Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 40, Ed. 1 Friday, February 17, 2012 Page: 22 of 56
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Sex abuse becomes an epidemic
LGBT people no more likely than
heterosexuals to be perpetrators,
but all organizations should take
precautions to protect youth
The seemingly never-ending reports of law-
suits and criminal complaints being filed
by people alleging they were sexually mo-
lested by members of the clergy might make one
wonder if directing worship is, or ever was, the
main objective of those seeking ordainment.
Since my youth I've heard people grumble that
the pastors, priests, rabbis and others calling the
faithful to their churches on Sunday mornings
were interested primarily in personal glory and
how much cash they could raise from their fkvk\
but I never heard anything about them expecting
a donation of flesh as well. That is, I never heard
about it until the mid-1980s when the scandals
involving Catholic priests sexually abusing male:
youths began surfacing.
When the media firstbegan covering the scan-
dal I imagine the reaction of most people was that
a few cases would surface, and that would be the
end of it. Who would have ever dreamed that 25
years later the scandal Would have grown to epi-
demic proportions and spread worldwide to
other religions and institutions as well?
Just recently after reporting about a pastor
who was the subject of a sexual harassment law-
suit filed by a church member, I heard from the:
executive director of an organization of which I
knew nothing. The organization, Survivors Net-
work of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP
(snapnetwork.org), was founded 23 years ago,
and it now boasts 10,000 members around the
David Clohessy who has led the St. Louis,
Mo-based group for more than two decades,
said it has expanded far beyond its original mis-
sion of providing support to people who were
sexually abused by Catholic priests.
"Despite the word priest in our title, wo have
members who were molested by religious figures
of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis,
bishops and Protestant ministers/' Clohessy said
in his e-mail to me. "And in recent years, we've
heard from and helped many who were hurt in
Other institutional settings such as athletic pro-
grams, schools, camps, day care centers, etc."
The scope of what he is talking about is mind-
boggling, but a quick review of the news head-
lines covering only the past year or so confirms
what he is saying. There is an epidemic of sexual
abuse of young people under way in almost
every walk of life they might encounter.
Male-on-male sexual abuse seems to stand out
more in my mind in connection with the prob-
lem, but another scan of the headlines reminds
me of the many cases of female high school
teachers accused of seducing male students and
HELPING THE VICTIMS | David Clohessy, right, executive director of the Survivors Network of those
Abused by Priests, appears at a press conference in Vermont in 2007 alongside a victim who didn't want to
be identified. Clohessy said the St. Louis-based SNAP, which began 23 years ago, now has 10,000 mem-
bers around the globe. (Associated Press)
male teachers seducing female students.
Obviously, the problem is universal. SNAP
notes on its website that half of its members are
The SNAP literature maintains that "homosex-
uals are no more likely to be pedophiles than are
heterosexuals." It explains that reports of boys
being molested are more prevalent because men
tend to express their anger out-
wardly as in litigation, whereas
Women are more likely to direct it in-
ward. It adds that women are more
likely to resolve their pain through
therapy and support groups, and
that male-on-male sex is more sala-
cious and more likely to attract atten-
Whatever the nature of the reve-
lations, it is clear that all young peo-
ple are at risk of being sexually
abused in some area of their lives.
Unfortunately, their relationships
With members of the clergy, school teachers, care-
givers and all other people with whom they
come in to contact must be closely monitored by
It's a world of worry that is hard to fathom
based on my own childhood experiences. I never
had a teacher, a Sunday School instructor or any-
The Rare Reporter
one else charged with my care ever make any
sort of inappropriate move on me, but it's been
50 years since I was a child. A friend of mine with
whom I grew up assures me that neither he nor
his brother ever experienced anything inappro-
priate at his Catholic Church. It was just unheard
of at the time, but that could be attributed to a re-
luctance of victims to come forward.
A pastor I spoke with recently told
me that his church had already taken
steps to ensure that no employee or
volunteer of the church has private
access to children or other church
members. All of the offices will have
windows in the future, he said. Other
steps will also be taken to make sure
everyone behaves as they should, he
Those are pretty drastic steps, but
it would probably be a good idea for
all organizations to implement such
precautions in light of What we now
know about sexual abuse and harassment. It ap-
pears this unfortunately is the way all organiza-
tions need to be run today. ■
David Webb is a veteran journalist who lias covered
LGBT issues for the mainstream and alteriiativemedia
for three decades. He can be e-mailed at david-
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Wright, John. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 40, Ed. 1 Friday, February 17, 2012, newspaper, February 17, 2012; Dallas, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth239207/m1/22/: accessed May 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.