FanDuel - WFBC

November 27, 2011

Syracuse Coach's Wife Told Accuser: I Know He Molested You: A taped phone call of Laurie Fine, the wife of longtime Syracuse basketball associate head coach Bernie Fine, indicates that she believed him guilty of molesting one of his accusers. The 2002 call was with Bobby Davis, a former Syracuse ball boy who said the abuse began when he was in seventh grade. Davis recorded it without her knowledge and played it for ESPN. "I know everything that went on," Fine told Davis. "Bernie is also in denial. I think that he did the things he did, but he's somehow through his own mental telepathy has erased them out of his mind." ESPN was first given the tape in 2003, but the network said it "did not report Davis' accusations, or report the contents of the tape, because no one else would corroborate his story." The call also includes Laurie Fine's admission to having a sexual relationship with Davis when he was an 18-year-old high school senior.

posted by rcade to basketball at 12:54 PM - 44 comments

How is the taped telephone conversation not corroboration? Considering the glee with which ESPN helped with the take down of Paterno, their role in all of this is suspect.

posted by bperk at 01:25 PM on November 27

Considering the glee with which ESPN helped with the take down of Paterno, their role in all of this is suspect.

+1. Can't wait to see the ombudsman try and spin this.

Also, this story has become a Greek Tragedy.

posted by Bonkers at 04:06 PM on November 27

Wow, and this guy had no shortage of high profile and very vocal supporters, too. Hell of a way for those people to destroy their career, reputation, and probably personal life, all in defending a pedophile. Not to even mention the impact that kind of behavior has on the victims.

posted by feloniousmonk at 07:29 PM on November 27

Fine has been fired. And a third alleged victim has come forward.

posted by beaverboard at 08:02 PM on November 27

How is the taped telephone conversation not corroboration?

Was it confirmed that it was her voice? If I brought forward an audio tape and claimed it was, I don't know, Tom Brady, and the voice on the other end SOUNDED like him, is that really enough to announce publicly?

posted by grum@work at 09:32 PM on November 27

ESPN hired a voice recognition expert, according to the article. I guess they didn't bother to do so when they first heard about the abuse. Did they even bother to call her and ask her if it was her voice? It seems shady to me.

posted by bperk at 10:47 PM on November 27

Everyone is accusing everyone of moral turpitude, and before you know it, everyone will be fired. How about making efforts to fully explore allegations and not make them public until there is solid proof?

And where are the parents in all of this? No one knew? Why the silence? Isn't protecting ones children fashionable any more? Why aren't they being called to account?

posted by EEEEE at 03:52 AM on November 28

I have experience as a reporter with how the media treats allegations of child molestation: They're afraid of them. The stories are usually one person's word against another. Because the stakes are so high -- the mere accusation of being an abuser is enough to destroy a person's reputation and career -- the media is extremely skittish to cover them.

Unless there's an arrest or indictment, it's extremely unlikely to be reported. The Penn State scandal gave the media the opening to report the Fine allegations. It's easier to feed an ongoing narrative -- are colleges covering up child sex abuse in sports programs? -- than to go out on a limb when the subject isn't being covered. Sarah Ganim and the rest of the Patriot-News staff deserve a Pulitzer for getting the Sandusky story last spring when no one else was doing it.

Here, ESPN had a coach's wife on tape in 2003 saying she believed her husband molested a ballboy. But they also knew that she admitted to a sexual relationship with the ballboy when he was just 18. So her character is dubious. How could ESPN know with any confidence that this wasn't a scam concocted by a coach's wife and her lover to ruin him?

The third accuser against Fine is a man facing charges of molesting kids as a camp counselor. At this point, there's no proof he ever met Fine or spent time with him. The accuser's father claims he's lying and contradicts his claim to have ever introduced him to the coach or granted permission for him to spend time out of town with him.

