gay court victories or what, but we’re in a period of nutty.

Take David Barton. Please.

An evangelical minister, teacher at (Glenn) Beck University and former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, Barton — a self-styled historian — is the founder of WallBuilders, a group devoted to the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation.

On his WallBuilders radio show recently, Barton discussed with Rick Green how health-conscious America is, regulating cigarettes and trans fats and salt, yet allowing something to slip through that is such an obvious threat to the health of Americans: Jersey Shore.

Okay, he didn’t say that. Instead, Barton reeled off fanciful statistics, like, “Homosexuals die decades earlier than heterosexuals,” and “nearly one-third [of homosexuals] admit to a thousand or more sex partners in a lifetime.”

Barton said, “I mean, you go through all this stuff, sounds to me like that’s not very healthy. Why don’t we regulate homosexuality?” That’s the moment he boarded the crazy train.

Barton, the quack historian, cited a 1920s study that found nations that “rejected sexual regulation like with homosexuality” didn’t last “past the third generation from the time that they embraced it.”

Have gays been embraced? When will the third generation appear? It’s important to know when we’re supposed to make this country collapse. We have a schedule to keep.

Rick Green’s role in this production was to be properly aghast that the breathtakingly unhealthy gay lifestyle is promoted and protected.

That makes Green — recently a candidate for the Texas Supreme Court — the porter on the crazy train.

If David Barton wants the government to regulate gay sex, Andrew Shirvell’s goal is much more modest. But Shirvell is the conductor on the crazy train. For almost six months, Shirvell has railed in a blog against Chris Armstrong, the openly gay University of Michigan student assembly president.

Shirvell, a Michigan grad, accused Armstrong of so many things — including being anti-Christian, hosting a gay orgy, trying to recruit freshmen to be gay and, my favorite, sexually seducing a conservative student and influencing him to the point that he “morphed into a proponent of the radical homosexual agenda.”

Good strategy, that seduction. Armstrong should be able to convert everybody on campus by the time he’s 106.
During his anti-Armstrong crusade, Shirvell protested outside Armstrong’s house, and called him “Satan’s representative on the student assembly.”Paranoid much? All this would be plenty bad enough, but the fact that Shirvell is a Michigan assistant attorney general launches the affair into the realm of the bizarre. Rod Serling couldn’t have made this up.

Shirvell’s boss, Attorney General Mike Cox, cited the guy’s right to free speech, while also telling CNN he’s a “bully.” Cox said that Shirvell’s “immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office are clear.”

This is more than a case of bad judgment. Shirvell is obsessed with Armstrong’s homosexuality. I have to wonder if Shirvell — now on a voluntary leave of absence — is an immense closet case, or a few ties short of a railroad track.

Either explanation or both might apply to Fred Phelps, leader of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, but it’s his daughters who recently clambered on the crazy train.

Margie Phelps recently represented Westboro at the Supreme Court in the dispute over protests at military funerals, and after, while addressing the press, she and sister Shirley Phelps-Roper broke into song. They warbled a few lines of a variation on Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” Osbourne declared his displeasure that they used his music to advance “despicable beliefs.”

When the Prince of Darkness looks civilized compared to you, your caboose is loose.

Leslie Robinson assumes the Phelps daughters will never sing Indigo Girls.  E-mail Robinson at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and visit her blog at GeneralGayety.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Heterosexuals Bailing On Biological Responsibility to Spit Out Children

For all the sex the gays are having, none of it is resulting in offspring. The onus of fostering new generations of children, conservatives like Marco Rubio and Sally Kern tell us, is the exclusive right of heterosexuals. So how come they're DOING SUCH A TERRIBLE JOB AT IT.


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Queerty

—  John Wright

This is why heterosexuals must demand passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would prohibit discrimination in employment based on an individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  Federal law already prohibits employers from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex, physical disabilities, national origin or genetic information about an applicant, employee, or former employee.  Yet it is still legal in 38 states to fire or refuse to hire someone based on their gender identity.  Likewise it is still legal in 30 states to fire or refuse to hire someone based on their sexual orientation.

Because it is lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who suffer from the employment discrimination that ENDA addresses, the legislation is generally portrayed as only benefiting LGBTs and its passage as a sort of “gift” from the mostly heterosexual Congress to LGBT people.  This is an unfortunate distortion.

While it is true that LGBT people are in dire need of the protections ENDA would provide, ENDA is in the best interest of heterosexuals too.  And I’m not just talking about heterosexuals facing employment discrimination because they are perceived to be gay.  The truth of the matter is that everyone benefits when the best person is hired for the job.

This was brought home to me earlier this week when I heard that Judge Anne Levinson was confirmed as the new civilian auditor for the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability by Seattle City Council’s Public Safety and Education Committee.  Her qualifications and commitment to excellence in public service are clear in her distinguished civil service resume.  The Stranger‘s Riya Bhattacharjee summarized:

A Seattle Municipal Court judge from 1999 to 2001 where she dealt with criminal cases, Levinson developed and presided over one of the country’s first mental health courts. She served as chief of staff and then deputy mayor for Mayor Rice and was legal counsel in both the Rice and Royer administrations. Levinson also chaired the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission-a quasi-judicial body that regulated private telecommunications and energy companies. She is one of the four owners of the Seattle Storm. Levinson was also part of the Seattle Police Chief Search Committee. “It’s important that the chief fosters an environment that actively investigates misconducts and implements reforms when necessary so that the public has respect and confidence in the police,” she says. ‘We have a mutual goal here of treating all citizens equally.” Levinson underscores the importance of encouraging community policing in Seattle. “It’s also important to have early warning systems to identify potential problems,” she says.”

Not insignificantly, Shaun Knittel at Seattle Gay News reminds us that Levinson was one of the state’s first openly LGBT public officials.  Folks around the Blend will recall that as Chair of Washington Families Standing Together, Levinson lead the Approve Referendum 71 campaign to victory in 2009, making Washington the first state in the nation whose electorate ratified an LGBT family recognition (domestic partnership) law at the polls.

So yes, Judge Levinson is a highly-qualified and respected public servant.  She is also a lesbian.  We here in Seattle are protected by several layers of anti-discrimination law at the city, county and state levels, so sexual orientation wasn’t a factor in the City’s decision to hire her.  But I can’t help but wonder if Judge Levinson had applied for the same job in Tampa, say, or Salt Lake City, whether her appointment wouldn’t have been summarily rejected due to a characteristic that has no bearing on her ability to bring excellence to the job.  Such an outcome would not only have been a loss to her as an individual, but to the predominantly heterosexual population she sought to so ably serve.  When heterosexuals discriminate against an LGBT person in employment when the LGBT applicant is the best person for the job, they’re shooting themselves in the foot.

A video of Judge Levinson’s confirmation hearing is below the fold.
If you watch the video directly on Seattle Channel’s website, you can jump to the pertinent part of the video by clicking on “Appointment of Judge Anne Levinson”.  Otherwise, click ahead to about the 24:45 mark.

Cross-posted at Washblog.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Opposition is apoplectic over Prop 8 ruling

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker

Sometimes it’s fun to see what the opposition is saying, especially when they lose.

Tim Wildmon is one of the most vociferous anti-gay crusaders in the country as president of the American Family Association. He wrote a letter to the Los Angeles Times about the Prop 8 case in that state.

The argument in his letter is that U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker nullified the vote of the people and that the judge imposed his personal opinions.

Here’s the problem with Wildmon’s position. Judge Walker ruled based on the evidence presented at trial. The defense of Prop 8 presented only two witnesses who were completely discredited. Wildmon, himself, would have been a better witness.

One defense witness admitted that the information he gave in testimony was given to him by the attorneys and said that the facts he presented he found on the Internet. The other even admitted under oath that same-sex couples were indeed being discriminated against.

The problem with Wildmon’s argument about the will of the people is that the defense never presented that as an argument in the case. They presented false studies, hearsay and Bible quotes as evidence that same-sex couples should not be treated equally under the law.

Wildmon also argues that the judge is rumored to be gay and so should not have been allowed to hear the case. I’m not sure if that means that heteroseuxal judges should be disqualified in all cases affecting other heterosexuals.

Under his ruling, however, the LGBT community will not have standing to put a proposition on the ballot to invalidate straight marriages either. His ruling protects everyone.

The judge could have ruled that despite all evidence in the trial, the voters do, indeed, have a right to vote on this issue and that they have a right to impose laws that are discriminatory. And the higher courts may rule exactly that way.

Talking to attorneys from Lambda Legal and National Center for Lesbian Rights, two organizations that filed briefs in the case, an evidentiary ruling such as this, is harder to overturn than one based principally on law. In other words, the higher courts will not hear any new evidence and no evidence in the trial supported Prop 8. But the higher courts could rule that despite all the evidence, states have the right to discriminate against same-sex couples and voters have the right to deny equality.

—  David Taffet