Open letter to the editor at Time Magazine:
It was with great anticipation that I picked up your May 14, 2014, edition with the big red college pennant on the cover emblazoned with the word RAPE.
"Great," I thought. "The mainstream media is finally going to report about the sexual crimes committed against our young people."
It didn’t take me long to realize that your reporters and editors completely ignored half of the equation. Not one mention was made of male sexual abuse victims. Why is that? Don’t male victims count?
Don’t you see that this kind of reporting sends exactly that message? If the media only talks about the female victims of these horrible crimes, the male victims will continue to stay silent and the predators will remain free!
Last week, I wrote about the latest National Crime Victimization Survey’s stunning statistic that 38 percent of sexual violence victims are male. They are set upon in all sorts of places, such as private homes, athletic venues, sleep-away camps and college campuses, especially during fraternity hazing rituals. I also wrote about the mental and emotional dynamics behind so many victimized young males who choose to suffer in silence and not report their abuse. When survivors do reveal, they often wait decades to speak the truth and seek support for their emotional scars.
I am confounded that the mainstream media don’t report on this as fervently as they report sex crimes against females. This kind of journalism makes it enormously more difficult for male victims. You can’t wipe away the moldy stigma of something unless you shine a light on it.
Recently, a survivor of convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky made headlines when he spoke of the public reaction to his charge of childhood sex abuse by the popular Penn State football coach. Aaron Fisher made it clear people just didn’t understand how difficult it was for him to finally come forward, to be Victim No. 1 and the youngest of the 10 victims mentioned at trial. Fisher said the very worst part of the process came after he reported his abuse to police.
Fisher’s victimization started when he was 11 years old, and at 14, he finally mustered up the courage to tell. Then he, literally, waited years while the police conducted a sparsely staffed investigation of Sandusky. Fisher told the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, Wash., that he felt police “broke promises” and dragged their feet. And, once word leaked out about his allegations, neighbors made him feel like the villain.
“Because of who he was and what he created and what he did in his lifetime, pretty much Sandusky was a god on Earth for people,” Fisher said.
When he finally testified at trial, Fisher was 18. Those four years of silence from the justice system and the cold shoulder from others were the “worst thing ever — the worst altogether of anything,” he said.
Silence never solves anything.
The story of FBI Special Agent Jim Clemente — a man who spent a career specializing in child sex crimes investigations — makes my point. It is Clemente’s personal story of falling prey to a sexual predator and living for years with the near-crippling fear of exposure.
At 15, Clemente was a scrawny teen, seeking independence and just coming to grips with his sexuality. A counselor at Catholic wilderness camp took him under his wing. The boy thought of him as a real “man’s man” and was honored when asked to stay on at the end of the camp season to help close up the compound.
This trusted church employee took young Clemente to a bar, let him drive his car, gave him beer, spoke to him about masturbation and pornography, and then did the unthinkable. The abuse had a profound effect. Clemente told me he suffered guilt, sorrow, loneliness, shame and depression. Unable to trust anyone, he pushed away his family and friends. Recurring nightmares haunted him.
Clemente had always dreamed of a profession in law enforcement and felt if he revealed what had happened to him or if he sought therapy, his career would be jeopardized. So he stayed silent for a decade. The FBI calls this “delayed disclosure.” It is not unusual and occurs whether the perpetrator is male or female.
Clemente’s brother finally told him about lewd Polaroids of other boy campers he had once seen in the counselor’s office, pictures taken through a peephole. Clemente, then a prosecutor for the City of New York, realized he had to track down this predator and stop him.
The man was eventually convicted, but no telling how many boys he had violated over the years. Clemente discovered he had taught and coached at 13 schools and had been accused of sexual abuse against boys numerous times. But no one ever reported the suspect to police, and he simply moved on to new hunting grounds.
More silence which, obviously, only compounded the problem and exposed more boys to harm.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 Sexual Violence Survey reports that more than 25 million American males will suffer sexual violence in their lifetimes. Yet the bulk of the money spent to help victims goes to women-only services. The media barely mention male survivors of sexual abuse. And many of us ignorantly believe if a victim doesn’t tell right away, they are suspect.
“I find it hard to believe that after cases like Sandusky ... people still don't understand the fact that boys who are sexually abused typically take 20, 30 or more years to come forward,” Clemente said. It’s a shame, he wrote in an e-mail, that “the public seems to more readily accept that men will make false allegations that they were victimized, rather than understand that it takes a great deal of time to overcome the stigma of victimization, the fears of being seen as damaged goods, as not being a man, as being gay or being a potential offender.”
I submit the public will never fully understand until the media start reporting the full and complete story of sexual abuse survivors. Hey, Time Magazine, how about a follow-up cover story?
— Diane Dimond is the author of Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Twitter: @DiDimond, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.