The accuser claims that he and his dad met Fine at an autograph session when he was 13, then Fine called up his dad and arranged for the teen to take a road trip with the team on a bus, spend the night in Fine's hotel room and attend the team's game. His dad said he took the teen to Syracuse games but they sat in the "nosebleed section" and never met Fine, much less arranged an overnight trip for just the boy and him. Who would meet a coach over autographs and allow his 13-year-old son to spend time alone with him in a hotel room on the road?

There are some pretty big questions to consider about the veracity of the allegations against Fine. I can see why it didn't get covered back in 2003.

posted by rcade at 08:46 AM on November 28

The problem I have with all of this is that children who have been sexually abused usually end up screwed up. If you are waiting for the perfect abuse victim who doesn't have dubious character, you will never find him/her. That makes it very easy to doubt the accusers or blame them for looking for attention or money, and then the whole thing gets swept under the rug. Why would victims come forward under these situations?

His dad said he took the teen to Syracuse games but they sat in the "nosebleed section" and never met Fine, much less arranged an overnight trip for just the boy and him.

Tomaselli described in detail what the inside of Fine's house looked like, which helped the police get a search warrant. He also told a friend about the abuse years before. Father and son have been estranged for years.

The first victim that came forward is getting far more negative attention than Fine. The whole innocent until proven guilty idea for Fine just means that the victims are liars until they can prove it.

Did ESPN do all it could to ensure that children were protected after they heard about this abuse? Are they holding themselves to a different standard than they held Paterno and the rest of the people at Penn State?

posted by bperk at 09:14 AM on November 28

Why would the third accuser's father lie about introducing him to Fine and allowing the boy to take an overnight hotel trip with the coach? Why should we believe someone who is indicted on a charge of tampering with a victim, which is an attempt to lie to subvert justice? Isn't it possible that this accuser is fabricating charges in a desperate bid to trade his testimony for leniency on his own molestation case?

I agree with you that abused kids are often messed up, which makes them impeachable as witnesses. The accuser describing the house and allegedly telling a friend two years ago help his claim. But it's also true that people make up false accusations. This guy didn't come forward until after Fine was national news and he was facing his own criminal prosecution.

posted by rcade at 09:37 AM on November 28

Why would the third accuser's father lie about introducing him to Fine and allowing the boy to take an overnight hotel trip with the coach?

Maybe he isn't lying, and doesn't remember. The father in his statement refers to Bernie Fine as Bernie, which sounds awfully familiar for someone he doesn't know. It is possible that he thinks his son is a loser and doesn't believe anything out of his mouth. But, how is his father's statement anymore credible than the son's friend?

Why should we believe someone who is indicted on a charge of tampering with a victim, which is an attempt to lie to subvert justice? Isn't it possible that this accuser is fabricating charges in a desperate bid to trade his testimony for leniency on his own molestation case?

Yeah, it's possible. On the other hand, screwed up people tend to be abuse victims. If you want to discount his views because of it, then certainly that is your choice. However, it's just as likely that he is screwed up because of the abuse he suffered. And, he is repeating the behavior that he suffered as a child.

posted by bperk at 11:02 AM on November 28

Maybe he isn't lying, and doesn't remember.

He doesn't remember meeting a Syracuse coach and letting his 14-year-old go on an overnight out-of-town sleepover with him only nine years ago?

I missed this the first time I read the link, but there's another possible reason why the third accuser could describe Fine's house: "Tomaselli said he talked briefly with Davis several times on the phone since the story broke and before he called the police." He'd been in contact with somebody who knew the house well.

posted by rcade at 11:09 AM on November 28

So, there is a conspiracy to get Fine? Multiple victims working together and with Fine's own wife to bring him down for unknown reasons? Do you think that is the most likely explanation here?

posted by bperk at 11:28 AM on November 28

Unlike the Penn State case, this whole thing appears to be getting more questionable with each media report: - the taped conversation where his wife discusses details of the event and rather calmly proclaims that he has "issues" rather than sounding the least bit shocked; indication that she had sex with the same victim in their house - the latest alleged victim having a lengthly history of legal troubles related to sexual misconduct - all of the alleged victims having no issue whatsoever of posing for media and photo opportunities .. just doesn't fit with normal characterization of an abuse victim

If he is guilty the current evidence and the way it is being represented by the media can't help the prosecution's case at all.

posted by cixelsyd at 11:36 AM on November 28

So, there is a conspiracy to get Fine?

