Saturday, January 01, 2005

Our myopia contributes to the sexual abuse of children


At 6:29 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Our myopia contributes to sex abuse of children
By Michele Landsberg Toronto Star
The Toronto Star
January 18, 1997

On which mountain-top are these judges living? A man who preys on little girls may have hidden his deeds from the public gaze, but, once convicted, is his record still "unblemished"? Are other children at no possible risk from him?

The sexual assault of children is a crime of power and opportunity. Once an adult - and one in a position of trust with children - has breached the barrier and seized an opportunity to molest, all the evidence shows that he is more likely to re-offend than not. It's disturbing to think that judges could be so quick to smooth over the danger that may be masked by a middle-class veneer.

It's just this glossy armor of respectability that lets sexual predators triumph over and over again.

On the one hand, the whole country is gagging and choking with fury about Graham James, the hockey coach who pleaded guilty to two counts of sexually abusing young hockey players. So far as I can tell, sports fans are enjoying a highly pleasurable paroxysm of rage and disgust against pedophiles. On the Internet, they're vying with each other for the most snarling, over- the-top maledictions.

On the other hand, while all this sound and fury is going on, most of the commentators are rushing to limit the damage.

"I sure hope this doesn't rub off on all coaches," one nervous coach told a radio reporter, and his self-concern was echoed on every side. Worst of all were the parents: one woman on Morningside practically swooned about the "outstanding" types who coach hockey, insisting that the only possible and necessary defence is to talk openly with your children about the dangers of sexual abuse.

Another parent who is also a coach swore that "hockey is the most important institution in Canada."

Get a grip, people. Hockey is a game, a big business, a pastime, a way to sell beer - it's not sacred and it is not equivalent to the Canadian identity. Scores of Canadian boys have been and will be molested by coaches because adults think hockey is so damned important that the whole structure of it is unquestionable.

Adults linked to the hockey world must have turned away from James' victims, ignored the signals, refused to listen, because they had a deeper allegiance to the game, and to the authority of other adults, than to the kids.

You can urge youngsters to "tell all" till you're blue in the face, but most kids know instinctively that a respected adult's word will always have more weight and credibility than any child's accusation. Some parents, as we've seen, will go to almost any lengths to exonerate and defend the minister, the priest, the teacher, the choirmaster, the coach, the rabbi, the policeman. Children know this. And in despair, shame and self-defence, they will keep their silence .

Of course, if you are one of those parents who genuinely values, honors, and respects your child as much as you do the church or the hockey team, you may indeed be entrusted with difficult truths.

But you would definitely be a rare bird. Children are powerless, and we as adults are enthralled by and deferential to power. Children see this every day and know what weight to give our smarmy little lectures about abuse.

We don't seem to learn much from our endlessly repeated cycles of revelation and shock. No matter how regularly the predators bob to the surface - a cantor in Halifax, a defence department computer engineer, the Christian Brothers of Mount Cashel - we're always astonished.

When will we stop being "shocked" and start scrutinizing our own values to see how we ourselves help put children at risk?

Michele Landsberg's column appears Saturday in the Life section and Sunday in the A section.


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