Thursday, September 30, 2010

Conduct Unbecoming of a Bishop….Allegedly

By Gaétane Borders
By now everyone has heard about the drama surrounding Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist church in Lithonia, GA.  About a week ago, two young men filed a lawsuit alleging that Bishop Long recruited them into the youth ministry and then had engaged in sexual acts with them.  Later on, two more young men came forward, all with similar allegations.  However, their lawyer also claims that there are a slew of others who may also come forward.  (Please note that Bishop Long has not been convicted of any crime at this point, and the lawsuit is very recent.)
The defendants charge that Long used his pivotal position to build a strong personal bond with them. They said the Bishop Long convinced them that sex with him was part of a healthy spiritual life. They also have claimed that Long violated his legal responsibility as a spiritual adviser. At time of print, Bishop Long adamantly denied the allegations and vows to fight them.  During a recent church service, Bishop Long compared his current legal fight with the biblical reference of David and Goliath, stating “I have five stones and I haven’t thrown one yet!” before swiftly exiting the pulpit while holding his wife’s hand.
As a long time Atlanta resident, I can honestly say that I have never seen the city more divided about an issue.  With a reported 25,000 parishioners, New Birth definitely has a strong presence in the metro area.  The point of contention is the fact that the alleged acts supposedly occurred when the boys were 17-years-old (past the age of majority here in Georgia).  What these skeptics fail to understand is how predators go about grooming victims.  For instance, in this case the young men came from single parent homes and were not accustomed to an affluent lifestyle.  One of the defendants said that the pastor would apparently use this to his advantage telling the young boy that he would "never let another man hurt him like his father did," according to the lawsuit. In addition, Bishop Long allegedly gave them lavish gifts such as cars, money, clothes, international trips, jewelry and access to celebrities, and asked them to call him “Daddy.” It was, reportedly, a few years into the relationship that things escalated. These types of actions, if true, could certainly be perceived as an attempt to groom these young men.  Take a look at one of the defendants discuss his experience first hand.

So how could it be that a 17-year-old adolescent boy would not know to tell his parent that this was occurring?  Keep in mind that most kids do not tell, and instead are so ashamed by the abuse that they hide it.  That is why it is so critically important to be cognizant of the warning signs.  Here are a few:

·         Waking up during the night sweating, screaming or shaking with nightmares.
·         Masturbating excessively.
·         Showing unusually aggressive behavior toward family members, friends, toys, and pets.
·         Complaining of pain while urinating or having a bowel movement, or exhibiting symptoms of genital infections such as offensive odors, or symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease.
·         Having symptoms indicating evidence of physical traumas to the genital or anal area.
·         Beginning wetting the bed.
·         Experiencing a loss of appetite or other eating problems, including unexplained gagging.
·         Showing unusual fear of a certain place or location.
·         Developing frequent unexplained health problems.
·         Engaging in persistent sexual play with friends, toys or pets.
·         Having unexplained periods of panic, which may be flashbacks from the abuse.
·         Regressing to behaviors too young for the stage of development they already achieved.
·         Initiating sophisticated sexual behaviors.
·         Indicating a sudden reluctance to be alone with a certain person.
·         Engaging in self-mutilations, such as sticking themselves with pins or cutting themselves.
·         Withdrawing from previously enjoyable activities, like school or school performance change.
·         Asking an unusual amount of questions about human

Behaviors to Watch for When Adults Are With Children:

·         Turns to a child for emotional or physical comfort by sharing personal or private information or activities, normally shared with adults?

·         Has secret interactions with teens or children (e.g. games, sharing drugs, alcohol, or sexual material) or spends excessive time to emailing, text messaging or calling children or youth

·         Insists on or manages to spend uninterrupted time alone with a child?

·         Seems “too good to be true," i.e. frequently baby sits different children for free; takes children on special outings alone; buys children gifts or gives them money for no apparent reason?

·         Allows children or teens to consistently get away with inappropriate behaviors?

Only time will tell if the allegations against Bishop Long are substantiated, and hopefully justice will be served...whatever the truth may be.  However, I do believe that Bishop Long’s lawsuit can serve as a reminder to parents that when it comes to our children, no one is given a carte blanche. Meaning, don’t just assume that simply because someone is nice to you that they won’t harm your kids. Don’t assume that just because they are part of your family tree that they won’t hurt your kids.  Don’t assume that just because someone is your spiritual advisor that they can’t hurt your kids. 

Gaetane Borders is the President of Peas in Their Pods and also writes the blog,The Parenting Pundit.
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