We often turn a blind eye to the people who are committing sexual violence and the places where it is being done because we believe “good” men/women, the people we know and worship with and who we live next door to, and entrust our children with, [they] don’t do such evil things and certainly not in good places like our churches. Remember the Sunday School teacher in Tracy, California Melissa Huckabee, a minister’s daughter, who was charged with kidnapping, drugging, sexually assaulting, and killing eight year old Sandra Cantu in 2009. And of course there are the many other church (and nonchurch) scandals~ one of the latest and more well publicized being that surrounding Bishop Eddie Long. “Good” men and women, Godfearing and other fearing, Christian and of other religions do bad things, including committing sexual assault against children. Human beings are capable of doing good and evil.
April was sexual violence awareness month. It was going to be my coming out month, publicly. But I got side-tracked by work and life. Now I am back. I was molested at about the age of 7 or 8. I was molested by a man most people considered to be a “good man.” He was a well-respected deacon in a Baptist church in Columbus, Ohio. He and his wife sat on the front row every Sunday. He was my grandfather who died in the late 60’s. His wife was the only grandmother I knew; she was not my mother’s mother. My mother’s mother died when my mother was a very young child. Her father, my grandfather, did not raise his children; his parents did. My mother’s youngest sister Betty told her siblings that their father had raped her. But nobody believed her. I remember the talk about it. And as I heard the talk I knew in my heart she was not lying, but as a child I could not say so. I could only sympathize with my aunt Betty in silence. I loved my grandfather simply because he was my grandfather and people respected him and my grandmother. He carried himself with dignity, as much as a young child could know about dignity. He was the only male figure in our lives. My mother separated from my father when we were very young because he had a drinking problem. My father was a good man, my mother told us, but she would not raise her children in that environment. But another “good man” was allowed to be present from time to time and he would harm her child.
My mother was sickly as a child and as an adult. As a child, doctors told her she would not live past the age of twenty-seven; but she was 80 when she died. When my mother was in the hospital, my grandmother and grandfather would sometimes babysit for us. When they couldn’t, Ms. Martha would (she was mean to me and often ridiculed me for being lighter than my siblings; another something I had no control over). My mother had to trust somebody with her children while she was in the hospital. People were always trying to get her to put us in a home for orphaned children. She assumed these church-going folks, her father and his wife and Ms. Martha, were good folks and they would not harm her children. “Good folks” are capable of harming children, of violating them sexually and non-sexually. When God established sacrifices for sins, according to the Bible, they included offerings for sins and God did not exempt the priests. God knew even the priests would sin. So do not turn a blind eye or ear to what may be going on around you or to a child’s cry for help because you believe that the “good” men and women you know are not capable of doing such horrible things. Even Jesus once refused to claim inherent goodness for himself as a human being proclaiming that “None but God is good” (Luke 18:19). I’m not advocating that we trust no one or that we cast suspicion on everyone. I am suggesting that we listen to our children; that we maintain healthy boundaries; that we do all in our power to know to whom we are entrusting our children; that we remember that “good” people do fall, sin, and violate children; that we reserve blind faith for God
In Part 2 of my coming out I will talk about the silence; it is not a virtue in this case.