It wouldn't have to be a conspiracy. Tomaselli could have called Davis to pump him for personal information that he could use in his own claim to have been molested.

You're using words like "just as likely" and "most likely," but the real standard is beyond a reasonable doubt. What we know about Tomaselli so far gives me serious doubt he's telling the truth.

posted by rcade at 11:36 AM on November 28

You're using words like "just as likely" and "most likely," but the real standard is beyond a reasonable doubt.

This is not a court of law. We aren't the judge, jury, or prosecutor here. When (or if) it gets to that stage, I hope the jury exercises that standard. However, in the court of public opinion, that is a hurtful standard for victims. They should not be considered liars unless they can prove the truth of their allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. This is one of the biggest hurdles to stopping abuse - victims (rightly) thinking they won't be believed. Additionally, we certainly didn't wait to find out if Sandusky was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before we trusted in the truth of those allegations.

To think Bernie Fine is an innocent victim, you have to believe that a whole lot of unrelated people are working in some coordinated fashion to frame him. These people to date include Davis, Lang, Fine's wife, Tomaselli, and Rose Ryan (Tomaselli's friend). You have to believe that Fine's wife and Davis had some script that implicated Fine, and presumably some reason why she would do such a thing. You have to believe that Lang changed his mind and wants now to be part of the conspiracy. You have to believe that Tomaselli's friend is also lying about Tomaselli telling her about the abuse years before. Presumably, the prosecutor trying to get the search warrant and the judge issuing the search warrant are also being duped by all of these people. And, that is all necessary so that you can believe Tomaselli's dad and Fine.

I say let's not try to tear apart the victims, and let's see if the police find some corroboration. There has to be a reasonable place between calling the victims liars and calling Fine a pedophile.

posted by bperk at 12:12 PM on November 28

However, in the court of public opinion, that is a hurtful standard for victims. They should not be considered liars unless they can prove the truth of their allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.

So in the court of public opinion, accusers should be held to a lower standard than the accused? No, thanks.

People make false accusations and conspire with others to further them. Look at Justin Bieber alleged baby mama Mariah Yeater texting a pal to delete messages where she said some other guy is her kid's father. She promises he'll get a cut when she gets paid.

To think Bernie Fine is an innocent victim, you have to believe that a whole lot of unrelated people are working in some coordinated fashion to frame him.

The way you're lumping everything together isn't useful. Tomaselli and his friend could be lying regardless of whether Davis is telling the truth.

posted by rcade at 12:34 PM on November 28

So in the court of public opinion, accusers should be held to a lower standard than the accused? No, thanks.

I said victims not accusers. Justin Bieber's fake baby mama is not a victim of a crime. And, I have no idea what you mean by lower standard. I mean the default position should not be that victims are liars unless they have ample corroboration as soon as the allegations come out. Most sex crimes are not full of corroborating witnesses. Treating victims like victims is the right thing to do. It is also important if you actually want to stop this kind of abuse. Discouraging victims from coming forward is only helpful to abusers.

I'm lumping in all of those people together because Fine either molested young boys or he didn't. Individually picking apart all of the different stories instead of looking at the totality of information available serves no purpose.

posted by bperk at 01:03 PM on November 28

I said victims not accusers....I mean the default position should not be that victims are liars unless they have ample corroboration as soon as the allegations come out.

They aren't "victims" until it's proven they were actually assaulted.

Until that point, they are "accusers".

