Sex, Betrayal and Videotapes

By Barbara Gloudon
The Jamaica Observer
July 14, 2006

One thing is certain, religions are obsolete when reforms do not proceed from them.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

THE WHOLE TOWN has been mesmerised all this week by the story of three teenage boys who, in a testosterone rush, took a 13-year-old girl as their sexual prey. The act was recorded on picture phone and video-cam, watched by a deacon of the CHURCH. No ALLELUIAS here, please. Let no one even attempt an AMEN.

The outrageous and cruel act may well have lain hidden like so many dirty little secrets, were it not that in the congregation where the deacon was wont to praise the Lord, there were people who decided to bring what was in the dark into the light. Some call it whistle-blowing. Some say it was the hand of the Almighty. Whatever it was, the fact that a copy of the videotape found its way into the hands of journalists has served to alert us to the fact that this country could do well with a revival.

The investigative team of reporters at the Gleaner is to be commended, even more so as they did not let the matter rest merely by writing a story, but they introduced the tape to the police. Since then, we've been enmeshed in what could easily be a movie script, our own version of the popular film title: Sex, Lies and Videotape. Some lies must have been told along the way but we think BETRAYAL played a major role in the drama. The young girl was betrayed by young people near her own age and even more so by an adult in a position of authority.

Besides the realisation that some of our youths seem to be turning into monsters, what has the town talking is the bizarre response of the leaders of the deacon's church. The first pronouncement by the overseer/bishop/whatever, in charge of the congregation wherein the deacon holds authority, was made soon after the storm broke which seemed more concerned with protecting the deacon than anything else.

It was "the height of ridiculosity" (to quote another preacher at another time and place). Not surprisingly, it has evoked anger and dismay from the public. The goodly overseer/bishop was once a member of the nation's judiciary. It was widely agreed that he, above all, should know what the law of the land demands in a matter like this. It requires that the matter of a juvenile or juveniles engaged in a criminal act should be reported to the police. But let's say the gentleman lost his head, how could we explain the bizarre outburst of the mother - founder of the church?

She proceeded to call down fire and brimstone, not on the offenders (as would have been expected), but on those members of her flock who had turned the spotlight on the offending deacon, in whose possession copies of the video were later found, according to the police. As she thundered and raged at their disloyalty, she promised revenge of the highest order, not only for them, but for the meddling media too. I've since learnt that this lady is noted for keeping her congregation on a tight rein so I guess if she says, "Fire", then it is Fire.

Next, the attorney general reminded the church and all of us, that it was no point being sorry when the law is broken. Consequences have to be faced, he said. The law must take its course. The church returned to the spotlight again offering an apology and promising counselling for the deviant deacon, as if that would solve the matter. The cops did what they had to do. Charges were laid. Boys and deacon alike appeared in the dock of the Half Way Tree courthouse on Wednesday. All were denied bail. They will have to sit in jail for some time more. The drama continues.

IN ALL OF THIS, what of the girl, a child still, whose rights were violated? The system will do what it has to, in protection of her identity and seek to determine the truth of the allegation. It mustn't end there. We have to reach some national consensus as to how we're going to treat the epidemic of inappropriate behaviour involving our youth. It has to be wake-up time for everybody.

In a time when girls from even a young age are deluded into accepting the status of sex objects, in our society where "ah nuh nutten" is the response to exploitative media images and where commodities of all kinds are marketed on semi-nude female bodies, where there is no variation on the sexual act that is not freely and openly available to all ages. what happens to a 13-year-old who has her innocence taken from her?

A WRITER IN A LETTER to the Editor earlier this week, claiming to know the young people involved in the incident, asked, "Who's on the boys' side?"" In a strange interweaving of contradictory statements, the letter writer seemed to be sympathising with the youths impartially: "How could they do this to her? And the boys involved, what were they thinking?" the writer wanted to know.

Then, in a strange twist, the letter swung back to defence of the boys. According to the writer: "What they did was wrong, but they are not the monsters people think them to be. The girl was also my friend and I am fully aware that she is the victim and will be forever scarred by this incident. But I know SHE WILL BE ALL RIGHT. SHE HAS SO MANY PEOPLE ON HER SIDE." The letter concludes "BUT WHAT IS THE BOYS' SIDE OF THE STORY? WHO IS ON THEIR SIDE?" (Emphasis mine).

Are we missing the point here? How can the girl be sympathised with so easily and then just as smoothly, special pleading is being made for the boys and their actions, almost as if it is "a little mistake"? I wouldn't be surprised if any minute now we heard the familiar accusation that it was the girl's fault. Female victims of sexual abuse often end up being abused again in the court of public opinion. "If her dress wasn't short. If she hadn't got into the van. She should have known better... Is only a joke the boys were making..." The abuse of our women, young and old, continues and is accepted just so. Sometimes the impression is given that males have the right to be predators. Could it be because of the anatomical appendage which they happen to come into the world with? How long will that foolishness prevail?

ANOTHER SIDE EFFECT of this sordid tale is the opportunity it has provided for cynics to cast doubt on the integrity of the religious community. If the headline in the nation's afternoon daily is to be believed, "Church" has become one big hotbed of illicit sex.

Beneath the headline, "More Church Scandal," it is alleged that there are several cases now before the courts, involving sex-mad clergy. A senior police officer is quoted as saying: "Is it that the ones who profess to be carrying the message of God are using this authority to satisfy their own depraved desire? If this is what Christians are becoming, then I am very worried."

Meantime, the verdict of the courts is not yet in, but whatever it turns out to be, the church might care to consider this challenge by someone who gave the matter due thought.

He wrote: "There's something in religion which can only be expressed by conduct."


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