Sunday, September 09, 2007

Blaming Victims

The Tampa Bay area had a big news weekend that started on Friday. The city council chairman of St. Petersburg, John Bryan, resigned amid charges of sexual abuse with his two adopted daughters, and a former nanny. Within hours, he had committed suicide at a second, unoccupied home.

It's a horrible story on multiple levels. Horrible for the daughters and their mother. Horrible for everyone who knows them to discover that something so tragic was happening right under their noses. Horrible for the people who were friends to Mr. Bryan, who now have to reconcile the man they knew publicly with the man who existed privately.

It was horrible for John Bryan, too. However, the pity I feel for him is tempered by the knowledge of what he probably did. I say probably, because the investigation is not complete and very little has been made known to the public. Yet, I have to assume that the truth of those allegations is a likely motivation for Bryan's suicide.

In the midst of all this, I was dismayed to read the headline of the Tampa Tribune's Metro section article about it.

It reads: Child Abuse Tip Had Fatal Effect.

I find it offensive. The tip is not the cause of Mr. Bryan's suicide. It had no fatal effect. The fatal effect was, likely, a consequence of Mr. Bryan's own actions and crimes. It is ridiculous to lay blame or guilt at the feet of a tip that probably saved two girls from ongoing abuse.

I take no satisfaction in Bryan's death, but he is not the victim in all of this. Children who are abused are often caught between the hate they feel for the abuser and the paradoxical love they have for them. It is confusing for them. They must deal with the feelings of wanting to escape and at the same time not wanting to see their parents suffer. Abuse can form strange and illogical bonds when the abusers are parents.

These girls must not be made to feel that their salvation came at the cost of their father's life. They are only 13 and 15, a more than confusing time for kids who have suffered no trauma, let alone kids that have such baggage to carry. Implying that the tip that exposed Bryan's activities was the cause for his death does a disservice to abuse victims and reporters of abuse.

I hope the Tribune hears a backlash about their choice of words.

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