In this case, we may be looking at a couple of "victims" and an "accuser".

posted by grum@work at 01:29 PM on November 28

I said victims not accusers. Justin Bieber's fake baby mama is not a victim of a crime.

An accuser is only a victim if he or she is telling the truth. Since you don't like the Yeater example, try Nina Shahravan. She accused Michael Irvin and Erik Williams of raping her at gunpoint, then later recanted and pleaded guilty to perjury.

Individually picking apart all of the different stories instead of looking at the totality of information available serves no purpose.

When the third accuser is being used to bolster the case that Fine is guilty of the other allegations, it's worth looking at that accuser separately.

Tomaselli is now claiming that his father molested him too. When the Syracuse Post-Standard interviewed him for the story you linked, there's no mention of this accusation. It appears he began making this claim after his father said he was lying about meeting and going out of town with Fine.

posted by rcade at 01:46 PM on November 28

Don't know what it adds to the story, but there's a 2005 post on the gay rights blog Towleroad in which a commenter signed Zach Tomaselli claimed in 2008 to have run away from Love in Action, a controversial Tennessee cure-the-gay ministry for teens.

posted by rcade at 01:56 PM on November 28

They aren't "victims" until it's proven they were actually assaulted.

I don't think you really believe this. According to that logic, there are zero victims in the Sandusky case. If someone is murdered and no one is convicted, he/she isn't a victim either, I suppose.

Since you don't like the Yeater example, try Nina Shahravan. She accused Michael Irvin and Erik Williams of raping her at gunpoint, then later recanted and pleaded guilty to perjury.

So because there are some unscrupulous people who lie about being victims of crimes, we should treat all victims as liars until proven otherwise. I feel like I have entered an alternate universe. This kind of thinking is that exact reason why the Sanduskys of the world get to operate unimpeded for so long. It is very, very difficult to get victims of crimes to come forward, especially child victims of sex crimes. Why anyone would want to create additional barriers to victims coming forward is baffling to me.

posted by bperk at 02:03 PM on November 28

So because there are some unscrupulous people who lie about being victims of crimes, we should treat all victims as liars until proven otherwise.

You're moving the goalposts. Any fair person who looks into a criminal allegation should evaluate whether the accuser is telling the truth or not. Is this presuming they are lying? No. It's tackling the accusation with an open mind.

posted by rcade at 02:17 PM on November 28

So because there are some unscrupulous people who lie about being victims of crimes, we should treat all victims as liars until proven otherwise.

So because there are some unscrupulous people who commit crimes, we should treat all people accused of crime as criminals until proven otherwise?

posted by grum@work at 02:56 PM on November 28

I said I think there is plenty of area between presuming the guilt of the accused and assuming the victim is lying. I feel comfortable in that area.

Any fair person who looks into a criminal allegation should evaluate whether the accuser is telling the truth or not.

How do you do that? Because it seems to me like it involves publicly questioning his motives, doubting that he is a victim because he is accused of a crime, and alleging that he got pertinent information from another victim. This is way more scrutiny than Fine is getting in this forum. I think it is the wrong way to go about things if the goal is to stop abuse, which is something you were passionately committed to in the last thread. Countless victims advocates have spent untold hours trying to convince people that anyone can be a victim. How do you get police to take seriously allegations of rape or abuse that a prostitute makes? You can't really because of the same preconceptions running in this thread. That makes them the perfect victims since no one will believe them anyway.

posted by bperk at 05:57 PM on November 28

You can't really because of the same preconceptions running in this thread. That makes them the perfect victims since no one will believe them anyway.

What preconceptions, exactly? When I heard there was a third accuser, I'll bet my presumption about Fine matched yours and most of the other folks in this discussion. I thought he must be guilty as hell. But then I read the stories about the accuser.

During the Paterno discussion you accused people of making hysterical claims about sinister motives and being a mob at fever pitch. Now you think you're the only person approaching this story with an open mind.

