April 14, 2022 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

‘Don’t Say Gay’ provides the secrecy real groomers need

Florida’s new law is ideal cover.

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We’re told Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law is “anti-grooming.” We’re told it will prevent schoolkids from being victimized by sex predators. That’s false. On its face. To explain, I need to tell a story.

Real grooming requires secrecy
After considering all the facts available to me, I figure Dad began sexually molesting the child, to whom we are related, some time in 2014. I’m told it ended when the child was old enough to say they didn’t want to be touched that way anymore. Evidently, Dad complied.

I discovered my dad’s felony three years later. In the meantime, Dad had been investigated, arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced. (He pleaded guilty. His punishment was fines, parole and restricted travel.) Dad said nothing. Mom said nothing. My sister said nothing. 

During the interregnum, my parents, who are fundamentalist Christians (ie, Plymouth Brethren), became leveled-up-mushroom-cloud Christians. (You could not turn around in their house without seeing scripture. Verses were even in the bathroom.) I was used to being asked if I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. During this time, though, the inquiries escalated into inquisition.

We’re told Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law is “anti-grooming.” We’re told it will prevent schoolkids from being victimized by sex predators.

That’s false. 

On its face. 

To explain, I need to tell a story.

My wife and I guessed something was up. We endured it, however, because it’s not unusual for people growing older to become more religious, for one thing. For another, we wanted our daughter, a toddler at the time, to know her grandparents. I was long past the age of returning home. Yet I longed for her to have a link to the place and culture of my childhood – a taste of my Huck Finn upbringing.

That longing died in 2017. Turns out, my mom stood by her man. She blackmailed the child’s parent into secrecy. She threatened to dox them, you could say, if they revealed Dad’s pedophilia to the rest of us. My dad and my sister were complicit in Mom’s conspiracy of silence.

They could have made different choices. They could have chosen honesty and transparency. They could have said Dad did a horrible, horrible thing – he sexually molested blood kin. They could have said he’d be arrested and punished. Dad could have asked the victim for forgiveness. He could have asked the rest of us to forgive him for violating bonds of trust. He could have promised to seek help. 

This would have been an exquisitely painful process. It might have been impossible for the family to overcome. But Mom and Dad robbed us of the opportunity. Denying the lies only quadrupled the hurt. To my knowledge, my dad still blames the child-victim for tempting him.

“This is between me and God,” he said the last time we talked.

He’s lying to himself.

If he really believed his pedophilia were between him and God – if the moral obligations to God superseded the moral obligations to family – he wouldn’t have hidden the crime from us. He wouldn’t have accused a child of temptation. He would have condemned Mom’s extortion.

All of this – the crimes and the cover up of the crimes – happened because of secrecy. With secrecy, all this pain was made possible.

Real anti-grooming requires transparency
We’re told Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law is “anti-grooming.” We’re told it will prevent schoolkids from being victimized by sex predators.

That’s false. 

On its face. 

“Don’t Say Gay” forbids certain topics. It permits parents to sue if they don’t like what teachers are teaching. The effect is driving the topics of sex and gender – and related topics – underground where it’s dark.

Real groomers thrive in the dark.

When children and teachers talk about sex and gender – and related topics – they are talking about them in the open, where everyone can see. If parents don’t like what kids learn, they can say something. That they can say something is made possible by the fact that children and teachers are having these discussions in the open for everyone to see.

As it is, “Don’t Say Gay” robs parents of the opportunity to object to what their kids are learning. The climate of fear inspired by the law is almost certainly going to push teachers, fearing the ruination of lawsuits, from speaking openly about, well, pretty much anything. 

I think most teachers are wonderful, but groomers – real ones like my dad – do live among us. When children and teachers talk openly and transparently, real groomers have few opportunities. Under the shadow of “Don’t Say Gay,” they have the cover they need to groom.

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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