BY ANN DAPICE
Following last month’s excellent Observer article, “Epidemic,” about missing and murdered Native girls and women, the darkness of trafficking continues to be in the news.
Child sex trafficking charges have been brought against wealthy businessman Jeffrey Epstein. He is accused of sexually exploiting and abusing dozens of girls between 2002 and 2005 in New York and Florida. Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution in Florida and was sentenced to 13 months incarceration. But most of that time was spent on work release or in the private wing of a jail. He is a registered as a sex offender in Florida. The Miami Herald has reported a deal was made that Epstein would only face a state charge.
Power, sex and money are central in human trafficking.
We learn more about the suffering of students at major universities where they and professional Olympic figures have endured sexual abuse as their superiors ignored their complaints. Ohio State University is the most recent example where the sexual abuse of 177 students occurred over nearly 20 years.
At the K-12 level, we hear of teachers and even school bus drivers found to be guilty of sexual assault despite supposed background checks.
We have heard of the molestation of young boys and girls by priests in the Roman Catholic Church for decades. Now the Southern Baptist churches and other congregations are in the news related to sexual violence and the same kind of coverup.
We continue to see political figures who proclaim strong religious standards caught in sexual acts that contradict their messages. New York magazine reported that a younger President Trump compared Epstein to himself. Flight records obtained by NBC News show that former President Clinton flew on one of Epstein’s private planes several times.
In what has been called the #MeToo Movement, sexual assaults by Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and other well-known persons like Charlie Rose and Al Franken have come to light as prominent women have come forward as victims of past violence. It has become a dominant theme as people remember, or can now acknowledge, what was done to them in the past.
While others have been forced out of office and jobs, the U.S. president is not yet being held accountable for even his own admissions of sexual misconduct.
The news that isn’t the news is that women have been forced to sell their bodies and souls for jobs they needed for a very long time.
An increase in public misogyny sees reproductive rights of women removed as powerful politicians lessen the ability of women to have access to birth control or abortion – unless they have resources to obtain such services elsewhere. Women are even told by one elected official that if they can’t stop the rape to “lie back and enjoy it” and told by another that rape can be a “blessing.”
Public rhetoric reduces women in status as only “hosts” to house babies until birth.
As the knowledge of abuses has become known, it’s wondered how it is that the young Olympic athletes had no protection from the physician Larry Nassar. USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University employed him for decades. He is said to have molested at least a 150 young women. His former patients said that when they complained of his treatment they were ignored.
In the most recent university case made public, the 232-page report of first-hand accounts were from 177 Ohio State students. It is likely that Dr. Richard Strauss abused others between 1979 and 1998 when he worked as a team doctor and a physician in the student health clinic. Investigators said that Ohio State administrators failed to take action despite repeated complaints about Strauss’ misconduct. The U.S. Department of Education’s office of civil rights is conducting an inquiry. The university is already facing multiple lawsuits.
As the result of the report, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine called on lawmakers to extend the statute of limitations on sex crimes.
“We should all be disgusted. Every Ohioan should be disgusted and should be angered about what’s happened,” DeWine said. “Not only by the vile acts perpetrated by Richard Strauss, but also they should be angered that complaints and reports about this sexual abuse were not reported to higher authorities by the [OSU] athletic department or Ohio State University health center until 1996 – more than 15 years after the first reports were in fact received.” Strauss died by suicide in 2005.
In the latest sexual assault lawsuit against Michigan State University it took three years for an alleged victim to go public. The victim says that she was raped by three basketball players. She went to counseling and is said to have been told that counselors had seen a lot of cases with “guys with big names” and the best thing to do was to get better and ignore it.
In 2011 an earlier college football scandal hit as nationally regarded football coach hero Joe Paterno’s assistant coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions team was accused of 52 counts of child molestation from incidents between1994 and 2009. [I should disclose that I taught at a Penn State campus in suburban Philadelphia between 1984 and 1990. While I was no longer at the university at the time of the alleged events, I had good colleagues who remained and had to deal with the fall out.]
There was and still is much discussion regarding Coach Paterno’s knowledge of the events. After his distinguished time at Penn State he retired and died shortly afterwards. Nevertheless, the question of who knew, and who covered up what was known, is centralto this writing.
In the later 1980s I had a female student who told the class about the painful events of her molestation by a Roman Catholic priest. Although most of the young people molested by priests were young boys, young girls were molested as well. As was common practice, the molestation was denied and the priest was moved to another diocese. Her father, a successful surgeon, became so upset that he had a heart attack and died. So already in the ‘80s people were not surprised to learn of priest molestation. It was common knowledge. Yet the coverups have continued to the present.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler  writes in Christianity Today that the avalanche of sexual misconduct that has come to light is “almost too much to bear.” He says that this was seen to be a Roman Catholic problem with the requirement of priestly celibacy and the “organized conspiracy of silence” within the hierarchy. He discusses the Southern Baptist problem as an unorganized conspiracy of silence.
Sadly, he notes, the unorganized nature of our problem may make recovery and correction even more difficult and the silence even more dangerous.
Most of the actions of predators discussed above would be diagnosed as compulsive sexual behaviors, whether the assaults are against the young or adults. The treatment for such conditions is uncertain.
It is important to say however, that in violence there are two pathologies: that of the perpetrators from a variety of causes, and the denial, rationalization, and pretense of all the others that the violence isn’t happening.
In reality, it is not the perpetrators who are the greatest causes of violence, but those who turn a blind eye to violence in its many forms.
When society’s institutions – families, schools, religious organizations, universities, hospitals, nursing homes, courts, and law enforcement – obligated to stop the violence and respond to its victims do not act, there is systematic failure and abuse.
Ann Dapice received a PhD in psychology, sociology and philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. She has taught and/or served as administrator at a number of universities teaching courses in the social sciences, philosophy and Native American Studies. She is Director of Education and Research for T.K. Wolf, Inc., a 501(c)(3) American Indian organization and Founder/Executive Director, Institute of Values Inquiry. She consults with the University of Pennsylvania on development of Native American Programs where she is Founder of the Association of Native Alumni and has served on a number of University Committees. Her cross-cultural and interdisciplinary research has been reported in professional journals, books, and academic presentations regionally, nationally and internationally – and in newspapers, radio, television, and the internet. Relevant publications include The Praeger International Collection on Violence, chapters: Violence in the Brain, Betrayal, Revenge and Religion, Selective Denial of Violence, Bullying Then and Now.
Editor’s Note: This essay first appeared in the August 2019 print edition of The Oklahoma Observer.