The racket you've got going, where you're the only fair-minded person holding the mob at bay, is wearing me out.

posted by rcade at 06:41 PM on November 28

Jason Whitlock asked A.J. Daulerio of Deadspin if he would've run ESPN's original Bernie Fine story quoting the two stepbrothers claiming Fine molested them: "Honestly, no. And for no other reason than the fact that it seemed very presumptive and piggybacked off the Sandusky case, which irretrievably alters the public perception of the story. Davis's story could wait another month or two."

An important distinction to note between the Sandusky and Fine stories is that Sandusky has been indicted after a three-year investigation in which his known accusers and others testified under oath. The investigation of Fine has just begun.

posted by rcade at 07:01 PM on November 28

rcade: You mentioned you have experience as a reporter with how the media deals with sexual assault cases.

Is the media exempt or not obligated to pass along reports to the police about the sexual assault of children? I can understand not necessarily running the story, why didn't they pass it to the authorities is not immediately evident to me.

While it's not the same situation exactly as Paterno at Penn State, I think someone at ESPN should at least talk about and explain why it's different.

posted by Bonkers at 09:18 PM on November 28

children who have been sexually abused usually end up screwed up...

...screwed up people tend to be abuse victims.

What's wrong with you? Are you shooting for maximum offensiveness? Whatever else you have to say, in the shadow of this pile of shit, isn't worth a damn.

posted by Hugh Janus at 09:27 PM on November 28

Is the media exempt or not obligated to pass along reports to the police about the sexual assault of children?

It would depend on the state, but I'm not aware of anything that would exempt the media from an obligation shared by all citizens. Some states only require people who work with children to report.

As a practical matter, if you're a reporter looking into a claim of child sex abuse, you're calling police and child welfare officials to find out if they investigated it. No editor would run a story without those calls being made.

ESPN's original Fine story reported that Davis said he contacted police himself in 2003 and was told the statute of limitations had run out. Back then, the chief of police in Syracuse was Dennis Duval, a former Syracuse basketball player.

posted by rcade at 09:49 PM on November 28

children who have been sexually abused usually end up screwed up...

...screwed up people tend to be abuse victims.

What's wrong with you? Are you shooting for maximum offensiveness? Whatever else you have to say, in the shadow of this pile of shit, isn't worth a damn.

Are you kidding me? The long-term effects of child abuse are well-documented. The increased rates of crime, drug abuse, suicidal behavior, and a host of other negative effects are real. Abusing children has serious long-term ramifications. I don't know what point you could be possibly making by denying this reality.

posted by bperk at 07:02 AM on November 29

I'm not denying that reality. I'm saying you've chosen the most callous way to describe victims of childhood sexual abuse, and painted your slur with the broadest brush possible. Look at what you wrote. "Screwed up" is a shameful way to describe a large group of individuals whose lives were made difficult long before most people's, and who all cope (or die trying) in different ways. But even if you're innocently or ignorantly using it as a shorthand for "psychologically unsound," in two separate comments you've not only told us that victims are usually sick, but that the sick are usually victims. That's a lot for you to know about a lot of other people's pain, about a lot of people who deserve better than a victim-blaming epithet like "screwed-up."

Leave your judgments to people who know better than to write that way about victims of sexual trauma and psychological abuse. Words matter.

posted by Hugh Janus at 08:52 AM on November 29

That's a lot for you to know about a lot of other people's pain, about a lot of people who deserve better than a victim-blaming epithet like "screwed-up."

Leave your judgments to people who know better than to write that way about victims of sexual trauma and psychological abuse. Words matter.

