Legal Disclaimer: The case I’m referring to could be anywhere, involving a variety of professions, geography, and people. I don’t want to be accused of libel, even though the truth is the only defense one needs against the claim of libel. I could be talking about one hundred different places and one thousand different faces.
This is another story I’ve archived many times. At its heart, it is an accusation against most smaller towns and many people with doubts about victims who come forward against their own best interest.
I’m amazed at how uncritical people are about allegations of wrongdoing, especially if the person in question has a smiling face or resources. Predators most often hide in plain sight and are adept at concealment. Rarely does one see an obvious smoking gun. No one enjoys being unfairly accused. No one enjoys being doubted when telling the truth, either, especially when the deck is stacked against the accuser – which it invariably is.
Someone I know was once reluctantly enlisted to be a litigant in a case involving a person in ______, who was accused of touching females inappropriately. While researching the archives about the accusations, I encountered several quotes such as, “At least he wasn’t raping them.” Some of those quotes were from women in the community. When people doubt accusers like this, it is likely that women around them are grimacing in recognition that their own family members and friends are mocking them. My acquaintance moved on from the case without scars. She knows she was lucky.
This same attitude was on display here in Northwest Arkansas after a local priest admitted to abusing boys and then killed himself. Even then, after being exposed as a predator, many people couldn’t bring themselves to call him what he was. He lived a secret life; publicly devout and privately monstrous to those he victimized. There are others out there. Saying it doesn’t do anyone good to talk about it is a sure sign that the discomfort strikes a bell of truth for those saying it. I get angry when I see people being guilty of the backlash against discussion. It’s a sign of malignancy. That malignancy and secrecy is a big part of the problem.
My acquaintance wanted nothing other than an admission of wrongdoing from the person who had been fondling women. She didn’t enter the list of witnesses or litigants easily. Despite wanting nothing from the case, she had to endure listening to people who were initially unaware of her involvement in the case, as they openly mocked and questioned the motives of the female accusers. Cases of abuse invariably peel back the mask of misogyny that runs permanently beneath the surface.
To be clear, the accused man was alleged to have inappropriately touched several women. It was a pattern of behavior and concealment. His excuse to explain away many of the allegations was ridiculous.
I default toward credibility on the part of the accusers. It’s easier to dismiss or doubt singular cases. My life as a child proved that barbarians could victimize openly in society and survive, often even when their brutality left consequences in plain sight. Several of the people I went to school with have individually come forward with their own stories of abuse; some at the hands of family, other at the hands of coaches, teachers, and clergy. Note: those abusers lived and worked around us all. Many victims carry their stories close to their hearts, working each day to avoid painting the entire world with an accusatory brush. The prevalence of stories substantiates that abuse was, in fact, common here, poisoning people in secret. Almost none of the abusers were held accountable, even when those abused attempted to come forward. Most people prefer that scandals remain secret, a tendency still flourishing today in society.
One day, assuming I outlive some of them, I’ll name a couple. It is my burden to outlive them. I think the proper word for it will be a ‘reckoning.’
Years later, because the case of the fondler fascinated me, I investigated it as thoroughly as I dared. The accused was never forced to account for his actions. He remained in his position. The message to everyone was simple and effective: come forward at your own peril. The accused had resources to ensure that those on the periphery of the case would be silent, cooperative, or punished. Many of the female litigants felt punished for their testimony and victimized to varying degrees by the system. Their trust in the legal system diminished. I’m confident that all of them infrequently think back and hope that the accused stopped abusing other women. That’s all they could do, though. Hope. I know that some of them took their fear from being treated badly by the justice system and passed it along to their daughters, nieces, and friends – and rightly so. It is their right to teach their family that women can be abused with impunity. This distrust has to have eroded their confidence in the legal system that failed them. The effects of their failed attempt for justice must still bear consequences today. I don’t see how it’s not the case.
The case is fascinating in several regards. Going back through the specifics is a template for how to retaliate if you’re guilty of the accusation but wish to flail and obfuscate to avoid accountability. Knowing that this individual twisted the system to avoid punishment underscored the fact that the public institutions which could have also demanded accountability also failed. The fondler had access to the best lawyers, researchers, and his tendrils reached into some surprising places where power precludes disclosure.
Because I’m very familiar with the allegations against the fondler, I can’t escape the fact that everyone else tasked with ensuring public safety sidestepped at least a portion of their responsibilities, too. Some of those people are still in their positions. The legal system is a useful tool to silence those with legitimate claims. The legal system so seldom provides closure and justice to victims; there are times I’m surprised anyone comes forward. In their defense, it is often an impossible job with no reward waiting for them.
In the case in question, a civil case was undertaken. There are a number of details of this case which lead anyone to place credence in the accusation(s) of impropriety.
I never fail to imagine the duplicity of this man who ruined a part of several women’s lives. He’s rich and has all the amenities such richness brings. He will never have to hang his head in shame or to feel powerless. The contempt I feel for him is measurable.
He walked away because many in the community where my acquaintance lives thought, “That can’t happen here,” as if geography somehow conferred a magical blanket of protection. Many of the jurors said the same thing. It’s troubling that they weren’t told many of the simple facts which would have immediately changed their verdict into a shout of “Guilty.” Many trials are that way. Good lawyers can easily control what the jury sees and hears, or color it with so much doubt that jurors forget their own names. In this case, there were several surprises which the jurors didn’t get to hear. Hearing some of them so many years later, I couldn’t help but feel shock at how badly the pursuit of truth could be perverted solely because of the overwhelming power of money. When I was almost a juror for an accused murdered a few years ago, I witnessed this firsthand.
At my age, knowing how many people were abused, it’s hard for me to reconcile the fact that people are so stupid – or so cloistered from monsters that they can’t imagine others are powerless to stop them when they abuse.
The women involved dispersed back into their own lives, each of them no doubt contaminating countless other women with the conviction that coming forward is a fool’s errand.
All these years later, it’s still a shame. It’s shame that can be distributed to many in the community. “That doesn’t happen here.” Even as it does, every day – and with most victims staying silent.
For years, I’ve waited, hoping that someone with resources would come forward and paint the man in question to be what his victims know him to be. It hasn’t happened yet. If it does, though, I’ll be at the doorstep of the lawyers, friends, and jurors of those who denied justice to a group of women.
The case would make a great book.
I reached out to the attorney(s) involved and none wanted to discuss it, given the repercussions from the initial trial. Everyone who helped the women in question paid more than their fair share in pain. Revisiting it is a wound for everyone involved.
Silence from all quarters, except in the minds of the women who know.
It’s a small town legacy that many recognize and few acknowledge.
I’m going to discard my notes and the archive of the case and release it back into history, where it will fester. Rinse and repeat.