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Joe Paterno, Jim Boeheim, and all the enablers who look away while children are molested are the big national story this Christmas. They and their failures to act, to protect, the most helpless of our citizens have been the talk of every town, every gathering where right-thinking people meet for the last month. But in this season when we celebrate the coming of Christ, whom Christian theology teaches us was the son of the Almighty, we need a new perspective.
And for me, this year, that perspective is this: It’s a good thing that Mary and Joseph didn’t desert the baby Jesus as an infant, and a great thing that the teachers in the temple, with whom He debated as a young man, didn’t molest Him while he was there without his parents for three days. It wouldn’t go down that well, today, in modern America.
Now, there have always been molesters. They just hid behind others. I was raised in what was one of the tougher Northern Kentucky neighborhoods. At best we were blue-collar, many raised without any religion at all. Many with unemployed fathers, which, 50 years ago, was a rarity. By the time I got to high school, I became aware, along with my peers of numbers of men who cruised our neighborhood seeking a young man who needed a little money and was willing to subject himself to sexual contact for a few dollars.
My dad had a great job, worked for Ashland Oil. We had two cars and a boat. I worked a little for family and neighbors, my folks bought all the clothes I needed. Dad also was very interested in my whereabouts and my company. I went few places without his knowledge and he warned me when I was in Little League about getting alone with people who could harm me.
So, my puberty was uninterrupted by these perverts, who drove past the local store porch many evenings right before dark. I was able to grow up, learn about girls and avoid the confusing contacts that are now considered attacks by Sociologists. But some of my friends weren’t so lucky, or affluent. Today, years later, they don’t talk about it anymore. But the new jeans and shoes they wore on Monday often came from selling sex to some local pervert over the weekend.
Who were these men? They were often affluent, sometimes married men who indulged themselves in a little child molestation to satisfy their needs. I’m sure they felt good about themselves, since they paid their partners. Some attended church. One, I recall, was a famous, award winning media personality. I have never named names and as far as I know, the solicitors of our youth are all dead now. But all of us remember.
And there are scars from it. One of the most talented and handsome of our group, tremendous athlete, doesn’t come to reunions, I am told, because he knows we know about the man who kept him in clothes and pocket money back in the ‘60s. He was the best teammate I ever had. I mean choir or baseball or anything in between.
In my own adopted town of Middlesboro, there is the same gossip about powerful people in other places involved in molesting the young. In my little city, as in yours, people lie to themselves about how safe our children are in our towns, our malls, and yes, our churches.
In the last six months two lifelong residents of my town have been jailed for trading kiddie porn. Despite the local folklore, some of those images are of children right in our town. One of the guys is known to be a pervert. But the other ran under the radar for years. Parents, busy meeting their own needs, gave access to their children. And now, the kids are damaged. Maybe for life.
A youth pastor was run out of a community a county away for sexual abuse of children. He came to our city. He got a night job and set up shop in his apartment, in a complex of a dozen apartments. For two years now, it has been revealed, he has offered his Playstation and X Box for any little boys who needed a place to go. He has also been having sex with them and they with each other, for all that time. None of the parents suspected anything. Their kids rode their bikes all over this safe town every day after school, till dark. The community has expressed confusion and outrage at what has happened, only a small part of which will ever be known. But the truth of the matter is that the guy is listed under his own name in the Sex Offender Registry, at the address he was arrested in. And this thing went on in view of a whole neighborhood for two years.
My dad always came to see where I was and who else was there. He knew there was no honest motive for a 30-year-old single man to be playing with elementary school children in his home. But things are different, now. People are busy, families are broken, and both parents work. It is easy for the predator to find prey. The Internet will help them find what they want and help them become more perverted, too.
As bad as I hate to write this unhappy piece, it has to start somewhere. Go see who your kids are with. Because, if you don’t have time for your kids, well, there is someone who wants to spend a lot of time with them. Touch them. Perhaps murder them.
God came to us as a baby so as not to scare us. I think He also came that way to see how we treated the helpless among us. Today, Baby Jesus would be at peril in every community in America. And if it was “going on”, well, we wouldn’t want to think bad of anyone, now would we?
Bill Hayes is a trial lawyer and former prosecutor practicing law in Kentucky and the Eastern District of Tennessee with an office in view of the Virginia mountains.