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

Top 10: FW changes continued in wake of Rainbow Lounge

Rainbow.Lounge
FROM PROTEST TO PARTY | The Rev. Carole West, left, and David Mack Henderson, right, both of Fairness Fort Worth, are shown with Chief Jeffrey Halstead during a barbecue at the Rainbow Lounge on June 28 to mark the one-year anniversary of the raid. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

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When the Fort Worth Police Department  and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage raided the Rainbow Lounge on June 28, 2009 — the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion — it sparked outrage around the world and enough headlines to fill newspapers for the rest of the year.

But the story didn’t end with 2009, as repercussions from the raid continued this year.

Publicity from the raid undoubtedly helped punch up business for the Rainbow Lounge, enough so that by January, the bar’s owner, J.R. Schrock, announced that he had a second bar — Percussions — in the works, as well as a third club and possibly a fourth.

In February — despite acknowledgments from both TABC and FWPD that the raid should never have happened — officials with the Fort Worth city attorney’s office said they were going ahead with efforts to prosecute those arrested in the raid, including Chad Gibson, the young man who suffered a lasting brain injury while in TABC custody.

One of Fort Worth police Chief Jeff Halstead’s first acts after the raid was to appoint openly gay officer Sara Straten as his department’s first full-time liaison to the LGBT community.

On June 28, as a way of highlighting the progress the city had made in the year since the raid and improved relations between the police department and the LGBT community, Rainbow Lounge held a party attended by Halstead, Straten and many of the officers who patrol the area in which the bar is located.

Despite the progress though, in July anti-gay forces packed the City Council chambers to once again protest the council’s vote the previous November to amend Fort Worth’s nondiscrimination ordinance to offer protections to transgenders and other initiatives proposed by the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force.

At the end of the public comments section of the meeting, Mayor Mike Moncrief told the crowd that while “there is room for all of us” in Fort Worth, “What’s in the Bible or what isn’t in the Bible, that’s not our job. Our job is to maintain the quality of life in our city, and that’s what this [diversity] training is all about.”

As the year continued, more examples of the changes in the city emerged: The police department reached out to the LGBT community in looking for new recruits. Halstead announced plans to start a hate crimes unit. The annual Tarrant County gay Pride celebration expanded, adding a block party and holding a parade and picnic far larger than in years past.

In September, the council quietly approved adding domestic partner benefits for lesbian and gay city employees, and in mid-November, the city attorney’s office announced that all charges against those arrested in the raid were being dropped.

Perhaps one of the most welcome results of the Rainbow Lounge raid, however, was the emergence and continued growth of Fairness Fort Worth.

Formed quickly in the wake of the raid to offer assistance to witnesses who wanted to testify during investigations into the raid, the group has morphed into an active LGBT advocacy organization complete with officers and a strategy for the future — filling a void that has long existed in Tarrant County’s LGBT community.

— Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Some radical ideas about the DADT ruling

This week, a federal court judge issued an extreme ruling regarding “don’t ask don’t tell”: An injunction, forbidding the U.S. military from enforcing the policy worldwide. As part of the ruling, she gave the government up to 60 days to appeal. Attorneys for the Log Cabin Republicans, which brought the lawsuit, have counseled caution, discouraging servicemembers from coming out.

Now, it’s been a long while since I practiced law actively, but I have some ideas radical ideas about how those in the military should approach this ruling.

COME OUT NOW. I know the LCR doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but here’s the thing: It is, for now, the law. Just like years ago, when San Francisco and New Paltz, N.Y., declared they would recognize same-sex marriages and performed dozens of them, the act itself has repercussions. The courts had to decide the legality, but in the interim, who could say they were not legal?

Relatedly, everyone who got married in California after same-sex marriage was allowed but before Prop 8 was passed were deemed to be legally and forever married. Those unions were not negatively affected from legal recognition by Prop 8. I would argue that anyone who does come out in reliance on a federal ruling cannot later be discharged, anymore than someone who drives 30 mph can be given a ticket a year retroactively later when they change the speed to 25.

It also provides the Obama administration with political cover. Obama claims to want to discontinue DADT, but is relying, disgustingly, on some bullshit “study” before acting. (The details of that study offend me to the core, as it will evaluate such things as whether gay troops should be given “separate living facilities” or whether the other servicemembers will be “OK with it.” Since when did the military care what grunts think, or act like a democracy? What if a soldier is gay but doesn’t want to come out — should he be forced to so he can be segregated in the pink barracks? It’s really very easy: The ruling should be “gay troops are no different than any others; effectively immediately, they are treated identically.” So if they wouldn’t do something for single gays or gay couples they do for straight singles or couples, don’t do it.) But Obama does not have to appeal the ruling; he shouldn’t. Let the courts decide it for him. Continue on with the legislative agenda just in case, but don’t appeal the ruling.

HOLD OBAMA TO HIS PROMISES. I mean this in the most threatening way possible. If the Obama administration does appeal the ruling, I personally will do everything in my power to throw my support to someone else. If a black man who is president cannot stand up for minorities and keep the promises he made the gay community as a candidate, he does not deserve my financial support. Or my vote. This is a test, Brarack: If you fail it, do not expect to get extra credit from me.

I know there are many out there who’ll say, “you’d prefer a Republican over a Democrat in the White House?” No. But I know this: If my rights are trod by someone who doesn’t have the political will to respect me, I don’t care what political party he or she is a member of. Keep in mind: DADT and DOMA were signed by Clinton; the first sitting president to express any support for civil unions for gays was W. (Granted, W did it in the context of opposing marriage, but Clinton never came out in favor of it, and even counseled John Kerry in 2004 to come out against civil unions! “The gays will forgive you and it might help you win,” he supposedly said. Shameful.)

We are at the brink of huge changes in the law and recognition for gay rights at a level I could not have conceived when I was a college student. This is no time to back down. This is the time to fight. Bloody some noses. Shame people into acknowledging their own bigotry. Because I assure you, in 50 years, public high school students will look back on how the current culture treated gays with the same puzzled disgust that we look on Jim Crow laws. Orville Faubus and George Wallace were probably more popular in public opinion polls in their day than Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. And how many streets have you seen named after Faubus and Wallace?

This is the time to create our heroes, our Rosa Parkses. Don’t shy away, guys. Don’t go to the back of the bus. Come out and say “In accordance with a federal order, I am saying I am gay. What are you gonna do about it?” Because right now, they can’t. And even if they can down the road, they will appear vindictive to discharge those with the courage to come out later.

Obama pledged change we can believe in. We’re ready for the change, Mr. President. Keep your word.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones