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

Investigation clears gay Fort Worth teacher

Kristopher Franks set to return to work Friday after 4-day leave stemming from allegations of improper behavior

FWISD School board member Carlos Vasquez

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Gay Western Hills High School teacher Kristopher Franks, put on paid administrative leave on Monday, Sept. 26, following allegations of improper behavior, has been cleared of all allegations and was set to return to work today (Friday, Sept. 30).

Franks is the teacher who  became the target of ire from the religious right after he sent a student in his German 1 class to the principal’s office for saying in class that as a Christian he believed “homosexuality is wrong.” The school’s assistance principal then suspended the student, setting off a controversy that made headlines around the country.

That student, freshman Dakota Ary, and his mother enlisted the assistance of Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Krause in fighting the suspension on the grounds that Franks and the school had violated Ary’s right to freedom of speech.

District officials quickly reversed their decision, lifting the suspension.

But Steven Poole, deputy executive director for the United Educators Association of Texas, a teachers union, said Tuesday, Sept. 27, that the allegations leading to Franks being put on leave were unrelated to the incident with Ary.

Franks, who had not spoken to the press previously on the advice of his union representative, said Thursday afternoon that he had just met with Fort Worth Independent School District administrators, who told him the nearly weeklong investigation had determined that the allegations against him were unfounded. He did not elaborate on the substance of those allegations.

Franks also said administrators had given him the option of returning to teach at Western Hills High or transferring to another school in the district.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet what I’m going to do,” Franks told Dallas Voice by phone Thursday afternoon. “I’m going to go back to work tomorrow, and I will talk to my boss [the district’s world languages supervisor], and see what she says and decide what’s the best thing to ­do from there.”

FWISD Board of Trustees member Dr. Carlos Vasquez told Dallas Voice in a phone call Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 28, that any time allegations are made against a teacher, those allegations have to be investigated, and it is routine for the teacher in question to be placed on paid administrative leave.

Franks said Thursday that he was pleased with the outcome of the investigation, carried out by an independent investigator, and that interim FWISD Supt. Walter Dansby was “very nice” when they spoke.

“I think they did the right thing,” Franks said. “I can go back to work, which is great. But now I just have to figure out how to fix the damage this whole thing has done to my personal life.”

Franks said since the investigation is closed, he is no longer being represented by a union attorney. He has, instead, retained the services of attorney Stephen Gordon to “represent me on any aspects of this whole thing going forward.”

He also indicated that he and Gordon would be discussing what possible actions he might take against “those people who have lied and made false allegations against me.”

While Franks had previously declined to speak to the media, Daokta Ary, his mother and Krause as their attorney went immediately to the press, telling their side of the story in several TV interviews and saying Franks and the school had violated the student’s right to freedom of speech. The case quickly became a rallying point for the religious right.

Krause this week told Dallas Voice that he and his clients are satisfied with school officials’ decision to rescind the unexcused absences the suspension left on Ary’s record, but “we would still like for them [school officials] to completely vindicate him and say that he did nothing wrong. He should never have been written up for an infraction. He should never have been sent to the office, and he should never have been suspended.”

Ary said in  media interviews that he made the comment quietly to a classmate sitting next to him in response to a discussion going on in the class at the time.

Dakota Ary

But Franks told friends shortly after the incident that there was no discussion involving homosexuality at the time, and that Ary made the comment loudly while looking directly at Franks.

Franks also told friends that the comment was only the latest in an ongoing series of incidents in which Ary and a group of three of his friends have made anti-gay comments to and about him.

Franks told friends that the harassment by Ary and his friends began several weeks ago after Franks, who also teaches sociology, posted on the “World Wall” in his classroom a photo, taken from the German news magazine Stern, of two men kissing. The photo was ripped off the wall and torn in two at some point during Ary’s class, and Franks told friends he believes that Ary or one of his friends tore up the photo.

During a later sociology class students upset that the photo had been torn up replaced it with a hand-drawn picture, and another student then covered that picture with a page bearing a hand-written biblical scripture from Leviticus calling sex between two men an abomination.

Franks told friends that since that incident, Ary and his friends had continued to make derogatory and harassing comments.

