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

Gay OKC pioneer Arnold Smith remembered

Arnold “Arna Lee” Smith, who owned a series of gay bars in Oklahoma City dating back to the 1960s, died Oct. 31 at 83, according to the Metro Star:

During the early 1960s America and Oklahoma were quite different, where being gay was officially still a mental illness, sodomy laws were still in the books, and gay rights (let alone marriage) weren’t even discussed. Police raids on gay bars were common, albeit on dubious pretexts and very selective law enforcement, much facilitated when most people victimized by these tactics were either afraid and/or ashamed to fight back. But even in this dark scenario Arnold’s first club, Lee’s Lounge which opened in the mid 1960s in the Paseo District, was a bright spot for the GLBT community that refused to back down. Although the club endured relentless police harassment, the club proudly kept going. On many occasions when he was arrested along with his customers, he would bail himself and his customers out and re-open the bar the same night. His drag persona, Arna Lee, became famous during this time, accompanied by his outrageously fun costumes and tap dancing with a campy wit to match. During this time he became a Drag Mother to many budding female impersonators, a passion that spanned over 40 years.

—  John Wright

Rep. Marc Veasey again files bill seeking study of hate crimes act but says it’s ‘not going anywhere’

For the third consecutive legislative session, State Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, filed legislation last week calling for a study on the implementation of Texas’ hate crimes statute.

Veasey wants to know why, despite thousands of hate crimes reported to law enforcement since the statute was passed in 2001, only about a dozen cases have been prosecuted in court as hate crimes. If you’ll remember, the statute covers “sexual preference” but not gender identity.

In an interview the other day with KXAN (video above), Veasey cited homophobia as one of the reasons why the statute isn’t being used:

While Veasey understands that it’s hard to prosecute hate crimes he believes there’s another, underlying reason why prosecutors are rarely using the law.

“You have some people on the right that have said that it is a bill that protects gays and so they are against it for that reason,” Veasey said.

And Veasey told The Star-Telegram that the outcome of this year’s elections means the bill is likely doomed again in next year’s session, which begins in January.

“I’m going to try it, but quite frankly it’s not going anywhere,” Veasey said. “A lot of these folks that got elected were elected on opposition to the president and probably feel that being for anything pro-civil rights would hurt them in their political careers.”

Wait a second, is Veasey suggesting they’re going to completely ignore this memo?

—  John Wright

Letters • 10.22.10

Many questions on Club Dallas raid

I just read John Wright’s article about the recent raid at Club Dallas (“11 arrested in raid at Club Dallas,” Dallas Voice, Oct. 15).

What is not clear to me is this: What exactly was the “complaint” that was filed with Dallas Police Department? I did not read this in the article. I am not so much interested as to who filed this complaint (though there are many people or groups that I am sure would love to see Club Dallas shut down!). But what was the substance of this complaint that “forced” the DPD to investigate Club Dallas?

Surely, the DPD knows, or should have known, what the 34-year-old Club Dallas is all about, as well as all of the other adult swingers’ clubs and bathhouses in the city where nudity and sexual contact are common? Was this a person who somehow paid and entered this private club, not knowing what a bathhouse was and why many members of the community patronize this private club? Or was this simply a “noise” issue of people coming and going at all hours?

If what is going on in these clubs is illegal, why are they allowed to be open for business at all?

Is Laura Martin seriously unaware of what goes on in a bathhouse? Seriously? Is she aware of the substance of the initiating complaint? Is she OK with DPD’s follow-up investigation and subsequent arrests?

Can Laura Martin, or anyone at the DPD, give us a direct explanation as to how a private club that requires a paid entry fee and, if I remember correctly, warning signs as to the nudity that goes on in the establishment is considered a “public space”?

Isn’t by definition a public space some place where anyone, man, woman or child, can freely visit? Can just anyone walk into Club Dallas? If not, again, how is it considered by law enforcement and the courts as a public space?

Does this mean that all of the other bathhouses and any other sex clubs in Dallas will also be subject to the same type of investigations, gay or straight?
Your thoughts here would be appreciated. Again, please keep up the good work.

Ludwik Kowal
Hong Kong

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Thanks for the hot Szot

Thank you for the great coverage of Paulo Szot (“Hot Szot,” Dallas Voice, Oct. 15). It’s so refreshing to see an out gay man in this kind of role.

Gordon Yusko
Via E-Mail

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Broden’s dangerous views

Thanks for your coverage of congressional candidate Stephen Broden’s homophobic statements on Fox’s The Glenn Beck Show (DallasVoice.com/Instant Tea, Oct. 5).

It is troubling that Dallas Morning News has not covered this and would endorse this radical individual given the 30th District’s large LGBT community.
I also want to point out Broden’s close ties to a radical abortion group called Maafa 21 and his association with Life Dynamics President Mark Crutcher.

Broden holds many very dangerous views!

Michael Thomas
Dallas

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Aggie Corps more accepting of gays now

I am writing in response to the open letter Dallas Voice published online from Clint Hooper to Texas A&M’s acting commandant, Col. Jake Betty (“A former Aggie cadet comes out and comes clean,” Dallas Voice.com Instant Tea, Oct. 11).

In 2003 I became the first openly gay cadet to complete the Corps of Cadets program, and did so as an outfit commander, just like Mr. Hooper. While my interactions with some other cadets were sometimes difficult and occasionally devolved into outright harassment, I had the full support of then-commandant Gen. John Van Alstyne and his staff, which included Col. Jake Betty.

Mr. Hooper’s very public coming out is something that takes a lot of courage to do, particularly when you consider the conservative history and environment of the Corps of Cadets, and I commend him for it. However, his letter lends the impression that corps leadership, and Col. Betty in particular, do not understand what gay and lesbian cadets face and do not have an adequate sensitivity to those issues in order to address them properly.

I respectfully disagree.

Col. Betty is one of the most honorable men I know, and I could not have made it through the corps being openly gay were it not for the leadership, guidance and understanding of him, Gen. Van Alstyne and the rest of the commandant’s staff.

I can assure you and your readers that Col. Betty and the rest of commandant’s staff do indeed understand what it means to be openly gay in the Corps of Cadets and will not allow it to be an impediment to the success of any cadet. In fact, their understanding and sensitivity have helped ensure that openly gay cadets do not experience the negativity I did all those years ago.

After I served as the first openly gay outfit commander in 2003, there was an openly gay Aggie Band drum major in 2004, and another openly gay cadet served as an outfit commander just a few years later.

Our experiences and the support we received from Col. Betty and others clearly demonstrate openly gay men and women have been and will continue to be successful, strongly contributing members of the Corps of Cadets.

I am pleased Mr. Hooper’s letter has given us an opportunity to have this discussion again in the Aggie community, but I question the decision to publish it in Dallas Voice, as opposed to the A&M student newspaper The Battalion, where it might have the greatest impact among Aggies.

I think it is a discussion to be had among alumni and current students who have the greatest stake in the organization, but the broadcasting of a letter that misplaces the blame for intolerance in a statewide forum reinforces the view that the Corps of Cadets is still a harshly intolerant place for us. Trust me: It is a far better place than it used to be, and a far better organization than Mr. Hooper presents it to be

While there is still a lot of progress to be made, the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets is a more welcoming place for gays and lesbians because of the outstanding leadership of Col. Jake Betty and the rest of the commandant’s staff.

Thanks and Gig ’em!

Noel A. Freeman
Texas A&M Class of 2003

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas