Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who are you going to believe, the accused or the accuser?

Today I am going to stray from my normal format and tackle a more serious subject.  It is something I don't usually do, but I just feel compelled to talk about it.  And it is my blog so frankly I can talk about whatever I want to talk about, right?  This of course doesn't mean you have to read and I understand if you want to pass on my more somber topic.   

On Friday my husband was working from home which means the TV was on ESPN.  As I was doing stuff around the house I could not escape the two stories they were circulating between.  The first was of course the awesome Bronco victory over the Jets and the amazing play by Tim Tebow.  (All non-Bronco/Tebow fans can insert groan here.)  The second story was yet another sex scandal involving a coach at a prominent university.  Two former ball boys for Syracuse University's basketball team have accused Bernie Fine of sexual abuse.  I am sure it was receiving extra attention in light of the Penn State scandal.

The thing that stuck with me in this coverage was head coach,  Jim Boeheim's statement of support for Bernie Fine.  He vehemently defends Fine and even called the accuser "a liar."  There is no mistake what side he is standing on, and I guess everyone picks a side when they hear a story like this.  Who are you going to believe, the accused or the accuser? 

When you don't personally know the parties involved the decision of who to side with seems easier.  Personally, whether it is right or wrong, I tend to believe the accusers.  When we personally know one of the parties involved it is usually easier to pick a side as well.  I think, whether it is right or wrong, we tend to believe the person we know, like Boeheim is doing.  When the accused seems like a horrible scum bag it also seems to be an easy decision.  But what do you do when you know and love everyone involved?

I very unfortunately have been in this situation.  Someone I respected and loved was accused of the unthinkable.  Behind my parents he was the most influential person in my life between the ages of 12-mid 20's.  He taught me so much about integrity, commitment, and honesty.  I not only learned from him, I laughed with him, I got advice from him, and he was always there when I needed him.  I already had a wonderful father, so he wasn't exactly a father figure, but close.  Yes, I loved him and his wonderful family so very much and I can't imagine the kind of person I would be without the influence from him and his wife.

In July of 2006 I was about to call my parents to tell them that they were going to be grandparents again.  I planned to call them and then of course this family that meant so much to me.  Before I could make the call a friend I grew up with called to tell me the news.  He was being investigated.  Not only that, but I knew every single one of the girls accusing him.  These girls were not just acquaintances.  These girls were my friends, I knew them well.  And in my heart, even though I really did not want to believe it was true, even though I wanted with everything in me to believe that these were lies, I knew they were not.  I had to choose a side, and although it was heartbreaking, I knew what side to choose and I never made that second call.

If I am going to be honest, this has devastated me.  I have had to mourn for my friends who were abused and violated by a man who should have been protecting them.  My heart aches for the pain and torture he put them through.  But I also mourn the loss of the man I thought I knew.  He might physically still be alive, but the person I thought he was does not exist.  He was merely a monster hiding behind a put together, well educated, family man.

And that brings me to something that bothered me in the coverage of the Syracuse sex scandal.  Many people have come forward to defend Fine.  And I don't necessarily think that is a bad thing.  But I keep hearing statements like, "he is an upstanding guy" "we never saw him do anything" "he has a great character" etc.  The thing is, appearing to be a stable, upstanding, trustworthy individual is kind of a sexual predator's wheelhouse.  If they weren't those things people wouldn't leave their kids with them.  I don't think it is wrong to support an accused person because there are sometimes false accusations, but please don't base it on the fact that the person seemed like a good guy, or a great guy, or even an excellent guy.  And parents, please don't think that because someone appears to be upstanding that they won't try to take advantage of your children.

I will forever be haunted and effected by abuse that did not even happen to me.  It changed my life and robbed me of my trust.  I have simultaneously felt gratitude for what he gave me and hatred for what he did to others...and then guilt for feeling gratitude...and then guilt for feeling hatred.  It is a complex thing.  I feel sorrow and rage and intense disappointment, so I can not imagine what my friends who were the victims must feel.  I wish I knew what to do to make their pain go away, but I don't.  So I pray.

Sexual abuse of children (and teenagers are still children) is the worst kind of evil.  I hope with everything in me that the victims in both these recent cases can get the help they need to move forward.  And if these men did in fact do these things, I hope they rot in jail for a long time.  Unfortunately, I have seen first hand that the prison sentence someone serves for this crime is appallingly short and the recovery period for the victims goes on and on.  But I hope justice is served all the same.

(Ugh, sorry for the downer post, but like I said, I felt compelled to talk about it!  I will be back to business as usually on the next post!)