This is the 4th part of the series “Building an online marketplace from scratch”. A collection of articles on how to design and deliver modern business applications quickly. In this post, we’ll…
I have been on both sides of this sexual abuse issue.
Two relatives and I were unjustly accused of molesting three girls when we were in our late teens. We were accused and confronted in front of some other relatives.
I was sexually molested by a woman in a most dangerous environment when I was in my mid-20s. I’ve told less than a handful of people about this. Until today.
Before I tell you about these two incidents, let’s take a look at what’s been happening in our country the last few weeks.
The Weinstein scandal. Other Hollywood celebrities accused of inappropriate, unsolicited touching, expecting and demanding sexual favors and pleasures, even rape. But of course our attention on this subject has been diverted by the ever-present hysteria over Donald Trump stealing the election from Hillary Clinton because of Russian collusion.
That’s a story for another day (maybe). But not now.
This led to the #metoo hashtag campaign to raise awareness about the widespread prevalence of unwanted sexual advances. Women who have been victimized but who have not necessarily spoken about it in the past were encouraged to make it public, if only by posting the #metoo hashtag (or the words “Me too”) on their social media platforms.
Even George H. W. Bush has apologized for inappropriate conduct.
What else? Oh, yes. How can we forget? Former Alabama Supreme Court justice and current candidate for US Senator from Alabama, Roy Moore, has been accused of a variety of sexual misconduct with minor women. The women who have accused him describe incidents that occurred decades ago. Just days before Alabama voters are being asked to vote for Judge Moore, the allegations are made public.
In less publicized news, New Jersey Senator Robert Menedez was recently acquitted of 18 counts of fraud and bribery. Buried deep in the story and ignored or discounted as “false” by most mainstream media reports are allegations that Menendez and co-conspirator Salomon Melgen (already convicted in a separate trial) had sex with underage prostitutes. That accusation has existed since 2012. Menendez is a sitting Senator.
The allegations against Roy Moore have been public for one week.
There was a rabid, public outcry demanding that Roy Moore withdraw from the Alabama Senate race. Despite the fact that not one of his accusers has made a statement under oath, under penalty of perjury. Both sides of the political aisle called for him to drop out of the race.
There is no demand nor hint of outrage that Robert Menendez is still an active, acting US Senator.
And then we are subjected to the photo of Senator Al Franken. If you haven’t seen it, don’t bother. With photographic evidence of abuse, a reasonable person might expect a similar call from Republicans and Democrats alike for Sen. Franken to resign. But no. Instead, let’s open an ethics investigation.
I have used my social media platform to decry the outrage against Roy Moore. That has caused a backlash among some friends, acquaintances, and people I don’t even know.
How can I support this guy?
How can I make these outrageous statements concerning sexual misconduct?
I’ll tell you how. By demanding to get to the truth. By defending the rule of law, common decency, and the Constitution of the United States. By not giving in to mob rule. By putting myself between Roy Moore and the lynch mob.
What gives me the authority to do that?
Nothing. Other than being another human being.
But I do have some experience with inappropriate sexual encounter.
I’m the only brother in my family. I have two sisters. Since I was a young boy, I’ve been very close with two cousins. They sorta adopted me as one of their brothers. Our relationship grew closer through our teenage years.
I don’t remember the year. But the three of us had spent the weekend together, at their house out in the country. I don’t even remember what we did, but I do remember feeling great as the weekend drew to a close.
You know the good feelings you’re left with after a good time with those you love, those you care about? It was that type of feeling.
The three of us and some of our older relatives were standing at the curb outside of Babcia’s house. Babcia is Polish for Grandma. The weekend was drawing to a close. The street was lined with parked cars.
Just a few cars ahead of us stood three girls and two older adults. I presumed they were parents of one or more of the girls. We didn’t even notice them until they were calling out and motioning towards us. It was confusing at first, but soon became clear that the girls were accusing the three of us of sexually molesting the girls a night or two ago at James Park.
I know the park. Been there many, many times. But the timeline didn’t fit.
The three of us were forty miles away from that park at the time the attack occurred.
The confrontation never escalated beyond accusations from that car-lengths distance. I can still hear my aunt raising her voice in our defense about how ridiculous their claims were, chastising them and saying that we were nowhere near the park at that time.
I remember thinking how preposterous the whole incident was.
But I’ve also pondered the reality of being unjustly accused and wondered what could have been under different circumstances. My aunt was there. She was able to instantly diffuse the allegation. But the girls were insistent that we were the guys. We were the molesters, no question about it.
What if I was outside alone when they made their accusation? Or one of my cousins? Or all three of us? And it was just us and the girls and their parents?
Would they have listened to our claim that we were nowhere near the park? Would they have cared? What if the police had been there at the time?
I’ve thought about those questions often over the last 40-ish years. The girls’ claims were preposterous and reckless. At least in my view.
But today, they could have been part of the #metoo crowd.
Were they telling the truth about being molested at the park? Or was their story a fabrication because they needed to cover their tracks for something they did wrong?
I’ll never know. But I’ve pondered all the possibilities.
So you’ll have to pardon me if on the one hand I convey absolute disgust with men sexually abusing women and on the other hand spout “trust, but verify.”
Now let’s see if I can possibly do justice to the other side of this horror.
I don’t want to give away all the details. This was a rough period in my life. It’s still embarrassing and I wish that most of it never happened. But it did.
So pardon me if my descriptions are less descriptive. I want to protect myself.
I don’t remember why I was alone in this room with this woman. I vividly remember the discussion we were having about God. She was telling me about dealing with “demons.” I was trying to assure her that trust in God would help her through the situation. We were both sitting down.
She was emotional and distressed. She was crying. She wanted a hug. I said okay. Well, this woman sat on my lap. Not only did I get that hug. I also got a tug. One arm around my neck. The other buried between my legs. And she was shouting about the “demons.”
All I feel comfortable sharing is that the environment we were in was extraordinarily dangerous. If someone had discovered us in this posture, the immediate consequences could have been severe. And I’m not talking about being discovered by a jilted lover or a spouse. But that’s all I’m going to tell you.
Complicating matters, I was afraid.
Afraid to just toss her off of me.
Afraid to do anything else that would further upset her to the point of shouting for help.
Afraid of what she was going to do… how she would act the next time I saw her in public.
And I was in no position to mention this encounter to anyone.
I cannot remember how long it took me to extricate myself or how I got out of that room, but I don’t think it took too long and she was relatively calm as I left.
She stayed in the room. Thankfully, she didn’t follow me. Thankfully, there was a public restroom just down the hall. I locked myself in there. I was scared to death.
Of a woman much smaller than me. And while she was physically much weaker than me, the power she exerted over me in that moment was suffocating.
It took me 34 years to tell that story.
Would I tell that story under oath, under penalty of perjury?
Absolutely. Although I’ll never have to. I don’t even remember her name. Isn’t that crazy?
But I will never forget her eyes. As they followed me. When she walked past me days later. With her husband at her side.
Inappropriate sexual conduct.
I condemn each and every one of them. There is no excuse. My anger at these situations tests my capacity to exercise the mercy Christ demands of me.
Each horrible, unforgivable act leaves a lasting, gaping hole. That never fully heals.
But let’s make sure it’s a real hole. And not a fabrication.
And if it is a real hole, let’s make sure we know who is really responsible. Before we hang them.
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