Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tyler Perry's Open Letter to Penn State 11-year-old

I don’t know your name, but I know your face. I don’t know your journey, but I know where you are. I am your brother!

I must tell you, what you have done is so courageous. The strength that it must have taken for your 11-year-old voice to speak out about such a horrible act is something that I didn’t have the strength or courage to do at that age.

I was a very poor young black boy in New Orleans, just a face without a name, swimming in a sea of poverty trying to survive. Forget about living, I was just trying to exist. I was enduring a lot of the same things that you’ve come forward and said happened to you, and it was awful. I felt so powerless. I knew what was happening to me, but unlike you, I couldn’t speak about it because no one saw me. I was invisible and my voice was inaudible.

So to think that you, when you were only 11 years old, spoke up—you are my hero! I’m so proud of you. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I want you to know you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not your fault. Please know that you were chosen by a monster. You didn’t choose him. You didn’t ask for it and, most of all, you didn’t deserve it. What a huge lesson that was for me to learn. Your 11-year-old self was no match for wicked, evil tactics of this kind. You were hunted like prey. A pedophile looks for the young boys he thinks he can manipulate. The ones who have daddy or mommy issues, the ones who are broken, and the ones who are in need. But this wasn’t you.

 Do you know that at the young age of 11 you had more courage than all the adults who let you down? All of the ones who didn’t go to the proper authorities, all of the ones who were worried about their careers, reputations, or livelihoods. All of the ones who didn’t want to get involved. Or even the ones who tried to convince your mother not to fight. You are stronger than them all! I wonder what they would have done if it were their own child.

I had a few of those adults in my life, too. They knew and did nothing. One of them even said to me that it was my fault, because I allowed myself to spend time with the molesters. And yes, this was someone who was in power and could have called the police, but instead this person allowed this criminal to go on molesting other young boys for many years. When I did tell a family member, I wasn’t believed. I suffered in silence. But not you, my young strong hero, you have done what many of us wish we could have done. You used your voice!

You know, now that you’re older you need to be aware that the aftermath of abuse may affect you for a very long time. But that’s OK; just know that the strength it took for you to talk about it then will help you get through it now. I often tell myself that if I made it through that experience as a child, then surely as a man I should be able to get past it. It still may take you a while, but that’s OK too. I have known people who have gone through the same things that we have, but unfortunately they were never able to admit it, and it destroyed them. They never went for help, and they let the abuse defeat them. Some of them went to prison for crimes, some are addicted to drugs, and some have even committed suicide. I know that none of these things will happen to you. You are too strong for that!

No matter what happens next, just know that the hardest part is over. I wish the coward and very sick individual who hurt you would have the courage to admit his wrong and not put you through a trial. But he will most likely profess his innocence until the bitter end. And probably, all the while, yelling at the top of his lungs about all he has done to help troubled young boys.

You may have to go through with that trial, and you may feel all alone when you’re on that witness stand, but just know that there are millions of young boys and grown men who are standing with you—including me. If every man who has ever been molested would speak up, you would see that we’re all around you. You may not know all of our faces and names, but my prayer is that you feel our strength holding you up. You will get through this; you’ve already endured the worst part at age 11. Now fight on, my young friend, fight on! We are all with you.
Watch Tyler Perry in a full episode on Oprah with 200 men who courageously stand together to say there were all molested.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Choices have consequences: failing to report child sexual abuse

