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

Your smart phone is not safe on McKinney Avenue, as DPD warns of thefts in Uptown

This message was sent out by the Dallas Police Department’s Central Patrol Division on Thursday night:

During the past few weeks, as the weather has warmed up, an increase in thefts in the Uptown area has been observed.

Two young males have been observed by witnesses taking property, primarily smart phones (iPhones in particular) from businesses in the Uptown area, especially McKinney Avenue. Patrons of restaurants and bars along McKinney avenue report thefts as well, with many of thefts in these businesses taking place both indoors and on outdoor patios.

In addition to smart phones, an iPad, purses, and other personal property have been taken.

Crowded areas are attractive to criminals because people are distracted, and because it is easy for a criminal to disappear into crowds after stealing items.

Please keep personal items secured. Keep phones and other small items, especially electronic items, inside your purse or pocket. Keep your purse strap secured to your body to help prevent purse snatch, and be aware of your surroundings. Avoid laying items down on your table and leaving them there. It has take only a second or two for items to be stolen off of table tops, literally from under the noses of victims.

If you observe people whom you believe to be suspicious don’t hesitate to report to 911. Make note of their description (sex, race, height, weight, hair color, hair length, clothing color and description), what activities make you suspicious, and what direction the suspect(s) leaves the area. It is very likely that the suspect(s) will be gone by the time police arrive, so a good description will help officers when they search the area.

DPD’s warning followed an e-mail earlier this week from Nancy Weinberger, Oak Lawn Crime Watch volunteer, who says thefts have been reported at Dallas Fine Wines at 3518 Oak Lawn, Black Friar Pub at 2621 McKinney, and Idle Rich Pub at 2622 McKinney:

This was a big problem during the summer time. It looks like the same 2 suspects are at it again. This past summer they hit several businesses, not just bars, but all business types. Please pass this on to all of the business owners that you have contacts with and just anybody that lives in the Uptown area.

The same two suspects seem to be committing Thefts in the Uptown area, the suspects go into a Bar/Restaurant distract the employees/customers and take a purse or cell phones.  Suspects are two B/M’s one is 6’2 160 and the other is shorter 5’9 150 and they flee in a White Ford Crown Victoria parked nearby. They appear to be maybe 20ish or younger.

—  John Wright