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

If you heard gunshots in the area of Cedar Springs and Kings Road on Sunday morning …

James Huffer Jr.

… It’s because the gentleman shown here, James Huffer Jr., was allegedly chasing his girlfriend around an apartment complex at 4600 Cedar Springs, firing a gun out the window of his vehicle at about 4:30 a.m. But what happened next is even more unusual. After being handcuffed by police and placed in the back of a patrol car, Huffer somehow managed to get his hands around to the front of his body and hop in the driver’s seat. Then he took off in the patrol car, evading police as he hopped on Stemmons Freeway, Highway 183 west, then Highway 360 South, before ditching the car near Avenue H in Arlington. As of this morning, he was still at large. From DPD:

Dallas and Arlington officers are actively searching for suspect Huffer. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact a local police department at once. It is likely he is still handcuffed. Crime Stoppers is also offering a reward for information leading to his arrest and indictment. The Crime Stoppers number is 214-373-8477.  A photograph of suspect Huffer will follow this announcement. He is a white male, 6 feet tall and approximately 170 pounds. He has blue eyes and brown hair. He is believed to have acquaintances in the Arlington and Grand Prairie area. Suspect Huffer is likely to face a variety of charges including Escape, Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle, and family violence Assault.

—  John Wright

Rewards for info on Lisa Stone’s disappearance

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest and indictment in the disappearance of Lisa Stone, a lesbian from Dallas who’s been missing since early June. To submit a tip to Crime Stoppers, call 877-373-8477 or go here.

In addition, Stone’s longtime friend Tina Wiley says a separate $5,000 reward is being offered by an anonymous source for info leading to Stone’s safe return, as well as the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for her disappearance. For information about the second reward, e-mail lookingforlisastone@yahoo.com.

About 75 people reportedly attended another vigil Aug. 6 outside the northeast Dallas home Stone shared with her partner. Relying heavily on Facebook, Stone’s friends have done a remarkable job of keeping her disappearance in the news, as the Dallas Observer, White Rock Lake Weekly and Mesquite News all reported on the vigil.

Above is a video featuring scenes from vigils outside Stone’s home. The video, posted by Wiley, is fittingly set in part to the Williams Brothers’ “Can’t Cry Hard Enough,” which was featured in “Brokeback Mountain.”

With police reporting no new information in the case, the outlook of Stone’s friends is perhaps best summed up by Tammye Markle in the White Rock Lake Weekly: “Our first hope and prayer is that Lisa will come back to us. However, it has been two months and the reality is that the chances of that happening are slim.”

—  John Wright