A teacher, two pastors and a former principal have been arrested in a sexual assault case involving a 15-year-old boy, according to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office in Colorado.
After a lengthy investigation, multiple interviews and search warrants, deputies said a grand jury indicted four people:
·  A teacher at Hilltop Baptist School, 32-year-old Terah Allyn Rawlings, is charged with eight counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust and obscenity-promotion.
·  The senior pastor at Hilltop Baptist Church and former superintendent of Hilltop Baptist School, 63-year-old Franklin "Wayne" Knight, is charged with failure to report child abuse or neglect and accessory to a crime. Deputies said Knight is Rawlings' uncle.
·  The associate pastor of Hilltop Baptist Church and former athletic director at Hilltop Baptist School, 57-year-old Raymond "Allen" Knight, is charged with failure to report child abuse or neglect. Deputies said he is Rawlings' father.
·  The former principal of Hilltop Baptist School, 51-year-old Jan Ocvirk, is charged with failure to report child abuse or neglect. The Penn State scandal has ignited many memories for Roxine who suffered childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her grandfather. Her family knew and did nothing! She shares a letter she wrote about the importance of standing up and protecting those young victims. SILENCE is not an option!

How Dorothy Sandusky Could Have Been Duped by Darlene Ellison in The Daily Beast

Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas failed to report a known and confessed child molester.

What's at stake: preserving and protecting the innocence of children

Protecting a program before a child

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holiday Morning Breakfast Casserole

I love this, now a tradition in the Smith home on most holiday mornings. I love that you can prepare the night before and just bake the next morning. 

1 can crescent rolls
1 lb sausage, I like either maple or sage
6 eggs
1 cup millk
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese

Flatten out crescent rolls to make a crust in a 13x9 dish. Cook sausage until brown and crumbles, then place on top of the unbaked crust. Mix the eggs and milk and pour over the sausage. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Top with the shredded cheese and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until done.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Remember the Children


 And please don't sympathize with disgraced Paterno..."After turning a blind eye to the alleged victims, the face of Penn State deserves the shame." - Ian O'Conner

Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary says Penn State scandal holds a lesson for Southern Baptists (story in The Associated Baptist Press with my response). I would hope so.

When you see a crime, you call the police. You don’t go to your boss or employer. When you suspect child abuse, call the police. Going to your boss, employer, church, or other institution, etc., to make a report, does not protect kids. Criminal behavior requires a criminal investigation by law enforcement.

Predators need secrecy and protection to do harm. The light of truth and knowledge is our greatest tool in protecting kids. A child's life is never of lesser value than an institution and the power and prestige its name holds. Act accordingly.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. - Edmund Burke

Watch: Former NHL player Theo Fleury, a sex abuse survivor, and SNAP National Director David Clohessy speak to the "Early Show" anchors about the Penn State scandal and the firing of famed coach Joe Paterno.

and a discussion on ESPN

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Color of Shame without the Hail Marys

I am from a family of blue bloods.

Penn State Blue.

From the deluge of news coverage you know the broad outlines of this story: a 10 year silence about a Penn State assistant football coach who abused young boys sometimes in the facilities of this legendary football powerhouse, the grand jury investigation, the knowledge that the abuse stretches back 15 years, the arrest of the former assistant coach who ran a program for troubled youth, too, an emergency Sunday meeting of the university’s board, the removal of the athletic director and the vice president for finance and their arraignment on perjury charges for lying to the grand jury the university president who all too quickly backed these top administrators, and in the midst of it the Icon – JoPa, Penn State’s head football coach.

And within the span of less time than it takes for the holiday bowl games schedule, the Camelot that has been filled with Merlin’s wizardry has become Mordred unmasked.

To a family that understands “ measure it” from the matriarch as not a recipe direction but a demand to get every last inch for a first down, the shock and sadness go deep like a wide receiver.

This Blue family stretches from a generation who went to college football games in suits, –yes, suits with skirts – followed by cocktail parties at fraternities to a generation that tweets the stats and thinks a fraternity is a name for a rock band, a bad name for a rock band.

While the shock is deep and explosive in its suddenness and our immediate concern for the youngest and most recent of us on the campuses keenly real, the knowledge of what must be done is sure.

To whom much is given, much is expected.

Joe Paterno’s coaching career must end. Today. Not after the game with Nebraska on Saturday. Not at the end of the season. Today.

Graham Spanier the University president must be removed. Today.

Michael McQueary, the grad assistant who is now a coach, must be gone. Today.

