antonia-williams-gary_2_web.jpgI am exhausted from the recent news about the criminal predatory behavior of Jerry Sandusky and now the release of “the perversion files” – 100-plus-years of information from the Boy Scouts of America which gives a chronology of abuse by troop leaders.

Once a wholesome pastime, a delightful rite-of-passage as American as apple pie, has now been sullied beyond repair?

It is woeful that scouting is now a suspect activity and that the predators to fear during overnight camping may have two legs. 

What is this all about?

In a word, pedophilia, defined as sexual desire in an adult for a child. 

The definition is in and of itself just a description of desire. There is a long-running debate whether men loving boys is “natural” and not uncommon.  There doesn’t seem to be as much discussion about women who have this desire but I’m sure we are only beginning to enter into a new dimension about that too.

I would not begin to try to address all the various sides to that argument; we all know how complex and widely varying is the nature of human beings. What I know for sure is that acting out on that desire is criminal, at least in this country.  Men having sex with boys, men having sex with girls, women having sex with boys or girls are all criminal acts.

It is because minors, by legal definition, have been deemed incapable of giving consent to having sex with an adult that the law hinges on and makes these acts illegal, even if, some would argue, natural.

I now have three grandsons and four granddaughters — a thank-you here to my sons and especially to my daughters-in-law.

I remember the restless days and nights as a young mother that I spent wondering and worrying over my sons through their early childhood and adolescence, praying over their every move throughout the day, praying that no adult would bring harm to them.  One of the worst fears I had was that someone would deny their humanity and call them the “N” word.

I was not naïve but I could not imagine them becoming victim of any predator. Their father and I were vigilant and tried to monitor their exposure to adults inside and outside of the family.

But now I have a new set of nightmares thinking that there may be some man or woman lurking aound with sexual desire for any of my grandchildren. It taxes my imagination to ponder on the many acts of retribution I would want exacted against anyone causing them harm — harm that might leave them damaged to the very end of their lives.

That is what happened to Sandusky’s victim # 1, who has written a book about his ordeal that took more than 12 years to reach the courts and to get some measure of justice. He despaired when he thought no one believed him after he and his mom told school and police authorities about years of abuse, that there was no arrest, only more promotion and protection of Sandusky, and he became suicidal.

His story is that of so many victims of  suffering at the hands of adults – pedophiles — who have a sexual desire for children and who  act out that desire.
These are particularly heinous acts that are never pardoned by our society but have too often remained difficult to uncover, investigate, prosecute and then
punish.  Why do we have such a hard time with this?

Precisely because the victims are innocent — “The nice man (or woman) touched me and it made me feel bad” — they just don’t know that what is happening to them is criminal.  What is a parent or grandparent to do?

Love your children.  Talk to them.  Believe them when they tell you, even in non-verbal language, when something bad has happened.  There may be adults who have a sexual desire for children who keep out of trouble but those who act on that desire are criminals and should be subjected to the full force of the law. 

The innocent must be protected first.

Antonia Williams-Gary may be reached at toniwg@bellsouth.net