In September, 2012, a former minister and church musician of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church pleaded guilty to 22 charges of sexual molestation of boys. The Seattle Times reported that the minister admitted to sexually abusing 10 boys from 1997 to 2011.
According to the article, he pled guilty to charges that included rape of a child, child molestation, sexual exploitation of a minor and possession of child pornography. At the time of writing Crossroads, the minister had not received sentencing for his criminal acts.
The focus of this writing is not about the minister. Rather, the focus is on the boys and young men who were victimized by his criminal behavior. The minister cannot be type -casted as a pedophile lurking around the school playground. Rather, the children and adolescents were unwittingly delivered to him. He came into contact with his victims through holding “positions of trust” in various roles, such as foster parent, Boys & Girls Club youth supervisor and participation in various church activities and youth programs.
Although the minister will no doubt be held accountable by the judicial system for his criminal acts, my concern lies with what will become of his victims. After reviewing numerous articles, I was unable to find any mention or discussion of clinical/mental health services being provided to the group that I will simply refer to as the Invisibles.
One may ask, “Why are they being referred to as the Invisibles? Why indeed? Where are they? What has become of them? What are their stories? What can we learn so this terrible, terrible suffering can be prevented from occurring to a child/adolescent again?
There are organizations such as SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) that advocate on behalf of those victimized by the Roman Catholic Clergy. Such organizations have websites, blogs and are able to call upon national and local media attention to the sufferings of this group. However, when similar tragedies occur within the African-American community, there appears to be token media coverage and silence among other African-American clergy. Perhaps the other clergy is thanking the Lord that it didn’t happen in their churches.
There is the silence that permeates throughout the community; rumors, gossip and inadequate information are afoot. Whose child was it? Sadly, it may be that the community has joined the clergy in thanking the Lord that it didn’t happen to their children.
Well folks, guess what? It did happen in a church in “our” community. It did happen to “our” children. Our sons have suffered from sexual assault, violence and betrayal. In our “silence” the suffering of our children continues.
To those who may ask, “Well Dr. Kane, what do you plan on doing about it? Why don’t you get involved?” To that question, my reply is I am involved! I have not been nor will I be silent on this issue.
In October I wrote the Pastor of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church about my concerns. Here are some excerpts from the correspondence:
· “It has been my experience that males may have difficulty responding to or processing feelings related to sexual abuse. I am also aware of the lack of certified/licensed clinicians who respond to this issue within the African-American community.”
· I would like the opportunity to meet with you and your church leadership to discuss the possibility of providing services to members of your congregation.
· I encourage you to visit my websites: lovingtheself.com and/or mkaneassoc.com, which may address preliminary questions you and others may have about my services.
Today, I have yet to receive a response. In early November, I followed-up with an email and was told by an executive staff assistant that I could send my brochures and business cards, which would be placed in view of the church congregation.
“Placed in view” on a table? Doesn’t sound like an acknowledgement that serious problems exists or being addressed. The message, which may comes across, is “be quiet”, “don’t talk about it” and/or “it will die down or go away.”
It won’t die down and it most certainly won’t go away. Remember the Invisibles? They are alive. They suffer in silence. It is in our silence that they “exist.”
They can be likened to lambs being led to slaughter. They were sent to a person that they were told could be trusted. Instead he betrayed them. He violated them. He stole their innocence and now, if the church is not dealing directly with the victims, the lack of validation and recognition by their clergy and community violates them further. It is not their silence. It is our silence. It is not their shame. It is our shame. Our silence is a cold shoulder/backside. They are our children and they have done nothing wrong.
We can do right by them and for them. We can ensure that they (if wanting) receive mental health treatment. We can acknowledge them. We can validate them. We can embrace them.
I belong to a professional organization, i.e. the Washington State Society of Clinical Social Workers. These are wonderful people who are committed to providing services in the local communities. It is possible that my colleagues could provide assistance and respond to these tragic occurrences.
I reach out to them. However, this will be extremely difficult if we continue to allow silence to speak for us.
I would encourage the reader to take the following action(s):
1) Contact Reverend Robert Lee Manaway, Pastor, Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church 2801 South Jackson Street, Seattle, WA 98144, (206) 329-9794. Inquire about actions being taken to alleviate the suffering of those abused.
2) Contact the United Black Clergy Association of Seattle (contact can be initiated via the local African-American churches of Seattle). Ask what the organization is doing to assist Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church with the situation. Inquire as to what the organization is doing to prevent and respond to sexual abuse within the African-American church.
3) Contact your spiritual leader and inquire what your religious or spiritual organization, church, mosque, temple or synagogue can do to assist the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
It would be easy to point the finger at someone or some organization to cast fault or blame, but blame and fault are poor motivators. Out of their ashes only guilt and shame arise. It is our responsibility to our children that they be protected and safe. We want them to understand that they are valued and will be validated and cared for. They need not suffer in silence any longer.
We can learn to empower the self through vocal advocacy and expression
and in doing so, bring an end to the traumatic pain of “suffering in silence.”
I will not be silent!
Dr. Micheal Kane
Until the next crossroad, the journey continues……….