Kudos to Oprah Winfrey for protecting abused children

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 7, 2007

Dear Editor:

Hooray for Oprah Winfrey! When she discovered that children at her school were being sexually abused, she took decisive action. She terminated the alleged abuser and the employees who had condoned the abuse through their efforts to cover it up or their “appalling silence.”

If public schools, organizations and churches would act as decisively, the abuse of our children would drastically decline. Rape and sexual abuse are the most unreported and unpunished crimes in America. Six out of 10 girl children will be raped or sexually abused before they reach 18. Four out of 10 boys will also be forced to bear this burden.

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Every 5 minutes, a woman is raped in this nation. Most of the abusers will go unnoticed and unreported.

Where are the voices of protest? Why is this society so quick to protect or ignore the abusers among us? Could it

be because the abusers are often our church members, co-workers and family members?

Several decades ago, a family friend tried to rape a family member. Fortunately she was able to escape her intended fate. Most victims are not so lucky. And if they dare report the crime, little if anything is done.

I still tremble when I think of a love letter a teacher wrote a 7th grader over a decade ago. The letter was placed in the school file. Yet, the abuser was not terminated. He was allowed to resign and teach in a county school, although the parties involved were aware of the letter and the allegations. After much effort and resistance from people in authority, we finally had him removed from the classroom.

He was only found guilty of a misdemeanor. He received probation just as the rapists of my two foster children a decade before. Both were under 13 years of age. Their rapists were grown men, one of whom continued to rape her while he was on probation.

A few weeks ago, a jury of 11 whites and one black man freed an alleged rapist of a student who had just turned 18. She had just completed her freshman year in college.

The defendant never took the stand to explain why he gave a statement saying he didn’t touch her, which was glaringly contradicted by the DNA. Incredible, but true. Judge Wiggins, a black man, announced that he would give the defendants probation even if the white jury found him guilty.

The judge&8217;s pronouncement was painfully reminiscent of the historical disregard for the humanity and value of black women. It was not a crime to rape a black woman during slavery. In some states, she had to prove that she was a virgin before a defendant, black or white, could be found guilty after slavery ended. Even the rape of white women, unless the alleged rapist was black, often reaped only light sentences and punishment.

In most instances, sex crimes were not reported because women, black, brown and white, are aware of the unwillingness of the system to protect them from sexual predators. In fact, many women are more willing to believe that the victim, even child victims, did something to bring about their abuse. Maybe this reality explains why the Assistant district attorney proposed misdemeanor probation if the alleged gang rapist pled guilty to a lesser charge in the case referenced above. They agreed, but the victim refused.

Two other courageous young women, victims of unreported sex abuse, founded an organization called “Me Too.”

I salute them and encourage the public to give them their prayers and support. They cannot do it alone.

Oprah&8217;s voice resounds with love and fury, but all of our voices are needed. A young Muslim woman was gang raped by seven men.

They received light sentences. She received 200 lashes and six months in jail. Her lawyer was disbarred for raising his voice. But the world is beginning to listen.

When we broke our appalling silence in the 60s, we changed the nation. Think of how many lives we can change if we break our appalling silence on the issue of rape and sexual child abuse.

Many of the abusers were abused and need help, but our silence will not help them. But it will hurt our children and leave scars that will last all of their precious lives if we remain silent.

Break the silence

and help make a child smile!

Faya Rose Tour/