Stillwater News Press

Opinion

June 6, 2014

DIANE DIMOND: Male victims of sex crimes too often ignored

STILLWATER, Okla. — It was with great anticipation that I picked up the May 14 edition of Time Magazine with the big red college pennant on the cover emblazoned with the word RAPE.

“Great,” I thought, “The mainstream media is finally going to report about the sexual crimes committed against our young people.”

It didn't take me long to realize that your reporters and editors completely ignored half of the equation. Not one mention was made of male sexual abuse victims. Why is that? Don't male victims count?

Don't you see that this kind of reporting sends exactly that message? If the media only talks about the female victims of these horrible crimes, the male victims will continue to stay silent and the predators will remain free!

I recently wrote about the latest National Crime Victimization Survey's stunning statistic that 38 percent of sexual violence victims are male. They are set upon in all sorts of places like private homes, athletic venues, sleep-away camps and college campuses, especially during fraternity hazing rituals. I also wrote about the mental and emotional dynamics behind so many victimized young males who choose to suffer in silence and not report their abuse. When survivors do reveal, they often wait decades to speak the truth and seek support for their emotional scars.

I am confounded that the mainstream media doesn't report on this as fervently as they report sex crimes against females. This kind of journalism makes it enormously more difficult for male victims. You can't wipe away the moldy stigma of something unless you shine a light on it.

Silence never solves anything.

The story of FBI Special Agent Jim Clemente – a man who spent a career specializing in Child Sex Crimes investigations – makes my point. It is Clemente's personal story of falling prey to a sexual predator and living for years with the near-crippling fear of exposure.

At 15, Clemente was a scrawny teen, seeking independence and just coming to grips with his sexuality. A counselor at Catholic wilderness camp took him under his wing. The boy thought of him as a real “man's man” and was honored when asked to stay on at the end of the camp season to help close up the compound.

This trusted church employee took young Clemente to a bar, let him drive his car, gave him beer, spoke to him about masturbation and pornography and then did the unthinkable. The abuse had a profound effect. Clemente told me he suffered guilt, sorrow, loneliness, shame and depression. Unable to trust anyone, he pushed away his family and friends. Recurring nightmares haunted him.

Clemente had always dreamed of a profession in law enforcement and felt if he revealed what had happened to him or if he sought therapy, his career would be jeopardized. So Jim stayed silent for a decade. The FBI calls this “delayed disclosure.” It is not unusual and occurs whether the perpetrator is male or female.

Clemente's brother finally told him about lewd Polaroids of other boy campers he had once seen in the counselor's office, pictures taken through a peephole. Clemente, then a prosecutor for the City of New York, realized he had to track down this predator and stop him.

The man was eventually convicted, but no telling how many boys he had violated over the years. Clemente discovered he had taught and coached at 13 different schools and had been accused of sexual abuse against boys numerous times. But no one ever reported the suspect to police, and he simply moved on to new hunting grounds.

More silence which, obviously, only compounded the problem and exposed more boys to harm.

The CDC's 2010 Sexual Violence Survey reports that over 25 million American males will suffer sexual violence in their lifetimes. Yet the bulk of the money spent to help victims goes to women-only services. The media barely mentions male survivors of sexual abuse. And many of us ignorantly believe if a victim doesn't tell right away, they are suspect.

I submit the public will never fully understand until the media starts reporting the full and complete story of sexual abuse survivors.

Visit Diane Dimond's official website at www.dianedimond.com.

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