Archive for November, 2011

And it don’t stop. For weeks, the nation has been treated to explosive coverage of the child rape/sexual molestation charges against former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky. But similar charges of depravity against children occur with great frequency on a local level in stories that are unlikely to make national news. And when they involve female abusers, they are just as unlikely to raise as much outcry.

The latest was reported on Wednesday. A 42-year-old woman teaching sixth grade at a Brooklyn middle school was charged with having raped a boy at her school for two years beginning when he was 12.

Claudia Tillery is innocent until proven guilty of having sex with the boy in her home and at a motel, and providing him with drugs and alcohol. Through her lawyer, Tillery says the boy is making up the story because she once accused him of stealing a cell phone.

A court will decide the truth. But more than 10 years after Mary Kay Letourneau came to embody the crime of teachers, female teachers, having sex with the children in their care, society continues to view boys being molested by women as more a rite of passage, than a crime. And these acts, even when found to be criminal in a court of law, continue to too often be punished with relative slaps on the wrist.

Just this summer, a female Queens teacher convicted of having sex with one her 15-year-old students received a sentence of just 90 days. Compare that to the case of male Queens teacher charged with systematically sexually molesting and groping girls ages 8 to 10 over a two-year period. He faces seven years if convicted and was being held in jail on $200,000 bail.

Bail is supposed to be about simply ensuring that the accused shows up for trial, and not about the severity of the alleged crime itself. But it’s notable that Tillery, the female teacher in Brooklyn, got to go home to await trial. She was released on her own recognizance after her arraignment.

Some may argue that the charges involving the male Queens teacher involve more heinous accusations with younger victims. Perhaps. But that view still puts an onus of sophistication on boys, who even at 12 may not have fully reached puberty, and certainly are not the emotional, or often even the physical, equal of a fully-grown woman.

No matter whether the alleged perpetrator is a man or a woman, it is past time that society stops viewing the abuse of children, whether they are male or female, with a wink and a smile.


Attention Family Fliers: Control Your Kids

I was booked on a flight to Florida once and ended up on a plane that, to my horrified eyes, seemed filled to the brim with families with children. When the flight attendant offered the chance to change flights to accommodate someone else who wanted in on the overbooked flight, I practically jumped out of my seat I wanted off that plane so fast.

The memory came to me after reading a Wall Street Journal report about the rise in “baby ghettoes,” a growing practice within the airline industry to seat families with children in the back rows of planes so as to lessen their ability to annoy other passengers.

Parents and advocates for families argued that they were being unfairly ostracized and that airlines were giving in to the demands of unreasonable curmudgeons who just don’t like children. Their basic position: “Children cry sometimes.”

That’s true. And I definitely think that airline seating policies, also described in the article, that sometimes sat young children apart from their parents are really bad ideas that put children’s security at risk.

And could advocates for strict controls on children on airlines have unrealistic expectations based on a view about idyllic childhoods that perhaps never really existed? Possible.

But the real issue at hand is parenting, not children, and what responsibilities parents have to train and police their offspring.

I didn’t want to be on that family-filled flight to Florida not because I hold any animosity toward kids, but because I feared that they had been poorly trained by their parents on how to behave and interact with society at large. And that their parents had unrealistic views on how prepared their children really were to deal with some of the challenges they would face.

It’s the same for anyone who’s had to deal with poorly trained children not only on airplanes, but also at movie theaters, in restaurants, or even on the playground.

I don’t have children. But I do have nieces and nephews and little cousins – and I have had similar discussions with their parents, too.

I have no illusions that I, or any of my siblings, cousins or peers, was a little angel as a child. But I can attest to the no-nonsense childrearing of my parents and so many other parents I encountered as a child.

It was a childrearing that demanded that children understand that they were not the most important people in the world, and that consideration had to be shown to others. It’s a childrearing that is too little seen today.

Parents have to think about how their children’s behaviors may negatively impact others and work on moderating the most aggravating of them.

Then, it’s about being grown-up enough to recognize when a child may not be ready to do things like go to the movies, eat in a nice restaurant or fly the friendly skies – without perhaps being banished to the “ghetto.”


No Need to Martyr Cain’s Accusers

So far, the two women who accused GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain of sexually harassing them on the job have refused to make their identities known.

I don’t blame them.

Why become martyrs to a cause that’s not going to improve anytime soon?

They did the most that could be expected of any woman in such circumstances: They shared their complaints with their supervisors, determinations were made and modest monetary settlements were paid out to them in recompense.

That’s more than most people receive. While 1 in 6 people report being sexually harassed on the job, only 35 percent of them report it, according to the 2011 AOL Jobs Survey.

It’s hard enough deciding to report your garden-variety workplace bully, much less a public figure. Remember Anita Hill? Her decision 20 years ago to publically share what she knew about a Supreme Court nominee named Clarence Thomas when the two had once worked together resulted in a Capitol Hill circus, starring her.

Thomas still got the job.

And sexual harassment on the job still continues.

The fact that Cain’s accusers reported their complaints is commendable enough.

Doing so is hard. It’s scary.

I know.

I was once subject to a male co-worker’s verbal harassments on a daily basis. I did not perceive the abuse to be sexual in nature, but it created a hostile work environment, so much so that I suffered stomach pains and frequent nightmares.

My co-worker, when placed in a position to supervise me, would frequently scream at me about what he saw as my many shortcomings. He would belittle not only my work and my worth.

I was new to the job, new to the industry. There was definite room for improvement, no doubt, but what I was receiving was not constructive criticism with an eye toward needed training. It was abuse.

And I suffered it for months. I knew what was happening was wrong, but I feared reporting it. I feared not being believed, or that I would be seen as a crybaby and not a team player even if I was.

Luckily, I had allies on the job, other women who had been working there far longer than I and they helped to convince me to go forward and report the abuse.

I was more nervous than at any other time in my career, but I’m glad I did. My supervisor turned out to be supportive, and while my co-worker was not sanctioned, he and I were no longer scheduled to work the same shifts or shifts where he would be supervising me.

Still, I recognize that at the time that all this happened, I had little to lose. It was one of my first jobs out of college. I wasn’t up for any promotions. I had no kids, no car note, no spouse, and no need for benefits.

I don’t know if I would have made the same decision to go forward if I had had more on the line. And I don’t question Cain’s accusers’ decision not to come forward now.