Tuesday, July 21, 2009

2009 Now Conference - Clergy Sexual Abuse

By Victoria Polin, MA, LCPC, NCC
The Awareness Center, Inc - July 21, 2009

Rev. Dr. Traci West, Vicki Polin, Maria Taylor
Being at the 2009 - NOW (National Organization for Women) conference in Indianapolis was incredible. It has been too long since I've been around so many like-minded people.

There were so many things I learned at the conference, including at the workshop in which I was a part of. It was an honor to be on a panel with Rev. Dr. Traci West and Maria Taylor. The three were amazing to listen to, along with those who were brave enough in the audience who shared their stories and experiences. Each and every one of us came from such completely different backgrounds, yet we were all describing the exact same issues.

It saddens me a great deal how we really cannot blindly trust those who are in leadership roles, such as members clergy. The reality is that trust is something that needs to be earned and re-evaluated as time goes by. Unfortunately, there are too many individuals who are giving over their own power to those who are more then willing to abuse their leadership positions for their own personal gain. No matter what faith, race and or social/economical background one comes from the issues and ramifications are very much the same. The only way to end clergy sexual abuse and any other type of sex crimes is by all survivors and those who care about them uniting together.

In the Jewish community when we speak out about sex crimes we fear anti-semitism if when we report sex crimes. In the African American community they fear an increase of stereotyping and racism. Other faiths they come up with similar issues in hopes of silencing, shaming and blaming those who have been sexually victimized. In all communities the survivors and their family members often become outcasts, and are often chased out of the community that at one time felt as if it was their home and family.

It never stops amazing me that no matter what faith and or ethnic group believes, the same exact problems arise when it comes to dealing with clergy sexual abuse. The words used, the names of the offenders and those who cover up the crimes may be different, yet it all boils down to the same thing -- the abuse of power and control.

It's strange how learning that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was known for manipulating women into having sexual contact with him, put me in a state of shock. I also briefly went into a state of denial. How could this American hero also be an alleged sex offender? But then again he's no different then any other member of the clergy who uses their role and position of power to use their own grooming process to lure in their next victim. King is no different then Rabbis Mordecai Magencey, Marc Gafni, Mordecai Tendler, Steven Kaplan, Yaakov Menken, David Kedmi, Hershy Worch, Tobias Gabriel, or many of the other member of the clergy who lured in adults. I personally believe they all should be "Defrocked" and criminally charged. The problem is that with most cases is that it takes those who have been sexually victimized years to come forward. Long past the time the statutes of limitations have run out. I personally feel the notion of statutes of limitations on all sex crimes (against adults and children) need to be abolished.

I also wanted to mention that on my way to the NOW conference I was listening to Carole King's Tapestry CD, with a friend. It's been years since either of us have ever heard it. When the song Smackwater Jack came on, my friend and I looked at each other in shock. We both heard the song millions of times, yet being adults who advocate for survivors the words seem to take on a different meaning. We both started wondering if the lyrics really were talking about clergy sexual abuse. In the past I had always thought of "Smackwater Jack" as being a civil rights song -- bringing an awareness about racism. Yet this time driving to the NOW conference to discuss clergy sexual abuse, it seemed to be talking about clergy sexual abuse, a topic which wasn't discussed back in the early 1970's when the song was written.

Below are the lyrics and also a link to Carole singing it on youtube.

Smackwater Jack 
Smackwater Jack he bought a shotgun
Cause he was in the mood of a little confrontation
He just let it all hang loose
He didn't think about the noose
He couldn't take no more abuse,
So he shot down the congregation
You can't talk to a man with a shotgun in his hand
Big Jim the Chief stood for law and order
He called for the guard to come and surround the border
Now from his bulldog mouth
As he led the posse south
Came the cry "We got to ride to clean up the street
For our wives and our daughters!"
You can't talk to a man when he don't want to understand
The account of the capture wasn't in the papers
But you know, they hanged ole Smack right then (instead of later)
You know, the people where quite pleased
Cause the outlaw had been sized
And on the whole, it was a very good year for the undertaker
You can't talk to a man with a shotgun in his hand