Wednesday, September 29, 2010

CNN Anchor Don Lemon reveals he's a survivor of child sexual abuse, to make a point about perpetrators that needs to be heard

(For more on that interview on CNN, see this article at

There are three main points I'd like to highlight here, regarding the video above.

1. It is really glaring to me how and to what degree whites with class-privilege don't get how much more difficult it is for African Americans to publicly address the issue of sexual abuse in African American communities. If your sexuality and your personhood are both demonised by whites, then to discuss how some people in your community abuse people sexually is usually not going to be discussed in a public that has a white audience, if at all. Across race, the same phenomenon exists in identifying adult gay perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Because gay men are pre-stigmatised as "child molesters" those of us who are gay are often unwilling to discuss the issue of predation by gay adults in heterosexual, heterosexist, and homophobic environments. So, imagine being Black and gay in the U.S. and how different that is than being white and a heterosexual male, in terms of how much stigma there is on you, the survivor, and on the perpetrator as well.

2. It's sad that the reason people need to disclose on air, live, that they have survived an atrocity is because too many of us would prefer to be in denial about predators and perpetrators in our communities. Let's be clear here: predators, perpetrators, rapists, and child molesters are not "them". They are us. They look like "us" not like a "them". They behave like "us" not like "them".

If perpetrators and predators were only a "them" then "we" could spot 'em a mile away. We can't. They live with us and therefore are us. They are our doctors, priests, and fathers. They are, in some cases, our mothers. They are our step-dads, our grandfathers, our uncles, our older siblings. They are, usually, men known by us and trusted by us because they are known.

What most predators and perpetrators are NOT is "strange". What they are not are "strangers" most of the time. That's why the abuse happens so much: because the abusers are trusted and well-known adults who victims care for and, often, don't know how to say "NO" to.

That was the case with me. I didn't know how to say no to someone who was an adult who I was supposed to show regard and respect for. No one taught me it would be okay for me to fight back, to scream, to yell, to kick the perp in the nuts, to do whatever it took to get away. No one told me. What I was told instead was "always respect your elders".

Fuck that CRAP. Adults deserve no more respect than children, and no less. But when an adult violates another human being in atrocious ways, their "right to privacy" and their right to be held in high regard goes right out the door, as far as I'm concerned. I'm not at all in support of demonising abusers. But nor am I supportive of protecting them from consequences that they might avoid as long as their crimes are kept hidden.

3. If a Christian priest sexually abuses a child, they are a Christian terrorist. Plain and simple. If you don't get that, you don't get much.

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