Screwed up is shorthand for having lots of problems in a variety of different ways. And, you can cut out the self-righteousness. I was not at all engaging in any victim blaming. In fact, I was the one in this thread standing up for the victims. In that pursuit, I pointed that people who abuse children have often been abused themselves. So, dismissing abuse claims because someone is a criminal/drug abuser/prostitute is wrong-headed. It's not helpful for a discussion for you to construe words in the worst possible connotation so you can take offense. Context matters, too.

posted by bperk at 09:29 AM on November 29

I don't see "screwed up" as callous, seeing as how I said "messed up" in this discussion myself. I don't think it's a slur to recognize that being sexually victimized as a child often leads to long-term emotional and psychological challenges, and I think that's all those words were intended to convey.

posted by rcade at 09:29 AM on November 29

It's not helpful for a discussion for you to construe words in the worst possible connotation so you can take offense.

I'm sure you're right, and I apologize for my hot-headedness. I'll avoid these threads in the future. You misrepresent my intent, but I misunderstood yours, so, as always, the fault lies with me. I guess I'm still screwed up.

I would generally caution anyone against loaded terms like "screwed up," and I guess I did so here. But you're having none of it since you obviously don't consider it insulting, and I can't let it matter enough to me to keep pushing it, so I'll just apologize for my outburst and move on.

I'm sorry for my comments: however I may have meant them and however perturbed I was, upbraiding you for a poor choice if words was unnecessary, and in any case I should wait to comment until the anger passes. Which means never, on a topic like this.

posted by Hugh Janus at 11:19 AM on November 29

I think that's all those words were intended to convey.

The problem is in this context, presented without disclaimers, it also suggests/ hints they're unable to bear witness or stand up for themselves effectively.

posted by yerfatma at 11:41 AM on November 29

From New York Daily News:

Zach Tomaselli said in a sworn statement to Syracuse police that he rode the team bus from Syracuse to a game in Pittsburgh in 2002 and was molested by Fine in the team hotel when he was just 13-years old.

But the Daily News checked the schedule for that season and discovered the team did not take a bus to Pittsburgh, but instead flew to Pittsburgh after a road game in Tennessee.

The Tennessee game was on Saturday Jan. 19 and the Pittsburgh game was on Tuesday Jan. 22. It seems odd to me that the team would stay out of town for three days when players could've been at school Monday and potentially Tuesday.

posted by rcade at 10:25 AM on November 30

My apology has left a bad taste in my mouth. Not because I think I had nothing to apologize for; in fact I shouldn't have involved myself in this thread the way I did, and I stand by my assessment that I ought not post when I'm angry.

No, the bad taste is left by the words "screwed up." I've been chasing myself around with exactly those words ever since an elementary school teacher, over the course of a month or so, took third-grade me into a locked room, took our clothes off, and I'll spare you the rest of the details, as I've already given up enough power to someone on the internet by confessing thus far.

And there starts the tumble of inappropriate words. Confess? It's taken a long time for me to get out from under that word, too. Confess is what criminals do. It's what kids in storybooks do after they steal the pie and eat it all themselves. It's what men who rape kids do on their deathbeds, men who ascribe to some convenient belief system that says a confession will wipe away the shame of what they've done. When I first addressed what was done to me, thankfully years ago, thankfully with a close friend, one of the very supportive people I've always sought out, it felt like a confession.

But we don't confess when we're victims. We confess when we've committed a crime, when we are ashamed of what we've done to others. There's a lot built into our society -- into any society -- reinforcing the idea that victimhood is shameful, that admitting to having been used or molested or raped is admitting to weakness, and it takes a long time and a lot of thought and support for victimized people to come around to the realization that there really isn't shame in being weaker than someone more powerful than they are. There's no shame in letting it become a cycle, or letting the power of others overwhelm you, or running away from it, or numbing it, however we cope; there's no shame even in feeling shame for things that were beyond your control in the first place.

