2008 by Janice Byrd

Janice Byrd of McKinney: This is our mirror

Pedophilia and child abuse are staring Collin County right in the face
Friday, September 7, 2007

Every week since last November, we have been reminded that there are those in our midst who would abuse and exploit our children. Of course, there have always been perverted people abducting and molesting children, but ever since Dateline set up their sting in Murphy, the immediacy of that perversion has overwhelmed me with sorrow.

Dozens of men soliciting sex from minors so brazen, apparently without shame, one with a toddler in tow. Some of these men have wives and children of their own, who are also victims. Oftentimes they are respected community leaders with responsible professions. What are they thinking? Do they care only about their own pleasure? How did it come to be that so many men demand sexual gratification from children?

Strangers aren't the only ones who dehumanize and objectify children by treating them as things to be used. It's routinely reported that relatives, clergy and teachers have also abused children under their care.

I've heard young people explain that this is the way it's always been. "It's just reported more often now," they say. I don't think so. I've lived through the sexually repressed '50s and the sexual revolution of the '60s. The magnitude of perversion that we see today was unthinkable even 20 years ago.

I suppose that Murphy is no better or worse than any other town. The results of every Dateline sting have been the same. And, it's not just Dateline's Perverted Justice. I travel a lot around the country, and there's rarely a local nightly news broadcast, no matter where I am, that doesn't include an abduction, abuse or murder of a child.

Some would have us believe that pedophilia is a sickness, a disease that accidentally befalls people. If that is the case, then we are in the midst of an epidemic that threatens our society as surely as the bubonic plague, and we should spare no expense or civil right to stop its spread.

In our country, the right to choose has always been paramount, sometimes even to the detriment of society as a whole. In the '60s and '70s, however, when the so-called "right to privacy" trumped the legal consequences of those choices, we lost our community common sense, not to mention our Christian conscience.

Is it the easy access to pornography through the Internet, and the pervasiveness of sex in advertising, the arts and entertainment that has "over-sexed" our society? Is it our tolerance of recreational sex, sex separated from love, commitment and the children conceived that has caused our callousness? How could anyone's right to privacy take precedent over a child's life?

To me there is a connection between abortion, the devaluing of human life and the abuse of the vulnerable for self-gratification. Once children, or even potential children, are seen as inconveniences, if only for nine months, they are objectified.

There doesn't seem to be a quick fix for pedophiles and child abusers. Prevention might be our best hope for reducing the perversion, but that will take a societal sea change not unlike our efforts to reduce smoking, drug abuse and drunken driving. Typically, we ignore seemingly hopeless causes until we are personally affected and the devastation is "in our face." Last November, Collin County was handed a mirror.

Let's not divert the conversation from the predators by talking about the Murphy police, Perverted Justice or methods of investigation. Instead, we need community dialog and accountability about the effects of pornography, both "soft" and salacious, and the graphic sexual depictions displayed everywhere and anywhere.

In our homes, in the media, and in religious, legal, and educational institutions, we need serious discussions about the meaning and purpose of sexual relationships, and the immeasurable value of a child.

Janice Byrd of McKinney is library director of the First Baptist Church of McKinney, a book performer and a Voices of Collin County volunteer columnist. Her e-mail address is Janice@JaniceByrd.com.

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