When I first heard about the allegations of sexual coercion, manipulation and molestation against Bishop Eddie Long, I gasped. Like most people, I was caught off guard. Especially that it was two young men who were making the claims. But, then a third and fourth came forward claiming the Bishop used his authority and power to coerce them. At the time of the alleged incidents, they were 17, 18, and 20 years old. I wondered, “Could it be true?” I watched everything unfold quickly. This scandal is major breaking news on all the networks. The entire country is talking about the mega church bishop and his affairs with young men. The comments are blaring over the internet. Some people believe Bishop Eddie Long did it and that he is guilty. Others are adamant that he is innocent, and then there are a few who are unsure. The Black community seems to be at odds, fighting it out. The Black church and its many members are in an uproar. Yes, it’s the state (public opinion) vs. the church. I find it quite disturbing how many so-called “Christians” want to demonize the young men. I’ve read comments that say they are vile, ungodly, and how dare they attack a man of God with these claims. Many believe their allegations are false because those in the Black church don’t want to acknowledge that gay men exist, or that sexual predators are in the church. For the many ministers of music, choir members, ushers, deacons, ministers and others who hold a position in the church, and are gay, they are forced to not say anything. They are to keep their mouths shut and not be who they are. Unfortunately, the Black community likes to bury their heads and look the other way. And when it comes to the Black church, there is no opportunity to debate, or ask questions. Because, “Pastor said,” or “Bishop said,” and “Reverend said,” and that’s that! So, I’m asking the question, “Why are we fighting? Isn’t this is the perfect opportunity to have an open dialogue about sex, sexuality and the Black church? Molestation is prevalent and pervasive in our community. Stop pretending it doesn’t exist! And, where is Tavis Smiley and his “Black In America” panel discussion on this? Where is Soledad O’Brien’s news documentary on “Black in America – Sex, Gays, and the Black Church?” How come there have been no town hall meetings called? Why is Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton not shouting and yelling from the rafters about Black men and sexual molestation? Hmm? Where is everyone? There is only one lone voice who has publicly admitted and shared of his molestation live on the air. It’s CNN’s news anchor Don Lemon. During an interview, Don spoke about how he was molested as a child and never said anything until he was an adult. I know how he feels. I know of his sentiments because the molestation of so many young men happens every day and we remain silent. We are afraid to speak out because of the shame. How do you tell anyone that you’ve been touched by another man? What does that say of you, and your manhood? You begin to question who you are and why it happened to you. When I saw the video footage of one of Bishop Eddie Long’s accusers, Jamal Parris, being interviewed by a news reporter, it brought me to tears. I understood when he said, “I always hear his voice. I would drive home and cry. I couldn’t take enough showers to wash away his scent, his cologne.” For those who have been sexually molested you never forget your molester and all the terrible things they did to you. It’s always with you. Recently, a popular radio personality tweeted, “I wish this will all go away.” It’s so sad because his sentiment is exactly what so many in the Black community hope for. Instead of having a serious dialogue and conversation about it, they want it to go away. They want to sweep it under the rug and act as if it doesn’t exist, nor is it happening. Well, I’m sorry, but it’s not going anywhere until we speak up and speak out. It’s not going anywhere until we educate ourselves, and empower ourselves on how to prevent the sexual molestation that occurs daily to young Black men. If we keep silent, then we give predators the power to seduce and manipulate our young people because we want it to go away, and they know no one will believe them. And, we persecute the victim. As in the allegations against Bishop Eddie Long many wonder why these young men, who benefitted from the trips, money, jewelry, and cars, would come forward now. What’s the purpose if they are considered men, and not boys, people ask? Like the young men have stated, they were groomed and “selected.” A predator always knows how to manipulate his victims and use his power and authority over them. It’s a seduction of not only gaining their trust, but their minds. And, these young men, like so many other victims, once they’ve been involved intimately with their molester, and over years time, they fall in love with their molester. I ask everyone to ponder for a moment, if what happened with Bishop Eddie Long and his accusers is true, how will this affect those young men for the rest of their lives. What about the challenges they will face as they grow into men? Are they receiving counseling? Will they struggle with their sexual identity? How will this affect their faith? How will they deal with men in authority? And, did you know that if sexually abused boys are not treated professionally they are most likely to commit crimes, suicide, abuse drugs, or become abusers themselves? With that, how would you feel if it was your child? Let’s stop being fearful and let’s move forward. Terrance Dean is the ESSENCE best-selling author of the book, “Hiding In Hip Hop.” His new advice book, “Straight From Your Gay Best Friend” is currently in stores.
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