It starts out bad and gets to be a real spiral. I looked back and felt like I let this guy do this to me. Why didn't I just tell someone, anyone? It drove me out of locker rooms, made me the screwed-up kid who wouldn't shower with the team, the kid who couldn't piss in a ballpark urinal right next to all those men and their unzipped flies. And it was really frustrating, because I was just fine at sports, and I really didn't need to use the stall every time. I said to myself, "Why am I so screwed up?" and answered, "I'm screwed up because of my shame, because I've never confessed to what was done to me."

This is what I mean by letting those words chase me around. The first step out from under "screwed up" was to say, no, I'm not screwed up, someone screwed me up. I didn't do the screwing, that was my teacher. But you see, that still left me screwed up, just removed the agency in the situation from me and gave it to him; it actually left me feeling more powerless, someone irreparably damaged by a cruel whim of fate, or by the teacher, or the school system that employed him. For a long time, I still felt screwed up.

The teacher died of stomach cancer that spread to his lymphatic system when I was in college. I know this because I had a summer job working with his daughter, who was a nice kid. I simultaneously held feelings of sympathy for her and relief, no, happiness that he was dead, and had died painfully. I don't think my shame over that happiness is inappropriate; such hatred is understandable but it only hurts me and takes me further from who I want to be. His daughter didn't need to know about what he did to me, and I never told her. I felt like that was a screwed up way to think, I mean, how can someone hold conflicting emotions like that, what kind of two-faced creep was I, to be so false to her? But I wasn't being false. I honestly felt sympathy for a girl who lost her dad. She never knew he was my nightmare.

As I got older I thought about that duplicity a lot. I came to realize that it was a sign of someone who isn't screwed up, a sign of someone who has been under great strain since he was nine, who believed himself to be a dysfunctional human being, showing himself that he was in fact quite normal. Anyone who experienced such childhood abuse would take a long time to recover from it. Hell, I felt guilt that I was lucky enough to be around people who loved me, whom I'll probably never tell about this, when so many victims of childhood sexual abuse have nothing of the sort. That feeling that I carried, that I was screwed up, was wrong. I was normal, and felt the stunted emotions, thought the anxious thoughts and harbored the fearful shame that any normal person who was raped as a child by a schoolteacher would.

All these stories coming out, the Sandusky horror, the Fine questions, I'm like a moth to the flame. I want to prove to myself that I can handle a discussion about things that are what some call triggers; in my case I welcome such discussion as an opportunity to show myself that I'm up to talking about it, to explaining how I feel without going off the deep end. Sometimes I fail at this, and it's very hard to keep from getting hot about it. The results of this are obvious, and though I've been peremptory and rude about it, I don't really regret my participation, and I don't really think I'm wrong to try.

I'm not screwed up. I'm past thinking that. I know, bperk, you weren't using screwed up as anything but a shorthand, but I also know what that word means to me, and I think I can't be the only person in the world who's spent decades struggling to emerge from under the weight of such words. Something like "emotionally damaged" or even "psychologically unsound" may still be a difficult pill to swallow but doesn't have the weight of "screwed up," at least for me. I'm not asking for you to be more careful out of self-righteousness. I don't know that any of what I've written makes sense beyond what it means to me. It could be that my personal definition shouldn't have any bearing on how other people use "screwed up." This is a drawn-out explanation. Maybe I'm still trying to confess.

posted by Hugh Janus at 10:29 AM on November 30

I'm sorry that you went through that, Hugh. It is good to hear that you have rejected the idea that you did anything wrong. In my experience trying to help someone close to me who suffered childhood sex abuse, the person has to go through a long and sometimes agonizing process of rebuilding their psyche to come to terms with what happened to them. This can take decades.

Your struggle sounds completely normal to me. There's no reason at all for you to feel shame or guilt.

posted by rcade at 11:30 AM on November 30

The problem is in this context, presented without disclaimers, it also suggests/ hints they're unable to bear witness or stand up for themselves effectively.

True, but there are conflicting interests here. The need of child abuse victims to be heard matters, but so does the need of the wrongly accused to be treated fairly. If we learn in the future that Zach Tomaselli is lying, it would be a terrible injustice to Bernie Fine.

