Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Syracuse men’s basketball head coach, Jim Boeheim, has come under a great deal of fire recently for defending charges of sexual abuse against his longtime assistant coach, Bernie Fine. Boeheim disparaged Fine’s accusers, claiming they were lying to extort money. Defending his actions, Boeheim asserted, “What I said last week was out of loyalty. I acted without thinking. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”
Well, believe it, Jim. Unfortunately, sexual predators are all around us. Several high profile sexual abuse cases have surfaced recently. These come on the heels of the Catholic priest abuse scandal a few years ago. If it sounds like we are surrounded by cases of predators abusing children, it is because we are. They are real and they are more plentiful than many of us realize. Even when abusers are discovered and convicted, their prison sentences are often ridiculously brief.
I was visiting with friends recently, when the topic of abuse came up. Three of the women present said they had been victims of abuse. In each case, it was by someone they knew. These were not the acts of random strangers – the ones we were warned about as children. These heinous acts were perpetrated by people they knew and trusted. In two cases, adults suspected, or were told of the abuse, but failed to act. Like those in some of the high profile abuse cases, they either could not believe it or they did not want to accept it. And so the abuse continued.
I was very lucky in this instance. No one ever touched me inappropriately, much less abused me. But many, many others have not been so lucky. They have had something stolen from them that they can never replace. Their innocence has vanished like smoke up a chimney.
Sexual predators are real. They walk among us, ready to prey on those who cannot protect themselves. We must warn and educate our children, and we must be vigilant for strange and unseemly behavior. I know it is hard to accept that a trusted friend or family member might commit such an act, but sexual predators do not have “I am an abuser” tattooed on their forehead. If we are alerted to such behavior, we must see that it is investigated thoroughly, not dismiss it out of hand. Sticking our heads in the sand will do nothing but allow predators to go unchecked.
If we want to protect the innocent, the time for shocked denial is over.