In the face of the absolute heinousness of child sexual abuse and the neglect of the child by Penn State authorities which allowed other children to be molested is the abdication of all the underpinnings of success with honor.

Nothing gets set aright if there is hedging.

But resignation and removal are only the beginning.

The drive to begin the long and perhaps unattainable fight for Penn State’s redemption must be led by Paterno in a fierce and unyielding battle to find the victims coupled with an unstinting drive for the legislative changes that need to be made by the Pennsylvania General Assembly to protect children from sexual abuse and give victims their day in court.

This is a stanza in Penn State’s alma mater: “Let no act of ours bring shame to one heart that loves thy name.”

Now that shame does blanket the Nittany Valley only the pick and shovel work of determined reform with the child at the center is worthy of being how the game should be played.

Pennsylvania is Catholic territory. Given the reaction of Penn State Country to this massive moral failure with its near complete parallel to the saga of abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, uneasy should rest the heads that wear miters.

Catholics have obligations here. No longer can there be sideline standing. The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown which encompasses Happy Valley has an excruciatingly bad record on sexual abuse. The Philadelphia Grand Jury gives the measure of the state of things in Catholicism in the Keystone State as well.

To be shocked by what has happened at Penn State, to expect accountability, to weigh the sending of children to this institution, to reconsider where to put one’s money by current students, parents and alumni alike and not to ask and demand at the very baseline the same from Catholic Church and its leaders who have repeatedly been given reverential passes is a circumstance worthy only of a Dante ranking.

Out of the ashes of the scandal of St. Joe can arise the phoenix of the protection of children for the touchdown and the touchstone of our lives.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Protecting a program before a child

Just hours after stepping down, two high-ranking Penn State administrators face arraignment Monday on charges they lied to a grand jury investigating former defense coordinator Jerry Sandusky and failed to properly report suspected child abuse. Columnist Mike Wise at The Washington Post writes that if these Sandusky allegations are true, Penn State and Joe Paterno deserve part of the blame.

You want to grab hold of and shake those who reported the crime only to their superiors, washed their hands of responsibility and then let it go, treating a kid’s life as if it were a football that slipped through their hands.

No one from Penn State — not Paterno, not the human neckties, no one — ever reported the alleged incident to law enforcement, which the grand jury report says is required under Pennsylvania law.

In Warped Sports World, the don’t-ask, don’t-tell, sweep-it-clean behavior is rationalized as loyalty, having your coach’s or teammate’s back, moving on from the problem. It’s seen as a noble quality, putting the team’s needs — the university’s needs — before your own.

Certainly it can be argued that Paterno and Penn State would have been irrevocably hurt if these allegations had surfaced in a police report almost 10 years ago; a program whose legendary defensive coordinator was accused of being a pedophile would lose recruits and, by association, money and prestige. Who wouldn’t want that to go away?

But more unconscionable, if true: putting loyalty to the many, the program, in front of the victimization of even the one, a child.

And because they possibly chose to protect Penn State’s brand instead of a child — a 10 year old kid whom they never even bothered to find out the name of, according to the grand jury report — more children might have suffered because of their silence.

Tragically, this "don't-ask, don't-tell, sweep-it-clean behavior" sounds all too familiar as the stories are prevalent of trusted leaders in churches and other institutions who also have placed the loyalty of staff members and the reputation of the names of those institutions above the very lives and safety of children, the most vulnerable among us.

 Dr. Jack Graham and the executive leadership at Prestonwood Baptist Church, a megachurch in Dallas, Texas, also remained shockingly silent and enabled a child sexual predator. In June of 1989, they directly knew about the sexual abuse of several boys by then youth music minister John Langworthy, recently indicted in Mississippi and awaiting trial on 8 felony counts of sexual abuse of 5 boys there. Prestonwood staff heard directly from victims but failed to report the abuse to the police as required by TX state law mandated in 1971. Texas law is clear. If you suspect child abuse, report it. Langworthy was fired from Prestonwood and allowed to leave the state returning to his home state of Mississippi where he soon thereafter began teaching in Clinton public schools and working as a music minister with kids of all ages at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, MS. He did so until his school contract was not renewed for this school year and his resignation from the church in May 2011 in which he cited mental and emotional reasons. On August 7, 2011, Langworthy confessed from the pulpit to sexually abusing boys while he served at churches in Mississippi and in Texas.