Franks’ friends also said that the teacher, a Fulbright scholar, has been the target of anti-gay harassment for at least the last two years, including having hateful messages left in his classroom and, in one case, having his car vandalized.

FWISD teacher Martin Vann, spokesman for the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. that was formed about a year ago to help protect students and teachers in the district from anti-gay discrimination and bullying, said that Franks told his version of the incident last week, before the current investigation was launched and Franks was required to sign a statement saying he would not discuss the incident with other teachers, administrators, parents or students. Vann said Franks denied getting angry and yelling at Ary, as Ary had said, and reiterated that Ary’s comments were not pertinent to any discussion in the class at the time.

Vann said Franks told him that another student had asked him what the German word for “Christian” was, and how, if he moved to Germany, he could find an English translation of the Bible. That’s when, Franks told Vann, Ary looked directly at him and said loudly that as a Christian, he believes homosexuality is wrong.

It was not, Franks told Vann, a simple statement of belief or opinion but rather an intentional effort to insult and harass the teacher that Ary perceived to be gay.

Krause this week again said that Ary did not direct his remark in class that day at Franks, and that Ary had nothing to do with tearing down the photo of the men kissing.

The attorney also said that Ary told him he did not know to whom Franks was referring when he talked about Ary’s “three friends.”

The Franks case comes in the wake of months of scandal over allegations by teachers that administrators routinely allowed some teachers and administrators to harass and bully students and other teachers, and that teachers who complained often faced retaliation.

Vasquez, who is openly gay, said Wednesday that he believed the Franks investigation would be fair, that he would watch the situation closely “to make sure all the proper procedures are followed,” and that he believed Dansby would handle the situation fairly.

“Considering all the problems we’ve had, I know he [Dansby] will be watching this closely,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez said it is the school district’s responsibility to make sure there is “no harassment in our schools, whether it’s from the teacher to the student, or student to student or even student to teacher. I know that happens, sometimes, too.

“There should be no harassment whatsoever in our schools,” Vasquez , himself a former teacher, said.

Fort Worth ISD has been credited with having one of the most comprehensive anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in the state, having adopted individual policies within the last year to include prohibitions against harassment and bullying, including that based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, for both teachers and students.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

VIRGINIA: Leader Of Anti-Gay Episcopal Sect Fired In Pornography Scandal

Episcopal Rev. Marshall Brown, who helped 14 Virginia parishes leave the main church in protest of the elevation of openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson, has been fired by his Fairfax, Virginia parish for viewing pornography on church computers. It was Brown’s Truro Church that spearheaded the continuing schism in the American Anglican Church over the ordination of gays.

Truro’s rejection of what its congregants saw as a non-biblical liberal tilt in the denomination made international news. Dozens of Episcopal churches have since joined an umbrella group of religious conservatives who oppose the acceptance of same-sex relationships and the idea that non-Christian religions have equal access to God. In 2005, Truro arranged for Brown, now 57, to get treatment for an Internet addiction after he reported having a problem, according to Bishop Martyn Minns, who was Truro’s rector at the time and is now bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, the umbrella group of breakaway churches.

The Anglican Church is currently suing Truro Church over the ownership of its properties, which are valued in the tens of millions of dollars. Nice work, Rev. Busyfingers! So which was it? Manhunt? Sean Cody?

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Navy sex video update; RNC candidates oppose gay marriage; Palin re-tweet

Your weekday morning news update from Instant Tea:

1. All five major candidates for chair of the Republican National Committee said during a debate Monday that they oppose same-sex marriage. Watch video of their comments above.

2. Owen Honors, the Navy captain who produced those raunchy sex videos laced with gay slurs for the crew of his aircraft carrier, is likely to be temporarily relieved of his command pending an investigation, NBC reports. Meanwhile, the American Family Association blames the scandal on the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” suggesting that this is an example of what will happen anytime anyone in the military says something negative about homosexuality.

3. Speaking of DADT repeal and people being relieved of their duties, whoever manages Sarah Palin’s Twitter account could be next.

—  John Wright

Uganda’s Martin Ssempa Accused Of Faking A Sodomy Scandal Against Another Pastor

Uganda's Pastor Martin Ssempa, the "eat da poo poo" lead proponent of the country's Kill The Gays bill, is among eight individuals detained on allegations of conspiring to defame Pastor Robert Kayanja. Something about false allegations of forced sodomy?

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—  admin

NYC Gays Bend Over For Marines In ‘Toys For Tots’ Name Scandal

The Marine Corp's Toys For Tots program has realized, after more than 25 years, the annual gay-organized toy drive held in New York City has the exact same name of its holiday charity event started in 1947. So after raising hell about the gays' use of the name and the confusion it creates, the Marines got the gay one to change its name. Robby Browne, the fabulously wealthy real estate executive (who sold Lance Bass his new condo), started the Chelsea Piers event in 1985 and says he "just pulled the name out of a hat" when first coming up with the event. Brown (pictured with Dorris Roberts at last year's event) seems to have done the same in the renaming: Toys For Tots will now be known as "Holiday Gifts for Children and Seniors." Definitely not as catchy. Why not "Gays Give Good Gift" or "Homo For The Holidays Toy Drive"? [photo via]


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Turning Oprah + Gayle’s Yosemite Park Camping Trip Into a Lesbian Scandal

How does the celebrity news machine turn a 2-second soundbite into a full-blown news story? Watch as E! reveals the secret sauce.

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AC360: Rep. Jared Polis & LCR’s Clarke Cooper Discuss Chambliss Scandal

Tonight CNN’s Anderson Cooper discussed the “all faggots must die” comment left by a Sen. Saxby Chambliss staffer here on JMG, bringing on Rep. Jared Polis and Log Cabin head R. Clarke Cooper. (The same pair discussed the issue on MSNBC’s Hardball yesterday.) Tonight’s conversation focused more on the delay in identifying the culprit, although LCR’s Cooper once again attempted to derail the issue by launching into an attack on Obama over DADT.

UNRELATED: CNN really has a problem with my name, this is the third mention in as many weeks in which they get it wrong. Whatevs.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Another homophobic preacher in gay scandal

Eddie Long is famous for being virulently homophobic, so this just adds more fuel to the fire of what many of us have said for a long time. The more homophobic a preacher is, the more likely that preacher is struggling mightily hard to hide something. The media really does need to start digging harder when preachers and politicians are perniciously homophobic and determine whether it is faith or their own struggle with their sexual orientation that is driving them to preach homophobia.

So many times, whether it be preachers like Ted Haggard, or homophobic political officials like Senator Larry Craig, Ed Schrock, Charlie Crist, Ed Koch, Jim McCrery, David Drier, and Ken Mehlman, as detailed in the movie, “Outrage,” the homophobia serves as a mechanism to allow them to compartmentalize what they consider their unacceptable side of themselves. They end up being these horrendous “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” caricatures until they are forced to integrate their personalities. Unfortunately, for them, it usually takes some horrible publicized example of acting out or the public humiliation of being outed for them to finally come to terms with themselves. Then, surprise, many times they become big advocates for equality and civil rights for LGBT Americans. In the meantime, the damage done to both themselves and our community is immense.

ATLANTA — The prominent pastor of a 25,000-member megachurch outside Atlanta denies allegations in a lawsuit that he coerced two young men from the congregation into a sexual relationship, his attorney said.

Lawyers for the men, now 20 and 21, say they filed the lawsuit Tuesday in DeKalb County Court against Bishop Eddie Long. The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they were victims of sexual impropriety.

The men were 17- and 18-year-old members of Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, when they say Long abused his spiritual authority to seduce them with cars, money, clothes, jewelry, international trips and access to celebrities.

The Christian Science Monitor asks a good question, and that is will this case finally alter the black church’s view of gays? Will Obama take note and evolve, as well, since this is another one of those issues where, supposedly, “God is in the mix?”




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Caster Semenya Sets Best Post-Gender Scandal Time

South African track star Caster Semenya, 19, scored her best time yet since returning to competition after last year's gender scandal, winning the 800 meter race at the Notturna di Milano with a 1:56.16 time. It's her last race before the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. Not that the controversy has subsided.

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—  John Wright