Sunday, November 20, 2011

Syracuse sex abuse scandal: Who should you believe?

Jim Boheim, Syracuse head coach and Bernie Fine,
associate head coach. (l-r) from

First there was the travesty of Penn State, a college football super there is the storied Syracuse University basketball program.  Bobby Davis and his step brother Mike Lang, claim that an associate head coach for Syracuse sexually molested them for over a decade, with Bobby suffering the most.

Bobby first brought these allegations forward in 2003, before the Penn State situation was made public.  He went to the police and they investigated, saying they needed a corroborating witness in order to pursue the case.  Mr. Davis gave them four witnesses, who would not back up his claims.

So, he was turned away.  Well, recently his stepbrother stood up, and said it happened to him as well.  It sounds shaky, no doubt.  The Syracuse head coach claims it is all being said for money!  There is no way his associate could have done that.  He never saw him do more than touch a kid on the shoulder.

Bobby Davis tells ESPN that he wants no money.  He wants nothing from his alleged abuser, other than to tell the truth, for the accused to get help, and to stop it from happening to anyone else.  The stepbrothers, according to ESPN, had only spoken three times in the last eight years.

When it first came out in 2003, Mr. Lang didn't want to talk about it.  He would only admit that the coach touched his leg inappropriately and refused to say anything else.

When the Penn State story broke, Mr. Davis contacted his stepbrother, emotionally distraught, and said it was happening all over again and he wanted it to stop.  So according to the ESPN reporter, Mr. Lang finally broke down emotionally and admitted that he was molested, and asked his brother who should he contact.

The ESPN reporter received a tearful call from Mr. Lang, telling him that he was in fact molested by the Syracuse associate head coach more than a dozen times.

What makes sex crimes so hard to prosecute is that it usually boils down to who you believe.  Absent any physical traces of the offense, you are left to focus on the credibility of the witnesses and any circumstantial evidence that remains.

All too often, people choose to believe the accused versus the accuser.  Why? Well the accused rarely seems like he/she would ever do anything contrary to the norm.  So the bystanders usually utter the words "I've known so and so for years, he/she would never do anything like that." That's what makes it so easy for abusers to continue in their terror.

This is especially true in molestation and child sex abuse cases.  No one WANTS to believe that someone would harm a child.  No one wants to believe that an "upstanding" and "righteous" man or woman would ever have sexual desires and contact with a child.  That's how they get away with it. Molesters are usually people who work closely with children.  People who have "hearts of gold", as Jerry Sandusky was described to the mother of Victim 1.

It is hard to believe an abuse victim.  Typically they are pretty messed up.  They are insecure and many suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.  Their stories "change", because often they have blocked out portions of what happened in order to cope.  Then at times they reveal bits and pieces as they grow more secure in letting it all out.

And then the social stigmas placed on those who suffer at the hands of someone of the same sex abusing them, magnifies the situation.  Little boys don't want to tell that a man has touched them "in THAT way".  People will call them names like "sissy" and "fag" and do everything to tear at an already shattered core.

No one ever believes a woman would abuse a child sexually.  Look at how they react to the teacher-student sex scandals.  Not understanding that sex abuse is not about gender.  It is about the harmful keeping of secrets.  It is also the ravaging of the psyche.  Domestic terrorism is a good way to look at it.

Abuse victims live in fear.  They are torn apart.  Because of the relationship the person has with the accused abuser, the victim lives in a double self state of mind.  They may even love the abuser because of things that happen outside of the abuse.  So they are torn...mentally anguished while publicly coping in order to keep that dirty secret.

Abusers are charismatic, cunning, secretive, and demented.  They wow and woo, then sadistically destroy. You cannot look at someone and tell that they are an abuser.  You can know someone for years without realizing what they do when you're not around.  That is how they become so prolific.  Most pedophiles have dozens of victims if not a hundred or more.

These labels of someone being "good" or "bad" do a disservice to those who may suffer at the hands of a person labeled "good".  There's no such thing.  People are not "good".  People are not "bad".  People are people, who do good or bad.

So yes it is very possible that  Bernie Fine, the Syracuse associate head coach who is under investigationcommitted the very crimes of which he is accused.  For Jim Boheim to speak out in the way he has, does a disservice to other abuse victims.  Sure, stand up for your friend.  By all means.  But what you should never do is speak for someone else's proclivities.

A simple, "no comment" would suffice.  What happens if it is proven that Bernie Fine molested the two men who are speaking out publicly?  What happens if there are more who were abused by him?  What say you then?

Certainly it is difficult when someone is falsely accused of such things.  But never say what another person would not do.   Trust would be surprised...

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