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March 03, 2006

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Comments

NancyP

I hate to bring this up, but shfwilf has an unusual reaction for a professional - I know NO-ONE in good standing in the counselling or psychology or psychiatry fields who limits their practice for fear of sexual-misconduct accusation. There may be counsellors, etc, who limit their practice by gender because they have a particular interest or expertise in (fill in the blank: gay men with HIV, grieving issues; motherhood issues; transgender issues; etc), but limiting practice from fear is highly unusual. So, he's either a professional who has been cautioned or disciplined before for sexual misconduct, or he's a layman who is posing.

Little Lion

Why not take him at face value? He could be morbidly sensitive to perceived violations of his patient's rights. For some people, it may require faith, religious faith, like that of Dr. Schwyzer, that their conduct in the pursuit of moral ideals won't be taken out of context. Others who lack that faith may respond differently.

NancyP

Well yes, he could be Ultra-Orthodox Jewish, a stricter sort of Muslim, or a cultic pre-Vatican II type of Catholic, where women's "modesty" and value to their fathers or husbands is compromised by any treatment by a male non-family member.Though typically those forms of those religions don't really go for psychological therapy. And yes, female docs occasionally encounter this, eg, when husband insists on female gynecologist and then insists on being present during the exam and the question and answer.

The Barnacle

How would it sound if we changed the wording a bit ...

You see, [burglary and murders] abuse and molestation and boundary violations are not the figments of the collective and overactive imagination of worried parents. Too many [black males] men in positions of responsibility have proven themselves unworthy of the trust placed in them. Too many [black males] men have crossed lines that ought never be crossed with the boys and girls for whom they were responsible. Yes, we are all aware that a small number of [white men who make over $50,000] adult women have also been guilty of [violent crimes] sexual abuse of the young; those rare stories grab extraordinary public attention, largely because they represent only a fraction of the actual number of cases. There still is every reason to be more suspicious of [black men] male youth leaders than of [white men] female ones. I can wish that it were otherwise, but to be an effective youth leader, I\'ve got to acknowledge the reality of the problem. Im not going to complain about being \\\"guilty until proven innocent\\\" [or racial profiling]; I\\\'m going to buckle down and get to work at the task of proving myself innocent.

Little Lion

I was not considering a religious person with a patriarchal faith; though such examples are valid, I was thinking of persons who lacked the kind of faith to overcome fears that, in the pursuit of moral ideals (increasing freedom, increasing conciousness, reducing pain, and so on), some aspect of their conduct or intentions might be interpreted out of context in some circumstances. Fully informed, impartial rational persons may come to different conclusions about identical circumstances. For some persons who consider it too risky, not pursuing moral ideals is rational. I see no reason to doubt that Dr. Schwyzer's faith informs his pursuit of moral ideals; whereas, others who do not have this faith might be more fearful. I've seen sentiments as "shfwilf" expressed elsewhere in print by university professors (though not by psychiatrists or psychologists).

catty

I can understand his fear. I knew my friend's father (a school teacher) was falsely accused of sexual impropriety. The girl that accused him fessed up almost immediately because she realized she was caught in a blatant lie.

There were several witnesses- the school secretary- in the office adjacent to his classroom, as well as a teacher and a student teacher in surrounding classrooms grading papers after school- that overheard the conversation. The teacher next door heard the conversation (the student was yelling at her teacher)
and went over to my friend's dad's office to make sure he was okay (the student had thrown a book across the classroom in a fit before she left). He never closes the door during meetings with students ever. The female student wanted to do extra credit at the last minute before grades to boost her failing grades- he refused because she had never applied herself throughout the year and it was unfair for him to give extra credit to her when he's denied it to other students in the same situation. So, she was pissed and accused him of soliciting sex to get back at the "mean" teacher. The parent of one of the accusers' overheard their daughter's conversation with the accuser and was appalled. The parent made their daughter report the conversation.

While the situation proved to be completely false, it still greatly distressed my friend's father and his family- and also greatly hurt his reputation regardless. I thought the girl should have been punished severely for attempting to wreck someone's life out of an unreasonable grudge.

Maybe "Schfwilf" had experienced something similar in the past.


Erik W. Felch

hello, mr. schwyzer. i have been reading here for a few weeks, and i am impressed with much of your writing/content. you are tackling some really hot-button issues with courageous vigor. i want to acknowlege you for the proactivity that you express, and your forward-looking stance on your interface with the issues. let's hear it for being accountable, and avoiding the victim role. namaste

Antigone

What is it when people start talking about legitimate issues (like rape, molestation, harrasment) someone has to pipe in and talk about how HORRIBLE it is that there's false accusations? I mean, is there anything like this that similar? When we start talking about theft, it's rare that someone pipes in on how horrible it was someone's friend was falsely accused of stealing a necklace when it turns out it just got lost under a rug? What is with this minimization effect that people have.

And I really don't see how analogous it is to equate racial profiling to being precautious about situations with relative power inbalances. In fact, what Hugo describes doing doesn't seem like such a bad idea to do with boys, either. It's not like it's anymore effort, wheras profiling is in fact a restriction of freedoms.

barb

That's such a great post Hugo! I'm really glad you're out here writing stuff like this. Thanks!

