False accusations, bad boys and stripping Christians

Readers respond to recent articles on molestation allegations, acceptable sexual behavior and the Christian way to handle exotic dancers.


Salon Staff
May 24, 2002 11:00PM (UTC)

Read "The Ultimate Weapon"

Chris Colin's article resonated with many points in my own life. After several years of marriage counseling and ultimately psychiatric treatment regarding my wife's abusive actions, we divorced. I was granted residential custody of our son as a single dad, and she had weekend visitation.

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When I remarried, it seemed to enrage my ex. She visited the house at odd hours, sometimes verbally berating my wife at the front door, at other times just watching from the car. The intensity and frequency of these inappropriate visits escalated. The local police laughed it off: "If I had a buck for every situation like this, I could retire."

It came to a head when my ex tried to beat my wife black and blue for not answering the door quickly enough one afternoon. Our son was terrified, and only then confessed that "Mommy's still hitting me. I was afraid to tell you."

Putting the protection of my wife and son first, I resigned my job, and moved the family overseas near my wife's parents, having little faith in the police or courts to protect us. My ex forged documents showing that she'd had sole custody of our son, and attempted to have an international arrest warrant sworn out for my arrest. During a phone conversation she mocked us: "If I don't kill you in this life, I'll get you in the next."

The judge, although amused by what he thought was one of the more creative threats brought into his courtroom, quickly sorted out truth from forgeries, fact from fiction, and remanded my ex for three separate psychiatric exams and denied her petition for custody of our son.

Although relieved at the outcome, I observed to my attorney afterwards that if I -- as a man -- had assaulted my ex's new spouse, beaten my son and forged documents to have her falsely imprisoned, I'd have been sent to jail myself. My attorney laughed, and reassured me to be happy with the decision ... that given prevailing stereotypes it was better than most divorced dads got. And she must be right ... she deals with this on a daily basis, after all.

-- Rich Black

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On a variety of Internet lists, Chris Colin's column "The Ultimate Weapon" has not garnered very favorable reviews. With much justification! In fact it seems to have no other purpose than to slam those who wish to alert others of perhaps the single largest continuing miscarriage of justice in our society, not only in the United States, but internationally.

While offering that society was wrong in repressed memory and the day-care scandals, Colin asks us to suspend our belief that there just might be the possibility that other incidents, such as the current Catholic Church discovery, may be equally as false. Unfortunately for Mr. Colin what international experience and statistics reveal is not a condemnation of those such as Dean Tong, but rather his vindication. In New Zealand 80 percent of repressed memory allegations were dismissed prior to trial. In Canada two separate investigations in the '90s found that about three-quarters of all child sexual assault cases in divorce to be false. Ceci and Bruck in their book "Jeopardy in the Courtroom" peg false allegations in the United States during a divorce to be five times higher.

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What Mr. Colin and others of his beliefs seem to wish to refuse to look at is a host of other reasons for the phenomena. Many of those making false allegations suffer from mental illness either by reason of organic defect or substance abuse. Careerism, malfeasance or just plain laziness on the part of authorities. While we may not wish to believe it, there are those in authority who are quite willing to advance their prospects knowing that the cost of a good defense is prohibitive for many. We can even draw on Bill Shakespeare, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." Spite is the single largest documented reason for false allegation of a sexual assault.

Mr. Colin also wishes to undermine a fundamental principle of law, innocent until proven guilty. By several times insisting "unsubstantiated" is not the same thing as "unfounded," the innuendo is that the accused are of course guilty. One wonders if Mr. Tong will seek litigation against Salon for such assertions towards him. For the purpose of argument, let us follow the assumption that all these individuals "got away with it." If such is the case such high rates of dismissal should indicate gross incompetence on the part of the legal authorities around the world.

There are those who find it very frightening that recollections of child sexual abuse obtained by hypnosis in repressed memory are strikingly similar to accounts of the observation of "spectral entities" in Salem and Europe during the Middle Ages. With public and private health plans covering mental health, many "victims" choose to spend large sums on unqualified lay therapists. Could it be simply they are looking for answers they want to hear rather than need to hear?

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The storming of the Waco compound was ostensibly done because of allegations of child abuse by the members of that cult. At the end of that exercise healthy children were dead. The current state of affairs is most likely more indicative of the needs of many in the child protection industry to extend and justify their existence than Colin's lame article damning those who would challenge miscarriages of justice. When alerted by the canary it's time to examine the mine, not to simply damn the bird.

-- David Prichard, Canadian Association of Falsely Accused

I very much enjoyed Chris Colin's well-written article on "father's rights" groups. However, the misogynist attitude of these men disturbed me a great deal. As someone who has volunteered on a counseling and rape crisis hotline for two years, I have seen the degree to which sexual assaults damage individuals, and also how unlikely victims are to be believed, especially in the criminal justice system. For these men to complain that, in our legal system, "a woman's word can convict a man," would be laughable if it weren't such a serious situation.

