Friday, 16 April 2010

WAS IT MOLESTATION OR AN INNOCENT GAME?


Various media outlets have carried stories about paedophile priests and perverted teachers in recent years. While blatant sexual abuse is a hideous crime, some people are beginning to interpret any sort of physical contact as harassment. In fact, the hysteria has built to the point that even innocent gestures can be misinterpreted as sexual harassment. Bob Layton's blog post of April 12, 2010 is a good example of this hyper-sensitivity. It tells of a seven-year-old boy whose fingers touched a girl's waist band after she pushed him. Instead of chalking it up to horseplay, the parents of the girl sued the boy's parents. The judge ruled that it was mere roughhousing and awarded the boy's family $180,000 in damages.

The trouble with sexual molestation is that mild forms of it are hard for uninvolved bystanders to judge. From my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, here is an example where the border between sexual abuse and play was ambiguous.

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Another staff change was the departure of our gym teacher. Everyone liked Mr. Heidelberger, though his thick Polish accent made him hard to understand. He was a jovial instructor who took an interest in our daily lives. Mr. Heidelberger used to play a game with us which we, being very innocent, enjoyed. He would hold us up by our feet. Then we curled our bodies between his legs and paddled his buttocks like bongo drums. We laughed at the absurdity of being able to spank an adult and get away with it.

"Let's play that game again," I suggested one sunlit afternoon outside the gym. Mr. Heidelberger obliged and soon each of us took a turn paddling his bottom. Someone in the Administration Building happened to glance out a window, saw what was happening, and reported Mr. Heidelberger to the superintendent. We learned a few weeks later that our gym teacher was fired. We felt dismayed and shocked. It seemed like only a game he was playing. None of us pre-teens knew about perversion at that tender age. Of course, it might have been mere innocent fun after all. We certainly did not feel molested. I still am unable to decide either way about the matter.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. This 196-page paperback, containing 6 black and white photos, sells for $25.00 through the PayPal-equipped InScribe writers group website. E-mail me for further information or if you don't have PayPal but still wish to place an order.