I raised questions about Tomaselli when I linked to the third accuser story because I wasn't comfortable sharing it without that context.

Here's more context: An April news story on his indictment on sex charges.

posted by rcade at 11:48 AM on November 30

The teacher died of stomach cancer that spread to his lymphatic system when I was in college. I know this because I had a summer job working with his daughter, who was a nice kid. I simultaneously held feelings of sympathy for her and relief, no, happiness that he was dead, and had died painfully. I don't think my shame over that happiness is inappropriate; such hatred is understandable but it only hurts me and takes me further from who I want to be. His daughter didn't need to know about what he did to me, and I never told her. I felt like that was a screwed up way to think, I mean, how can someone hold conflicting emotions like that, what kind of two-faced creep was I, to be so false to her? But I wasn't being false. I honestly felt sympathy for a girl who lost her dad. She never knew he was my nightmare.

That's about as selfless an act that I can think of, Hugh. You ought to be quite proud of yourself to consider her so. God knows I think that's real courage. To look at an opportunity for vengeance like that and choose the high road? I applaud you. Seriously.

As for the shame, I hope you can forgive yourself for that. Because it's not how one feels, or thinks or believes that ultimately really matters - it's how one acts, and I think you acted just fine.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:43 PM on November 30

I'm sorry, Hugh, that my use of that word was upsetting to you. I was trying to find a term to encompass all of it -- not just the psychological devastation, but the things that come from it. What term to use to encompass increases in suicidal thoughts, increases in crime participation, prostitution, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, eating disorders as well as trust issues, intimacy problems, anxiety and depression? I also didn't want to use a term that seemed to minimize the reality of it, because, as you know, it is a lifetime struggle for victims. And, I was trying to apply it to the pool of victims, and not insult specific people. But, still, I'm sorry for using the term, and for accusing you of being self-righteous for taking offense.

It sounds to me like you have a healthy approach. A lot of the victims I've worked with don't want to recognize the ways in which abuse has affected their lives. They want to put it in a little box, and try to forget about it. Unfortunately, that doesn't work so well as a long-term coping strategy. All the best to you, and thank you for sharing your story.

posted by bperk at 06:04 AM on December 01

The Syracuse newspaper has written a story defending itself for not giving the Laurie Fine phone call tape to police in 2003.

As the paper writes, it would be extremely unorthodox for journalists who did not publish a story -- because they felt it wasn't nailed down -- to hand over information about that story to police. Sources would not like it if the information they trusted to journalists was given to authorities.

But they certainly could have suggested to Davis that he take the tape to police himself.

posted by rcade at 08:09 AM on December 01

Thanks for saying so, bperk. And thanks to you others for your kindness as well. Your support helps.

You're right, bperk, on reflection I too find it difficult to come up with a shorthand to describe these struggles and stumbles that victims of childhood sexual abuse experience. I often feel like the luckiest unlucky person in the world; whatever I've faced has been in a background of support, and my situation was never one that led me to distrust my family -- sadly so often the case -- which has for me always been a solid, loving foundation on which to build. I feel lucky that I don't really think about it much anymore beyond letting it remind me that things can always be worse.

At the best of times it reminds me to step back and observe, knowing that others may be struggling with or stumbling under tougher burdens than I am right now. At the worst of times it messes with my ability to manage anger, though the results of that are limited to occasional dyspeptic outbursts on the internet.

When I look back at my participation here in this thread, I can see that my initial charge led inevitably to a vigorous defense, and I appreciate your patience and thoughtfulness in returning to listen as I let the hot air out and the cool air in. It's all part of a pretty big process, one that at first blush seems inappropriate for a sports forum, but I guess that's a sign of the times.

In short, thanks for accepting my apology, and thanks for listening to my story. It means a lot.

posted by Hugh Janus at 08:26 AM on December 01

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