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I believe that the best way to address the problem is to provide more sex education from an early age. Children need to know there are people they can talk to, and everyone needs to better understand the issues surrounding sexual assault. The current administration's emphasis on "sex education" which gives no factual information at all is doing real harm to our society. We need fact-based, informative sex education for kids, starting early in elementary school. This is an important step to helping both children and adults understand and discuss sexual issues (both good and bad) with some degree of clarity.

-- Melody Blass

I know a lot of people, myself included, who were molested as children. Exactly one half of the perpetrators that I know about were female. And, as often as not, the perpetrators were not adults but other children older and more forceful of personality than the child that was molested.

It is known among therapists who treat adults for childhood molestations, especially men, that molestations by female perpetrators are underreported by a significant degree, and I've seen the estimate, more than once, that the ratio of male-to-female perpetrators was close to 50-50. Often, the sexual victimization of a male by a female is minimized because of our cultural views about females instigating sexual relations with males and this outweighs the knowledge of whether or not the relations are OK.

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I was molested on multiple occasions and every incident -- most unrelated -- was with a female perpetrator. What troubles me is that the focus of the media's attention is on male perpetrators, and exclusively on adult males.

Several years ago, there was a woman on the San Francisco peninsula who molested a boy and then, after serving some jail time, was impregnated by the same boy. Reread the news accounts that were printed at that time, including interviews with the boy's mother, where she forgave the perpetrator quite openly. One can easily imagine the difference in reaction if the gender of the perpetrator was reversed and even more so if the gender of the child was also reversed.

-- Anonymous

Chris Colin has written a fair and balanced piece on one of the most difficult and emotionally charged subjects there is, but there's a notable false note in his critique of Tong:

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"While [Tong] complains about a legal system in which a woman's word can convict a man, he expects us to accept that a man's word (printed, in this case) is enough to exonerate one."

I was under the impression that, at least theoretically, a man or woman's word should never have to be enough to "exonerate" them in American jurisprudence. Presumption of innocence is a hard-won principle, and it's a mistake to ever, ever treat it lightly, even in molestation cases.

Of course, this raises incredibly difficult questions in cases where one has no access to any "proof" beyond the testimony of a survivor. How can we not want to believe, and help, people who have suffered such a horrible violation? How can we determine the truth, when memory is so malleable and so fallible (as the "recovered memory" fad demonstrated so dramatically)? That's really a question for psychiatrists to answer -- a question about the methodological flaws in their profession. But the answer won't come as easily as many would like to think, and when it does it's unlikely to be simple or easy to accept.

-- Ian Samuels

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Several years ago I reported a neighborhood flasher to the police. I expected the police to simply tell the guy to stop masturbating, completely naked, in front of his first floor picture window, while people were walking by. I was not expecting a call from a detective asking me to testify against the guy in court. Turns out he worked with mentally handicapped children at a local school and had also exposed himself to a child a couple of weeks earlier.

If a jury believed me and two other witnesses, he would be removed from his job and evicted so I decided to testify. The case eventually turned into a fiasco where myself and the two other witnesses were falsely accused of racism and making false accusations. Maybe the three of us should start an advocacy group for people falsely accused of making false accusations.

-- Cathleen Maes

Read "Go Out and Get a Piece, Son!"

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I believe in the importance of Lara Riscol's article about the double standards and inequities of the "acceptable" sexual behavior of girls vs. boys, which, in its extreme form, results in girls being blamed for rape and abuse. It is so embedded in our culture that the majority of women blame themselves for these illegal attacks, and not their predators.

There is an unaddressed piece in this article, though, that is disturbing and points to the exact double standard and complacency toward woman's abuse that Lara Riscol is arguing against: How is it possible that a responsible adult watched this abuse and used it as an opportunity to boost his own career without helping and/or trying to prevent a young woman from being violated? How is this photograph more valuable than a young woman's human rights? The lack of commentary on this is hugely disappointing and skews my trust in the author.

-- Elizabeth Gallagher

One of the tenets of political correctness is that the male and female sex drive are roughly equal in magnitude. Nonsense! Thousands of years of human history AND science point to the contrary. (Testosterone is what controls the sex drive of BOTH sexes and is in multiple times greater quantity in men.)

All guys know that despite the propaganda, women are not really interested in passive, malleable men. How (or how much) do we contain the inherent aggressiveness of men without squelching it? Students of sex like Ms. Riscol should be searching for enlightenment rather than preaching to us on the matter.

-- Kyle Bozeman

I'm not sure I see the point in publishing a two-page article on the double standard regarding sexual behavior. Given that the author has published a full-length study, I expected more substance. Trotting out tired clichés about men pursuing and women resisting elucidate nothing about why boys and girls get these messages.

For example, while it's true that right-wing moralists, often driven by religious beliefs, preach abstinence to boys and girls, but then do the old "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" to boys, the reasons underlying such hypocrisy is much more of interest than reading, again, that it happens. What is it about the way boys understand themselves to become men, i.e., what it means to be masculine, causes them to equate sexual activity as "conquest?" Why, when one reads the various religious literatures closely, is women's sexuality the one that is characterized as insatiable and therefore less controllable? What role does alcohol play in breaking down limits? For example, do most of these mob rapes -- be they train-pulls at frat parties or gang-rapes at Mardi Gras -- happen in conjunction with the consumption of alcohol? And how do boys/men find bonding activity, reinforcement of their masculinity, in obliterating a single female's identity?

