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

‘Bedpost Confessions’ tonight at The Kessler

‘Bedpost Confessions’ moves sex talk from the closet into Oak Cliff

What would you do if your friend admitted to  being a prostitute? Or if your sister talked about having sex outside of her marriage with a 21-year-old virgin? Sexual talk outside of the bedroom can still be taboo, even in today’s desensitized world of fast hookups and Showtime melodramas. Bring up intercourse (or something far more intense), and most people will cringe or shy away.

Tonight, it all comes out. The Austin-based stage show Bedpost Confessions features performers talking up their sexual adventures out loud all in good fun. Trying to break away from the taboo of talking about sex, co-founder Sadie Smythe and company bring their show to Dallas. Local writer and Dallas Voice contributor Jenny Block, pictured, gets in on the action which makes perfect sense. As the author of Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage, she’ll have ideal material for the night.

Her thoughts on tonight’s show.

“It’s just sex. It’s supposed to be this happy, fun, sometimes even spiritual experience. It’s all gotten so twisted and tangled when really it should be so simple. Consenting adults doing something that our bodies were built to do. But somewhere along the line, people got confused. Outwardly we are this over-sexed society. But behind closed doors we don’t talk to our kids, we don’t communicate with our partners, and we’re lost when it comes to all things sex. The funny thing is, the fix is an easy one. We have to talk to one another and to our kids and to our partners. We have to strangle the taboo. We could have solved all of the world’s ills by now if we stopped worrying so much about such a natural thing and started putting our brain power to better use.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Block will also be signing copies of her book after the show. Along with Block, Smythe and the other performers, the audience gets to play as they are encouraged to write their sexual confessions to be read aloud. Don’t worry, it’s all anonymous. Read the original article here.

DEETS:


—  Rich Lopez

Starvoice • 06.17.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Meredith Baxter turns 64 on Tuesday. For most of the ’80s, Baxter played Elyse Keaton on Family Ties. She’s mostly been seen in TV films and guest-starring roles. In an interview with Matt Lauer on Today back in 2009, she came out of the closet as lesbian. Her memoir Untied was released this past March.

THIS WEEK

For the next few months we get a taste of the Uranus-Pluto square that will dominate the next five years. Recent political turmoil has just been the set-up for major crises and changes ahead. Astrologically it looks a lot like 1848, 1939 and the ‘60s. Buckle your seatbelts; it’s gonna get bumpy.

………………….

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
As dystopian as the future looks, you’ll find a way to thrive. Trust your instincts and reconsider the most important lessons you learned from your mother. Talking with siblings can clarify that.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
Frustrations in love and career are too big to solve by yourself. Fortunately you have some very wise and resourceful friends. As odd as their ideas may seem, they will likely help.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
It’s easy to worry yourself sick. Arguments make it worse. Focus on your career. Working through sexual issues is healing. Quiet time alone gives you space to think about what you need to do.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Sharing your innermost thoughts will open up ideas for creative fun. On the way, you open up some difficult childhood memories. Resolving an ugly past can clear the way for a better future.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
Your home and partnership are heading for big changes. Be generous and comforting in bed. Family commitments need to change. Be clear on what those are. Be adaptive at work.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
Obsessing on details leads to accidents and misunderstandings. Don’t neglect the important details; just keep it all in perspective. Your partner’s advice and practical support will prove helpful.

SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
Now’s the time to find a job you enjoy. Channeling your sexual charisma into the job search is helpful, but if you already like your work that charisma can go back to what it does best.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Trying to manage your family or community will backfire. Focus on having fun. If you’re looking for love, play at being moody, broody and intense; but remember, you’re playing.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Conversations open up deep psychological insights. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your family, no matter how odd. Releasing old tensions could have surprising health benefits.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Reality is challenging your values and your plans, but that’s life. Adaptability and a sense of humor will help you stay true to your core while everything else goes crazy.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Be very sure that your career is in line with your ambitions. Being unhappy on your job track will get you derailed. Contempt for authority is well-deserved but pick your battles strategically.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
“Bad religion” is a subjective experience. Focus on your own personal beliefs; know where you find clarity, support and reassurance. Respect others’ paths while finding your own.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

My self-assessment after reading the Glamour survey on women and “I hate my body” thoughts

Glamour breathlessly announced findings in its survey on body image and I’m not sure what there is to be stunned about – women are bombarded 24/7 with images of idealized bodies that don’t reflect the reality of the average woman’s size, shape, fitness level (or color for that matter):

Read these words: “You are a fat, worthless pig.” “You’re too thin. No man is ever going to want you.” “Ugly. Big. Gross.” Horrifying comments on some awful website? The rant of an abusive, controlling boyfriend? No; shockingly, these are the actual words young women are saying to themselves on any typical day. For some, such thoughts are fleeting, but for others, this dialogue plays on a constant, punishing loop, according to a new exclusive Glamour survey of more than 300 women of all sizes. Our research found that, on average, women have 13 negative body thoughts daily-nearly one for every waking hour. And a disturbing number of women confess to having 35, 50 or even 100 hateful thoughts about their own shapes each day.

…”That is a lot, yet I’m not totally surprised,” says Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., a Cincinnati psychologist who specializes in body image and helped Glamour design the survey. “It’s become such an accepted norm to put yourself down that if someone says she likes her body, she’s the odd woman out. I was in a group discussion recently, and when one woman said, ‘I actually feel OK about the way I look,’ another woman scrunched up her face and said, ‘I have never in my whole life heard anyone say that-and I’m not sure I even believe you.’ That’s how pervasive this negative body talk is. It’s actually more acceptable to insult your body than to praise it.”

And we seem to be well aware of how hard we are on ourselves. Nearly 63 percent of Glamour’s survey respondents said they had roughly the same number of negative thoughts as they expected. But few realized how venomous those thoughts were until they were down on paper. So how has this become OK?

Our unattainable cultural beauty ideals, our celebrity worship-those all play a part, says Kearney-Cooke. But another big reason is that we’ve actually trained ourselves to be this way. “Neuroscience has shown that whatever you focus on shapes your brain. If you’re constantly thinking negative thoughts about your body, that neural pathway becomes stronger-and those thoughts become habitual,” she explains. “Imagine a concert pianist. Her brain would have stronger neural pathways that support musicality and dexterity than someone who hadn’t spent her life practicing.”

OK, so it’s our broken brains that we’ve trained to cycle in these self-loathing thoughts. You can read the rest of the article for more; I was just dropping this in as a topic. I’m sure that the level of harsh self-evaluation, particularly when it comes to gay men, may be disproportionally high, given all the hardbodies you see in magazines directed at that demo. Some of the actual comments by survey participants are truly vile:

  • “Fat-ass. Lazy bitch. I hate my thighs. I hate my stomach. I hate my arms.”
  • “Your stomach is fat. That is why you are alone.”
  • “I can’t imagine anyone wanting to have sex with this.”
  • “Huge legs, fat stomach, not pretty enough to attract anyone, ugly in comparison to others.”
  • “I look disgusting with my cottage cheese legs and stretch-mark hips. Nasty. No one would want to touch me.”

I’m racking my brain to think about how often I do this each day. I’ve inherited my mom’s side of the family when it comes to over-ample boobage and I’ve accepted “the girls” for what they are. My legs are short and muscular, I’ve accepted those. Honestly, I only think about where I express self-criticism is when getting dressed, usually on the problem areas for my apple-shape – abdomen, arms. I don’t carry it in my hips.

The hysterectomy, which causes “swelly belly” for some women, makes it uncomfortable to wear jeans (and it does for me), so it sort of exacerbated my issues on that front.

My operation also made me realize why a lot of women in midlife choose the often fashionista-decried “mommy jeans” that sit just above your natural waist, or those with elasticized backs (or now, jeggings) – many have had reproductive issues — hysterectomies, cancer, even multiple caesareans that make wearing low-slung tight jeans a thing of the past. Yet women who choose some level of comfort out of necessity are made to feel undesireable or the butt of jokes as a fashion outlier.

Anyway, from my POV I know I can be stylish and not a size 0, and choose things that flatter. Now whether anyone laughs at me or considers me “less-than” in terms of attractiveness – I can’t change what someone who doesn’t even know me thinks about whether I qualify for their personal beauty standard. But you do really have to figure out how to deal with your own internal critic first.

It seems like step 1 for some women would be to throw out all of the magazines idolizing the unrealistic standard.

Q of the day: So how often do you have self-critical thoughts about your body/body image?
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  David Taffet

Thoughts on DADT’s demise

I have a piece at The American Prospect about the demise of “don’t ask, don’t tell”:

For all the sad stories of gay service members who’ve been victims of this institutionalized discrimination, the fight over DADT has been about more than just gays in the military (who, by some estimates, already make up 2 percent of active service members). The true fight has been about what it means to say, “I am gay” — whether the affirmation is cause for social — and in the military, literal — ostracism and exclusion or whether it’s a neutral means of describing yourself. As with the fight over the term “marriage” — which is what was at stake in the Prop. 8 battle in California — the ability to say you’re gay without reprisal is really about the normalization of homosexuality.

As Judge Virginia Phillips noted in striking down the law this past September, for all the talk about “homosexual behavior” and the comfort of straight soldiers, DADT was always primarily a restriction on speech. In a sense, this is what made DADT such an abhorrent and fundamental assault on individual freedom: Like being forbidden to speak your own name, it denied gay people the simple right to identify themselves. As queer theorist Judith Butler pointed out in a well-known 1997 essay, the 1993 law was primarily concerned with giving others extensive guidelines for determining who counts as gay, “a homosexual is one whose definition is to be left to others, one who is denied the act of self-definition with respect to his or her sexuality, one whose self-denial is a prerequisite for military service.” …

When the president signs the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” today, it will strip anti-gay prejudice of the state’s imprimatur, allowing culture to happen where it usually does — in the everyday interactions between people who are very different, sometimes radically so, but still call themselves Americans. Allowing service members to know their gay colleagues is so threatening to religious conservatives because, as studies have shown, actually knowing a gay person is the best predictor of how one views homosexuality. Once service members can utter the words “I am gay” without an official state sanction, the culture-war battle has largely been won.

I’d be curious to hear what AMERICAblog Gay readers think of this analysis. I’ve always thought the most damaging thing about “don’t ask, don’t tell” was that it prevented straight soldiers from actually knowing one of the colleagues they knew and respected was gay — in other words, facing the fact that their prejudices and stereotypes about gay people weren’t true. As I’ve said before, DADT not only perpetuated anti-gay prejudice, it withheld the antidote.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Sending good thoughts to Dan Choi

Dan Choi wrote to Pam Spaulding and Rex Wockner yesterday to let them know he’s currently getting treatment at the Brockton MA Veterans Hospital.

The Blend’s post, with the letter and some excellent commentary from other service members, is here.

Dan is a friend and I have enormous respect for him. He’s been through a lot over the past year and a half — and let’s not forget the time that Dan, the Arab linguist, spent on the front lines in Iraq during 2006 and 2007. He’s played a key role in getting the DADT repeal effort on to the radar screen of elected officials, advocacy groups and the traditional media.

We’re sending good thoughts Dan’s way. He’s put himself on the line for all of us — both while serving in the military and by leading the DADT protests.

It would be a really good time for Harry Reid to get that standalone DADT bill passed so he can return Dan’s West Point ring to him.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Mike Signorile takes on ‘the love’ of a ‘Christian’ and his thoughts on gay suicides

I don’t know how Mike Signorile is able to handle some of the hateful people who call in to spout not only ignorance, but have no empathy for LGBTs who encounter discrimination, bullying, and physical attacks. Here’s an example of the latest “Christian” caller. Gee, what would their Jesus do?

The hate coming from the pulpits of most faiths cannot be denied as a factor in these suicides, and in gay-bashings. But many Christians don’t want to believe that, even as they condemn homosexuality. One of them, James from Louisiana, a self-described Christian, called in to say that it was wrong to point the finger at the churches even though he does people homosexuals are going to hell. I was not in the mood for this crap, not today.


Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright