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

DPD says Club Dallas complaint came from ‘citizen,’ no arrests made in private rooms

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.
Laura Martin

Laura Martin, the Dallas Police Department’s liaison officer to the gay community, just forwarded a statement from DPD’s vice unit that provides additional information about a controversial Oct. 8 raid of The Club Dallas that resulted in 11 arrests. The statement from the vice unit apparently seeks to dispel some of the conspiracy theories that have arisen about the raid of the gay bathhouse in Deep Ellum, including that it was designed to shut down the business to make way for redevelopment around a DART rail station, and that it was orchestrated for political purposes less than a month before an election.

The statement from DPD’s vice unit says the department received a complaint from “a citizen” related to The Club Dallas on Oct. 5, three days before the raid. “The citizen stated that the management was renting out rooms for the viewing of adult movies and use as motel rooms,” according to the statement. “The rooms were allegedly being used for sexual activities.” Martin has said that when the vice unit receives a complaint, they are bound to respond in the same way that patrol officers must respond to 911 calls.

The statement doesn’t specifically say whether the citizen was a Club Dallas member, and Martin declined to confirm this. However, given the details in the complaint about what was going on inside the club, a reasonable person might conclude that it came from a member.

Also of note in the statement, the vice unit points out that none of the arrests were made in private rooms at The Club Dallas. In other words, even though the complaint related to the use of those rooms, undercover officers who bought day memberships to the club didn’t have to take their investigation that far: “Officers observed a large number of individuals engaging in sexual activity. These acts were occurring in the public areas of the spa, which include the pool area, hallway, and other common areas.”

Dallas Voice has filed a Freedom of Information request for all records related to the raid. Among other things, the Police Department has only released reports related to three of the 11 people who were arrested.

Anyhow, here’s the full statement from DPD’s vice unit, which came across late Wednesday morning:

On October 5, 2010, the Vice Unit received a complaint from a citizen regarding an alleged sexually oriented business violation at 2616 Swiss Avenue. The citizen stated that the management was renting out rooms for the viewing of adult movies and use as motel rooms. The rooms were allegedly being used for sexual activities.

On October 8, 2010, undercover officers entered the location to investigate the allegations articulated in the citizen complaint. Officers purchased a day membership and entered the location. Officers observed a large number of individuals engaging in sexual activity. These acts were occurring in the public areas of the spa, which include the pool area, hallway, and other common areas.

Ten arrests were made for the Texas Penal Code violations of Public Lewdness and Indecent Exposure. These acts were occurring in a public place. Arrests were not made for the acts taking place in the private rooms. One arrest was made for Interference with Public Duties, Peace Officer, when the manager refused admittance to uniformed police officers responding to assist the undercover officers.

As a result of the investigation it was determined the allegations made in the citizen’s complaint were accurate. There has been no vice investigative activity or complaints received at this location in several years.

The Dallas Police Department is charged with the duty of investigating, enforcing, and responding to citizen complaints regarding sexually oriented businesses throughout the city. The Vice Unit is committed to being responsive to community concerns and thus, conducts its investigations in an equitable and just manner.

—  John Wright

Campus Pride calls for expulsion of 2 Rutgers students for invading Tyler Clementi’s privacy

Tyler Clementi

Campus Pride, an organization of college student leaders and organizations, is calling for the expulsion of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei from Rutgers University for their invasion of privacy that led to the suicide of Tyler Clementi.

In an e-mail to Dallas Voice, the group wrote, “Now is the time to act decisively and send a clear message at Rutgers and at colleges across the country that LGBT harassment and hate will not be tolerated any longer.”

The group said the Rutgers University Code of Student Conduct prohibits “making or attempting to make an audio or video recording of any person(s) on University premises in bathrooms, showers, bedrooms, or other premises where there is an expectation of privacy with respect to nudity and/or sexual activity, without the knowledge and consent of all participants subject to such recordings.”

“Ravi and Wei acted maliciously to secretly tape Tyler Clementi, even posting comments to encourage others to ‘video chat’ and watch. This is an egregious act of invasion of privacy. Both students should be expelled. Period,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director and founder of Campus Pride.

Campus Pride recently issued a report titled, “2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People.” In its survey of more than 5,000 people, Campus Pride found that 23 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning staff, faculty, and students reported experiencing harassment. Among transgender students, faculty and staff, 39 percent reported harassment. The study is available on the website.

—  David Taffet

Online Extra: St. Vincent’s dean defends decision to reject lesbian couple’s daughter

Ryan Reed

In this week’s print edition you’ll find a full story on the lesbian couple from Bedford whose 4-year-old daughter was recently denied admission to a local preschool, St. Vincent’s Cathedral School, because she has two mommies. We also wanted to share the full text of responses to our questions that we received via e-mail from Ryan Reed, the dean of St. Vincent’s. Here they are:

DV: Why was Olivia Harrison denied admission to St. Vincent?
Dean Ryan Reed: When we met with Jill and learned of her family situation, we told her that the values taught at the school were in conflict with those at home. We thought this might put Olivia in a very conflicted situation to which Jill agreed. We don’t dispute God’s love for this family just that one of the basic Christian values that we subscribe to is sexual activity inside a faithful, lifelong relationship between a husband and wife. As best we could ascertain, this was not something that Jill was in agreement about.

DV: Why did the school fail to notice in more than two months that Jill Harrison had crossed out father and put mother on the application, and written in the name of her wife, Tracy Harrison?
Reed: When the admissions officer saw the changes on the application, she made 4 or 5 phone calls and sent at least one email asking for clarification, none of which were returned. We don’t have documentation of the phone calls but we do for the email.

DV: Why is the school continuing to use the name Episcopal even though it is no longer affiliated with the Episcopal Church USA?
Reed: This is obviously the confusing issue but far less emotional then having to say this family would not be a good fit. St. Vincent’s is part of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort, which is a corporation in the state of Texas run by a board of trustees. This diocese and this corporation voted to withdraw our voluntary association with the Episcopal Church USA and associate with a different province of the Anglican Communion (of which TEC is but one) but that did not change the fact that this is an Episcopal Diocese, governed by a Bishop using the Book of Common Prayer. This messy issue is what is at dispute in the Texas Court System right now. TEC does not own the term Episcopal. There is in this country the Charismatic Episcopal Church for example or in other places the Scottish Episcopal Church. In conversation, I refer to myself as an Anglican but until the lawsuit is settled we are still the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, “province of the Southern Cone” (which is part of South America).

DV: Is it true that St. Vincent would allow Olivia Harrison to attend the school if she were a single, unmarried lesbian?
Reed: Yes. Our handbook asks our parents and requires our staff to abide by basic Christian values. That means abstinence or sexual activity confined to marriage. We have been consistent with this policy in that an unmarried teacher became pregnant and was dismissed. Likewise, we turned away two men with a daughter two years ago, and like the Harrison’s, referred them to a school where they would be more comfortable and their relationship accepted. (They are doing quite well there by the way). We have banned a husband from the school who left his wife for another women. The child stayed with the mother in this case and was not asked to leave.

We are simply asking people to strive toward the traditional Christian teaching in matters of how we live our lives. We don’t follow people around if they are single and dating to make sure the date stops at the front door. We don’t monitor what husband and wives are doing. But if something becomes public, we try to handle it in a pastoral and private way. By nature, Jill and Tracey’s relationship is very public.

We recognize that every parent who comes here is by nature prone to sin. We simply ask that they attempt to live by basic Christian values. In this case, the Harrison’s relationship was by nature in opposition to this belief and it is by nature a requirement that they cannot meet.

DV: How do you justify punishing a 4-year-old girl for who her parents are?
Reed: Back to the first answer. Because this young girl would likely hear Christian teaching on marriage at St. Vincent’s as well as the struggle that we all have with sin, she might be put in a place where she questioned not only the values of her mother but her moral authority as well. Olivia would certainly find herself in conflict with most of classmates when it comes to this very tough subject. We would not want this to happen to Jill, Tracey, or Olivia. It seems far from punishment to me, in fact, it seems more loving to refer them to a school that can accommodate their family situation rather than put her in a situation where the moral legitimacy (and still in Texas the legal legitimacy) of her mom’s relationship is called into question.

