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

The new guys

The Turtle Creek Chorale bounces back with a new management team but the same commitment to being forever turtle

Concerts

SYNERGY OF NECESSITY | Trey Jacobs, front, was chosen as the interim conductor of the Turtle Creek Chorale only weeks after David Fisher, rear, assumed his position as its new executive director. On Sunday, they will oversee the inaugural concert for both, launching the chorale’s 32nd season. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

David Fisher hadn’t even started his first day on the job as the new executive director of the Turtle Creek Chorale last summer when the word came down: The then-current artistic director, Jonathan Palant, was leaving his post, effective immediately. Forget about setting up pictures of his husband and son on his desk; there would be time for housekeeping later. Right now, they had a bigger priority: Finding someone to lead the 180-member gay men’s chorus.

If ever there was a definition of hitting the ground running, this was surely it.

Arts administration is nothing new Fisher, who for years has worked with Dallas’ Office of Cultural Affairs and founded the Festival ofIndependent Theatres. But managing the chorale was uncharted territory for him. Before he’d even learned the names of all his co-workers, he and the chorale needed to find an interim conductor.

In walked Trey Jacobs.

Jacobs had worked in choral music since 1980, although his closest connection to Texas before now was living in Fort Worth for a time in the mid-1980s. Then, while attending a choral convention in San Antonio in 1993, he heard, for the first time, the TCC sing live.

“I was so moved by the beauty of these men’s voices,” he says. “I became a huge fan and started collecting their CDs.”

For the last four years, Jacobs has worked at Eastern Michigan University, but two-plus years of that has mandated a long-distance relationship — his partner had taken a job in Mobile, Ala. — grew too much. In July, “I took a huge leap of faith and resigned” from the university without having a new job in place. Two weeks later, the chorale called. He jumped at the opportunity.

Together, Jacobs and Fisher, along with interim assistant conductor Sean Baugh, formed a quick partnership. Both newcomers in their own way, they have leveraged their skills to manage a smooth transition.

“Trey has such a long history with chorale music, and the chorale fits all of his artistic sensibilities,” Fisher explains, while “I know the

Dallas scene and the community, but little about choral music.” Such symbiosis has helped them go from greenhorns to concert in barely nine weeks. The proof will be the performance this  Sunday of Messiah, the inaugural concert for both at the TCC and the season premiere for the 32-year old chorus.

Although the chorale’s season had already been planned by Palant before his departure, Jacobs says the specific programs had not been laid out. That has allowed him the flexibility to add his own artistic elements and opportunities to express his own ideas.

The cornerstone of the performance, of course, will be selections from Handel’s Messiah, sung in conjunction with other local choruses, but the first act will be a set highlighting favorite numbers from the chorale’s storied repertoire, including “We’re Not Lost, We’re Here” — the first song the chorale ever performed in concert.

The process has been complicated. Jacobs quit his job in Michigan to spend more time with his partner in Alabama. Presently, Jacobs is still living in Mobile, commuting in to Dallas about once a week for rehearsals, while working remotely with Baugh to get the singers prepared. He’s in town more this week leading up to Sunday, and expects he’ll be here almost constantly in December as the holiday concerts approach.

“The [singers] have been incredibly receptive,” Jacobs says, saying his partner has also been unendingly supportive. “I see it in their eyes — they are so excited.”

But while the chorale has an eye toward the future, including a nationwide search for a new permanent artistic director, Fisher and Jacobs stress that for now, Jacobs’ focus is solely on the task.

“One of the stipulations of the contract is not to focus on next season,” Fisher says.

“The interim position was an 11-month contract or until a new artistic director is hired,” Jacobs adds, noting that he has not applied for the permanent post. Instead, he’s concentrating on Sunday’s concert.

“First and foremost I want, from the first night, the audience to be struck thinking, ‘BAM! That’s the Turtle Creek Chorale.’ That sound that is so specific to them, I want recognized from all who attend.”

But there’s another factor everyone who knows the chorale is familiar with, and it’s not about the music per se; it’s about showmanship.

“It’s absolutely crucial,” Jacobs agrees. “I’m stealing this from [former TCC artistic director] Tim Seelig, but what I heard from him is: Every concert should have a gasp, a tear and a chill bump, in whatever capacity. That’s something I’ve always believed in, too.”

When the concert’s over, maybe Fisher will finally take a deep breath and find time to put up those pictures.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Stake & aches

‘Fright Night’ remake preserves original’s orgasmic bloodlust — and homoeroticism

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FOR REAL | Jerry (Colin Farrell) defies the power of the cross in the smart update of the ‘80s cult hit.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

The original Fright Night was one of the most subversively gay films of the mid 1980s: The suburban vampire Jerry had a suspiciously familiar relationship with his Renfield-like companion and more rayon disco shirts than any straight man should own. He also was more than slightly obsessed with his teen-aged neighbor Charley, although you could attribute that less to pedophilia than survival instinct.

But the original was also of its age, like lots of ‘80s pabulum — can you imagine a remake of Lost Boys? — a cult horror-comedy that didn’t really scream to be revisited. But since they have done so, this question is: Worth it? Yes. Pretty much.

Unlike many remakes, this new Fright Night — arriving in the August discount bin, just like its progenitor — sticks surprisingly close to the basic plot, with some sensible updates. Gone is Renfield, but Charley (Anton Yelchin) remains the virginal Everykid; Jerry (Colin Farrell) is no longer the suave metrosexual but a brutish laborer in a wifebeater, exuding bad-boy appeal with a lizard-like stealth; vampire chaser Peter Vincent (David Tennant) isn’t a washed-up horror actor but a Criss Angel wannabe on the Vegas Strip, where Jerry culls his victims.

Like Scream, the Fright Nights exist in a post-modern world where the characters are aware of the mythology surrounding the supernatural, gleaned mostly from movies. They joke about the Twilight books

Not all of the updates are improvements. Changing Peter Vincent from a film actor to a magician undercuts the subtle tribute to B-film icons Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, though Tennant’s Russell Brand-like whack-a-doodle performance almost rescues it. And director Craig Gillespie dispatches some peripheral characters without much sense, and the humor is not as prevalent as it was in the original.

But Gillespie keeps key (the seduction of Charley’s girlfriend, the unnerving “Welcome to Fright Night … for real” line), and the splatter effects — especially the unexpected moment where a “turned” human bursts into flame when struck by sunlight, enhanced by the cheesy ‘50s-style fascination with 3D “moments” — give the film a campy sensibility. And there are worse ways to spend a scary two hours than imaging the hunky Colin Farrell orgiastically sucking on your … neck. Hey, it doesn’t take a cape and an accent to woo everyone.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 19, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas