There’s something about the sexual exploitation of children that pushes a denial button. Too often friends, family, and associates of both the perpetrators and the victims avoid acknowledging the truth. Of course the perpetrators don’t want to admit to what they’ve done, but often the victims lock their victimization into the darkest corners of their minds and never speak of it, either. I don’t know why this is true, yet it happens time and time again.
We might be shocked that the Catholic Church covered up the pedophilia of some priests rather than deal honestly with it, but the same behavior can be found in families and any other group where adults and children form relationships. Nearly always the first reaction to evidence of sexual abuse is to pretend it isn’t happening. And even when there’s an acknowledgment it might be happening, the next reaction is to protect the perpetrator. People like to believe they would protect the child, but when confronted with reality they often hesitate to do so. This may be because they sincerely like the perpetrator and can’t believe he is some kind of predatory monster. Cognitive dissonance wins out over taking action to protect the child.
We’ve learned that Speaker Dennis Hastert was told of of allegations against Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) of improper contact with a young male page, which contradicts what Hastert said yesterday. Today Hastert and other Republican leaders are full of thundering indignation about Foley’s alleged acts. The lawmaker who oversees the page program says he knew about Foley’s “funny” emails a year ago. This fellow claims he “took immediate action,” even though the action seems to have had no effect or follow up. And in spite of all the thundering indignation, Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio blocked a vote on a resolution offered by Nancy Pelosi “asking the House Ethics Committee to begin a preliminary investigation into Foley’s conduct and the GOP leadership’s response to it,” says CNN.
I sincerely hope that Foley’s conduct amounted only to inappropriate emails. Whatever it was he might have done, however, we’re likely to find out that lots of people either knew or suspected Foley’s behavior was inappropriate, yet they couldn’t bring themselves to confront him. Or if they did speak to him, they still covered up for him. This isn’t a Republican thing, it’s a human thing.
Today there’s considerable rib-nudging activity on the Left. As much as we all like to see hypocrisy outed, this isn’t something to joke about. Some on the Right are facing up to what happened, but others sniff about a setup or engage in some weird denial of the denials. I suggest it would be more helpful if everyone resolved to notice, acknowledge, and act upon inappropriate behavior between adults and children and not ignore it or cover it up. This doesn’t mean engaging in vigilante witch hunts; just stop the denial.
Update: Could somebody explain to Don Surber that sexual exploitation of a minor is not equivalent to alleged sexual harassment of an adult?
Ex-New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey made life hell for Golan Cipel, who became the object of his unwanted attention. Like Foley, McGreevey resigned. But unlike Foley, McGreevey’s resignation was timed to allow a Democratic successor without an election; looks like Republicans will lose Foley’s seat.
And unlike Foley’s target, Cipel was not a minor. Far from it.
Is Surber implying that, since Cipel was not a minor, what McGreevey allegedly did was worse (note that Mr. Cipel’s claims are uncorroborated)? How weird. I’m not saying either one is OK, but they are hardly equivalent. Adults don’t sustain the same kind of emotional and psychological damage and ought to be able to stand up for themselves better than a child can.
Also, I’m not aware that other Democrats in New Jersey had any idea that Mr. Cipel was feeling victimized until McGreevey spoke out about it, meaning that the New Jersey Democratic Party was not covering up for McGreevey. (I could be mistaken on that point; let me know if I am.)
I’d also like to point out to Mr. Surber and the other righties who are whining about a “setup” that had other Republicans in Congress dealt forthrightly with this matter a year ago, when they found out about it, it wouldn’t be coming up six weeks before an election.
Don’t blame the Dems for this mess, dude.
Update update: See John Nichols at The Nation for a different perspective.