One final thought: I am not the pastor of the school parents which ties my hands a little.  In the congregation, where I am pastor, we have a loving community of sinners who are all working through their walk with God. We have, and have had, gays and lesbians, both couples and singles. Without singling them out, they have been asked to wrestle alongside the rest of us with the fact that they are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. Trying to conform our lives and our relationships with God’s will for us is done in a private and pastoral way.

—  John Wright

‘Pro-family activist’ calls on Obama to close bathhouses to stop the spread of AIDS

Welcome to 1985. That’s what it seems like if you listen to “pro-family activist” Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality. LaBarbera is calling on President Obama to shut down the gay bathhouses to stop the spread of AIDS.

OneNewsNow, a “Christian” news media outlet, ran this story Wednesday on LaBarbera’s reaction to the International AIDS Conference held last week in Vienna, Austria:

Peter LaBarbera

“At last week’s International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, the Obama administration pledged the support of the U.S. in the global fight against AIDS. But one pro-family activist points out that an important aspect is missing from the undertaking.

“Both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made prerecorded speeches at the close of the conference, committing the nation’s dedication to fight the disease. However, one key factor seemed to be absent from the rhetoric, says a prominent pro-family activist.

“‘It’s not a big mystery about what helps cause AIDS, and yet one key portion — homosexual practice, homosexual sex — is just off the table,’ notes Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH). ‘And then we wonder why we can’t keep this disease in check.’

“He compares this issue to the Wizard of Oz or the emperor who has no clothes. ‘There’s a lot of talk about fighting AIDS, but they’re not really serious about one of the key causes, which is homosexual behavior,’ he laments.

“Instead, LaBarbera says, President Obama promotes it. He wishes the president would take serious action to combat the disease — like shutting down homosexual bathhouses.

“‘Bathhouses are places where men can go practice this dangerous sexual activity in secret,’ the AFTAH president explains. ‘They can bring it home. If they’re bisexual, they can bring it back to their wife or their girlfriend and be the conduit for AIDS into the heterosexual community.’

“Based on the fact that the Obama administration has avoided the issue, the pro-family activist concludes that it is politically incorrect to talk about the dangers of homosexual behavior.”

OK, so once I wiped the tears of hysterical laughter from my eyes, I read this again and realized just how NOT funny it really is. Not funny for so many, many reasons.

First of all, this guy is trying to take us back to the dark ages of the AIDS epidemic, when fear and misinformation ruled.

I mean, c’mon, “homosexual behavior” does not CAUSE AIDS. Yes, HIV can be transmitted through sexual contact, whether it be homosexual or heterosexual sexual contact. But there is a big difference in means of transmission and cause. AIDS is CAUSED by a virus. And guess what, that virus does not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

And the reason we can’t “keep this disease in check” is because of people like LaBarbera and his ilk who are spreading hate and lies and misinformation. I mean, how many men actually believe this guy and think they won’t get AIDS as long as they never have sex with another guy?! THAT’s what adds to the spread of the virus.

I just want to make sure that Ol’ Pete knows HIV is already spreading like wildfire through the hetero community, and has been for years, and it is because of people like him who spout this kind of shit instead of actually paying attention to science and fact and reality.

We need to stop letting LaBarbera and others of his ilk get away with their crap about “the dangers of homosexual behavior” and we need to start talking even more about the very real dangers of stupidity. And of hate. And of shame. And of lies. LaBarbera and others like him are so full of hatred or self-hate or whatever, that they are putting lives at risk with their stupidity. We can’t stop them from talking, but we do have to call them on their lies.

So hey, Pete. I’m calling bullshit. You want to hate LGBT people, that’s fine. That’s your right. But your stupidity on AIDS/HIV is putting lives at risk. So either learn the facts or shut the hell up.

—  admin