I broke a longstanding rule and did a broadcast interview Saturday, offering my perspective to the escalating Congressional page scandal. A friend in Washington asked me to do the interview because I worked on Capitol Hill in 1983 during another sex scandal involving pages. I owed him a favor. We’re now square.
That scandal involved Congressman Dan Crane, an Illinois Republican who brought a 17-year-old female page to his Alexandria apartment for sex, and Rep. Gerry Studds, a Massachusetts Democrat who did the same thing with a male page in his Capitol Hill apartment. Both were censured on the House floor. Crane cried and asked his colleagues and constituents for forgiveness. Studds defiantly said he did nothing wrong and refused to apologize. Crane lost his re-election bid the following year. Studds continued to serve in Congress for several more terms.
The current scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley, the Florida Republican who resigned after his sexually-explicit emails to young male pages came to light, highlights a Congress out of control and a system where lust too often rules. Yet such behavior is not confined to Congress. Dan Farmer, a 36-year-old married Floyd County High School teacher resigned last month amid charges he had drawn a 15-year-old female student into an affair. The girl’s parents pulled her out of school recently because her classmates treat her like a pariah. At a recent high school football game I watched in shock as the family sat alone in the bleachers. No one would sit near them. They are leaving the county because of the way people treat them.
Some criticise the family for filing public charges against Farmer, saying they should have let the school board handle it quietly by allowing the popular teacher to resign and leave the county. More than one student at FCHS has told me other students are sexually involved with other teachers, although they refuse to name either the student or the teacher. I hope what they are saying is just fantasy but recent events nationally and nearby suggest otherwise. In Wythe County, a female teacher awaits trial for having sex with three 13-year-old male students. Teachers in Montgomery, Roanoke and other counties have resigned amid charges.
In covering courts for The Floyd Press, I have written about several cases where a parent or other relative sexually abused a young girl or boy for years before someone took action and brought charges. Yet family counselors tell me most cases of sexual abuse by a family member still goes unreported and that predator goes on to abuse others.
In Congress, Republicans tried to handle the Mark Foley affair quietly and it has blown up in their face. Had they taken action years ago when Foley’s inappropriate behavior towards young pages became known, the scandal would not be dominating the election debate today and other young men would not have been exposed to a sexual monster.
For many years, the Catholic Church has ignored the problems of pedophile priests, choosing to send them to other cities rather than expose them and kick them out of the church. Catholics are not alone in this. Other denominations routinely cover up sexual misconduct by their pastors.
When sexual abuse is concealed at any level, it festers and becomes an open sore on the community. It doesn’t matter if it is a Congressman, a teacher, a parent, a relative or an unknown predator. The best way to deal with the problem is through swift, punitive, public action against those who commit the crime. Anything less is just adding another crime against those already victimized by these monsters.