Read here about my efforts to warn about Langworthy and also the disturbing pattern that is endangering children. That Jack Graham and other executive staff who knew about the abuse didn't call the police (and still haven't to this day to my knowledge) is unconscionable. Like Joe Pa and others at Penn State, as Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast writes, it is "totally and eternally unconscionable." No admission has been made by Prestonwood leadership for how they broke the law by failing to report child sexual abuse, endangered children and enabled a predator to move on to unsuspecting churches, schools and communities for 22 years. This says it all:
What is disgusting to me and many of my Penn State buddies is that the very people who preached responsibility and honor did all they could to protect the reputation of the football program ahead of the children who Sandusky allegedly abused.

How dare they? Why didn’t any of these people — Paterno, Curley, Schultz or Spanier — contact the police with what was obviously a criminal matter?

Why do some people, whether it’s at Penn State, in the Catholic Church hierarchy or any at institution with power and influence, think of these children as expendable? What is wrong with these people, this nation, when we stop caring about the most vulnerable among us?

Jack Graham and other pastors and leaders in institutions charged with protecting children should heed the advice in an article by Cathy Lynn Grossman in USA Today, Catholic bishops' lesson for Penn State: Call the cops!
A trusted adult, respected by the community, offers special programs for vulnerable boys -- then sexually abuses them. Word travels up to higher authorities but no one calls the police. They handle it within...
Sound familiar? It's the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal rewritten on a university campus.
 Grossman cites a statement by Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the website Bishop Accountability which archives documents related to the Catholic abuse scandal, in which she calls the Penn State story
...a disgrace and a tragedy. What's rare and encouraging in this case is that the grand jury chose to hold the enablers as well as the perpetrator accountable. Let's hope this trend continues. When managers in ALL institutions know they will be arrested for hiding sexual predators, children in our society will be much safer.

In Houston last week, a 32-year-old youth pastor at a Houston-area church was arrested, accused of raping a 16-year-old girl. Chad Foster is charged with sexual assault of a child.

The victim told investigators that she and Foster immediately became friends, and at some point, they exchanged phone numbers. She said they would communicate regularly via text messages.

 Then, in late July, the victim told investigators that their relationship became sexual at Foster’s home. The victim said she and Foster continued to have a sexual relationship through mid-October. 

The victim told investigators that Foster told her multiple times how important it was that they keep their relationship a secret, because of their age difference. She said Foster told her if anyone found out, he would be in legal trouble.

But in late October, the girl said she started feeling bad about her relationship with Foster, so she made an outcry to her Spanish teacher and another pastor at the church. They notified the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

It took great courage for this young girl to come forward and reach out for help. Thankfully, the adults in positions of trust that she told did not remain silent and look the other way which would have enabled the predator, harmed the victim and endangered more children. The teacher and pastor should be commended for notifying the police as required by law. This should be the rule, not the exception, so kids can be protected every time. 

Predators need secrecy and protection to do harm. The light of truth and knowledge is our most important tool in protecting kids.

Amy Smith
Houston SNAP 

UPDATE: Joe Paterno announced today, 11/9/2011, that he is leaving at the end of the season. Physician, author, and Washington Times columnist Milton Wolf writes:
How will he look his players in the eyes while they're huddled in the child rape rooms that they once considered to be their locker room? I'd bulldoze the place if I could, or at least gut it and rebuild. Exorcise the demons and start a new legacy in what was once a great program. The players and, even more so, the victims deserve that evil place to be destroyed.

Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says the Penn State scandal holds a lesson for Southern Baptists...story in the The Associated Baptist Press with my response.