Sexual predators and others who prey on vulnerable people are gamblers. If they feel assured of invincibility, they will victimize; if the victim will talk or they will be found out some other way and punished, they will not.
This is why it is critical for not only victims, but also those around them, to investigate and report suspected sexual abuse or harassment as soon as there is reason to believe there is a problem.
Of course, a legally mandated reporter must report whenever “financial, physical, sexual or other types of abuse has been observed or is suspected, or when there is evidence of neglect, knowledge of an incident, or an imminent risk of serious harm.”
And the community – including the family, social organizations, religious and political institutions, the media, the workplace and the courts - must step up to provide justice and support for victims. Not to mention that harassers must be removed from the populations they seek to harm.
“It Was Easy” - Silencing In The Youth Group Community
Boy Scout leader Rick Turley started molesting boys in 1979 and embarked on a nearly twenty-year “career” of pedophilia that claimed “at least” 15 children. “It was easy,” he said, noting that he was “surprised” that he actually got away with it as much as he did.
But Turley should not have been surprised, because child molesting is bad for the reputation of the Boy Scouts. “You do not want to broadcast to the entire population that these things happen,” former scouting executive A. Buford Hill told the Associated Press. “You take care of it quietly and make sure it never happens again.”
Riots at Penn State - Silencing In The Youth Athletic Community
Except that things haven’t worked out quite that way in reality.
Even after revelations that “legendary” Penn State football coach Joe Paterno did nothing to protect children from his assistant Larry Sandusky – after being told that a staffer saw Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy in a shower – let alone allegations of a 13-year scandal of a rampant pedophile, enabled and protected by Penn State with continued access to children - the students rioted in the streets in support of Paterno!
This is what victims, or even potential victims, face when they contemplate speaking out.
“Just Tell Your Father To Stop” – Silencing in the Religious Community
As a child in school I once had a Hebrew teacher who gave me “the creeps.” While it is not true that there is a “typical” type of sex offender, they are all “manipulative, deceptive, and secretive” and this person, though he tried to seem likable, scared me.
I told my parents and sure enough, when my father “asked around” he learned that the rabbi had a reputation in the community for “liking little girls.” Unfortunately that reputation was not enough to stop him from working around children. Although he was ultimately fired for slapping another student roundly across the face, I suffered the consequences of reporting a legitimate suspicion. Not only was the “solution” that I was skipped up a grade, but the next year I left the school as well.
Today the Agudath Israel of America, the authoritative umbrella organization for ultra-Orthodox Jews, has come out forcefully in favor of reporting “where there is reason to believe” abuse is occurring, stating that no religious excuse can be made for failure to do so. Yet it is not unfamiliar for even revered rabbis to say things like, “tell your father to stop” when the abuse is too subtle to be considered legitimate in their eyes.
Abuse like this happens in every religious community, including the Church, the Muslim community, the Buddhist community, and so on. Where there are people, there are predators. But the victims are re-victimized when their suffering is swept under the rug.
“You Grieve, You Leave” – Silencing In The Workplace
The workplace is no haven from sexual abuse, except there it is called “harassment” because the predator usually tries to coerce the victim rather than literally force them into submission. One sociologist has found, that as many as 70% of women and 45% of men have been sexually harassed at work. And there, too, victims are regularly silenced.
They know that, in effect, “you grieve, you leave.”
One study of more than 6,400 military personnel found that “reporting did not improve--and at times worsened--job, psychological, and health outcomes,” as victims found that justice was not to be found within the organization. Rather, their experiences were minimized and they experienced retaliation rather than remedy.
“Think Twice Before You Accuse” – Silencing Alleged Victims of Herman Cain
Retaliation clearly occurred when Sharon Bialek and Karen Kraushaar came forward (and Ms. Kraushaar’s name was outed) to describe their experiences with Mr. Cain, they immediately found themselves on the receiving end of an onslaught of attacks.
Ms. Kraushaar had sought a joint press conference so that the collective experience of the women who have stepped forward could be aired transparently. However, as the other women are not talking, she has retreated for now from that pursuit.
So if Cain took a gamble, it seems to be paying off.
Previously on November 8, the Herman Cain Political Action Committee website published a post, which has since been removed, with the headline “Herman Cain accuser Karen Kraushaar works for Obama and she’s ugly.” The same post reportedly called Bialek a “fat bitch.” (Although the post has been removed, the URL and headline regarding Kraushaar remains.)
Of course, harassment has nothing to do with looks and everything to do with the abuse of power.
This in addition to a full-fledged smear campaign that includes language from Clear Channel radio host Rush Limbaugh and suggestions from political commentator Dick Morris that are so offensive I will not republish them. One thing I can republish is that Limbaugh called Kraushaar’s son, who had urged her to come forward, a “Nazi ‘brownshirt.’”
And of course the obligatory digging up of “dirt” that includes accusations of “gold-digging” by both named complainants. Bialek, a single mother, has a “troubled” financial record (as do many people these days), and Kraushaar filed a complaint with a later employer that included a request for financial compensation. The complaint included mention of an email from a supervisor that I would have found offensive as well. (As far as Kraushaar, she herself called her later complaint “relatively minor,” which it does seem to be, and she ultimately did not pursue it.)
Attorney Debra Katz stated that Bialek’s accusation is more accurately described as “sexual battery.” Whether you believe her or not (one private investigator claims Cain is more likely telling the truth, and I found her less than credible on her CNN interview, the fact that there are five complainants, at least three of them disconnected, across a span of approximately twelve years – and several more witnessed incidents – lend credence to the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” theory.
If Cain were the gentleman he presents himself to be (“I have never acted inappropriately with anyone,”) he could simply have sued Bialek for defaming his character. Justin Bieber was accused of fathering a baby and, according to People magazine, is both taking a paternity test and “likely” suing the accuser.
As the New York University Proceedings of the 60th Annual Conference on Labor noted, “At the same time that retaliation preys on the most vulnerable persons in institutions, it simultaneously magnifies the power of high-status persons to engage in discrimination.”
“Shock, Confusion, Helplessness, Anger, Shame” - Silencing In Childhood
Undoubtedly many of the same people who have experienced workplace harassment have experienced childhood sexual abuse – from a football coach, religious teacher, youth group leader, acquaintance, parent, sibling, or someone else as well.
Although figures are not definitive (because victims don’t tell and/or neither do the adults who know about it), expert estimates range from 8-20% of all children, and retrospective studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control estimate that about 25% of women and 17% of men.
Sexual assault victims deal with a host of psychological reactions including “shock, confusion, helplessness, anger, shame, terror, confusion, or numbness…may deny or minimize the experience…flashbacks and nightmares….avoidance (physical or psychological and including)….repression, denial, minimizing, withdrawal, or engaging in high-risk behaviors such as substance use….depression and anxiety.”
If you suspect or know about abuse taking place of any kind, first make sure that you and/or the victim are physically safe. But then, as soon as you can, report it. And if you know someone who has been victimized, offer them as much support as you can, whatever they choose to do. Together, the community of decent people can stop the human predators who seek to satisfy their darkest impulses at the expense of an army of innocent souls.
Note: Permission is granted to republish with attribution.