These were the questions I was hoping to see raised. Instead, I got another expose about boys being encouraged to be sexual. Not terribly enlightening stuff -- just more of the same.

-- Lorraine Berry

Ms. Riscol's article ignores one salient social fact that is often ignored in framing these debates, and that is the overwhelming contempt (soft and hidden as it may be) a great many women have for men who are not pathologically selfish at the very least, abusive at the very worst. As long as women continue to congratulate themselves on their uncontrollable attraction to "bad boys" and "scoundrels," there will be precious little change in the business as usual of sex -- that is to say, men will be boys and women will reward them for it, sacrificing their own physical well-being and the well-being of their children in the process. At least the domestic abuse shelters will be kept busy.

-- Reynald A. Perry

Read "They'll Know We're Christian by Our Exotic Dancing"

Those of us who study the Bible recognize this story right away. Except our Christina Silvas is Tamar and the Capital Christian Center Rev. Cole is none other than famed patriarch, Judah. The Bible, however, does one better, as Tamar is not a member of the congregation, she is a non-Jew. And they don't try to excommunicate her for "selling her body," they try to stone her. Take a look, it's in Genesis 38.

Thank you, Ms. Sweeney, for your very biblical and very moral tale!

-- Johnny A. Ramirez Jr., a religion major at La Sierra University, Riverside, Calif.

As an ex-Christian turned agnostic (and an ex-member of the Assemblies of God to boot), let me say that your article was one of the worst I've ever read. However much one may sympathize with Christina Silvas, no one who deliberately and continuously breaks the tenets of a religion should be surprised if they're expelled from it. These aren't social gatherings. They're groups of people who, rightly or wrongly, believe that their interpretation of the Bible is the Word of God, and do their best of obey it. Paul, in the book of First Corinthians, doesn't command the church there to understand, love, or otherwise coddle the man who was sleeping with his mother. He told them to kick him out. Call it cold, call it mean, call it unnecessary, and I might agree. Call it unchristian and you just advertise your ignorance of evangelical Christianity.

-- Daniel Elmore

Jesus stopped a woman from being stoned to death by saying "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." When the mob had slunk away, he said to the woman, "Neither do I condemn you." As someone who works for a very different kind of church, it's easy to forget how often "Christianity" is allowed to trump the true message of Christ.

When I read this story in the newspaper this morning and then saw it here, it was all I could do to not immediately send a rather hateful (and unchristian) letter to "Pastor" Cole. Instead, I simply pray that this really does turn out to be a teachable moment for this congregation, and that the end result will be that truly Christian love and charity will prevail.

-- Christopher Putnam

Jennifer Foote Sweeney strikes a decidedly holier-than-thou tone of righteous indignation in her article. The article is sprinkled liberally with phrases such as "so biblical is the story" and "in true biblical fashion," and she goes so far as to end with the sentence, "If you've read the Bible, you'll know that stranger things have happened."

Unfortunately, it appears that Sweeney is the one whose biblical knowledge is a bit shaky.

Though Sweeney is correct from the standpoint of biblical doctrine in pointing out that Christians are called to spread God's Word and to declare His love of all people without passing judgement on non-Christians, she seems a little less clear about the job of the minister of a Christian congregation. The minister's job is to minister to his congregation, where a different standard of judgement applies. No less an authority than the Apostle Paul exhorted congregants to expel -- gently and lovingly as possible -- members who openly, brazenly sinned (see I Corintians, chapter 5).

It's unclear from the article whether Ms. Sweeney believes that nude dancing (i.e., sexually arousing bar patrons -- without regard for their marital status, emotional health or financial stability -- for money) is laudable, morally neutral or socially and morally undesireable. (Though her cartoonish "what would Jesus do" analysis indicates she feels it's the justified response to poverty and lack of external financial support of a single Christian mother -- I admit I'd hate to see Ms. Sweeney's "what would Jesus do" analysis of a white-collar criminal who gives generously to charity, or the mother who drowns her children to save them from hell.

I'd go so far as to say the moral status of stripping is open to debate regardless of one's faith or lack thereof; that even among those of faith, whether it rises to the level of "immorality or greed, idolat[ry], revil[ing], drunk[enness], or robber[ry]" that Paul speaks of (as a point of reference, the chapter in question was sparked by Paul learning of a congregant who was sleeping with his stepmother) is an matter of personal interpretation.

But Ms. Sweeney hasn't been entrusted with the care of that community of believers, has she? In fact, at the beginning of the article she appears to profess that she doesn't believe in God. What is quite clear is that Ms. Sweeney believes she speaks from a position of moral authority, when she derides as closed-minded bigots "those who would call themselves Christian but are not."

So, I suggest Ms. Sweeney, if she wishes her appeals to biblical moral authority to carry a little more weight, should reread I Corinthians, Chapter 5, and focus particularly on the passage, "For what have I to do with judging outsiders?" As an outsider to the church, she might even take a page from the Bible herself.

-- Dave Neuer


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