Little Lion

Setting aside the observation that racial profiling generally involves a "power imbalance" if it is done systematically, and that racial profiling is not the only possible interpretation of a systematic substitution some minority group for "male" as a possible test for gender discrimination, introducing in-principle unverifiable ideological notions--"power imbalance" may be such a notion--effectively politicizes the discussion. Issues that might have been settled by appeal to common morality (see Bernard Gert's Common Morality: Deciding What To Do) have to be transferred to the political and legal system for resolution, if enough people introduce ideological notions into the discussion (to name one of four reasons why an issue can become morally undecidable). The issue of how false accusations should be handled is probably a matter for the legal and political system. Suggesting that they should be handled does not amount to minimizing actual crimes.

Uzzah

What is it when people start talking about legitimate issues (like rape, molestation, harrasment) someone has to pipe in and talk about how HORRIBLE it is that there's false accusations? I mean, is there anything like this that similar?


In the previous thread, we weren't discussing sexual abuse per se. We were discussing a "parent" that made a pretty insulting insinuation based on a single word, "gorgeous". In a round about way he/she said Hugo was a perv based on his use of the word and the fact that he is a man. In short, we were discussing stereotyping, more so than abuse itself.

Don't worry. There is more than plenty of discussion about sexual abuse. Just open a paper, turn on a TV or check out just about any Feminist blog.

You see, abuse and molestation and boundary violations are not the figments of the collective and overactive imagination of worried parents. Too many men in positions of responsibility have proven themselves unworthy of the trust placed in them. Too many men have crossed lines that ought never be crossed with the boys and girls for whom they were responsible.

But neither are they so pervasive that we can justify tarring all men with that brush. Sure sexual abuse is a problem and one man crossing the line is too many, but as a society we've fetishized children. Our culture has created mass hysteria about sexual abuse. If you aren't concerned about the effect that this has on innocent and loving men and fathers (such as yourself), then how about this:

The current hysteria over sexual abuse in the long run, hurts children. It makes the good men in their lives pull away from them. Shfwilf's experience and response is not unusual, and unlike NancyP, I believe him, because I’ve done the same thing myself. If you need more examples, all you have to do is look at professions that deal with children and the way men avoid those jobs these days. The ones that do want to take the chance, are discriminated against and under constant scrutiny. How good can it be for children to constantly bombard them with the message that the men in their lives are likely predators out to assault them. How can it be good for children, when a loving father or teacher is scrutinized for hugging a child. While combating abuse of children is a worthy goal, at what point does the hysteria create more harm than good. Despite feminist rhetoric, I think (hope) you'd agree that having safe loving men in the lives of children is a good thing. I constantly hear feminist complaints about men not being more involved with the children in their lives, a concept you at times seem to support. Well, here is one reason for it.

Hugo, you have been pretty lucky in my opinion. Take a look at some of the comments on RYP again and note some of the sexualized overtones and complaints. Heck, I’ve see those kind of posts on this blog. All it would take is one vindictive girl (or guy) in your class to cop an attitude, file a complaint with police, and your career and reputation will be out the window. If it happens with your church group, you might well be looking at jail time. Child Protective Services would be all over you like a bad smell. You think you are protecting yourself by remaining as visible and open as possible, but what you fail to realize is that it’s not about what is really going on. It has nothing to do with truth. It’s about hysteria and innuendo. It’s a witch hunt. Your actions won’t protect you if someone makes even a totally baseless complaint. But I guess that’s ok, since you are a man and deserve it because “Too many men have crossed lines”. Right?

Little Lion

Inn the present "climate of suspicion," it seems rational to withdraw; it's also rational to proceed the way Dr. Schwyzer is proceeding--unless there is a "reasonable" probability of ruin and there is no adequate reason to take the risk, but in this case I'd say Dr. Schwyzer has made a rational decision. He's pursuing moral ideals and he's not violating any moral rules to follow them.

As for the substitution test for a lack of impartiality towards males: it changes the morally relevant features; it's better to avoid it and address any alleged lack of impartiality directly. The decision to prove his innocence on the basis of the transgressions of "too many males" (how many is "too many"?) might be ideologically motivated, but as long as this doesn't amount to a justification not to be impartial in the application of moral rules towards men, then there is no issue of discrimination. The issue appears to be one of offending some sensibilities, but there is no right not to be offended.

I would think that having to prove one's innocence would be a burden, especially if this were required, however.

spiritrover

For men who work with children and teens in my community of Portland, OR, rules like the ones Hugo describes aren't just required to protect our reputations against false accusations. They're required to instill confidence in parents that their children will not be preyed upon. In 2003, there was an infamous case here of a 38-year-old softball coach, Andrew Garver, who ran off with one of his 15-year-old players. It takes a long time and a lot of work to make up for the kind of damage bad acts like that cause in the community.

So when I, as a youth soccer coach, make sure that I'm never alone with a player, when I make sure that there's always an assistant coach or a parent volunteer with me on the field, when I insist that players are picked up by a parent, I'm working in my small way to help rebuild trust.

What I want for my kids is for them to develop a love of the game of soccer, to learn what it means to be on a team, to improve their physical strength and coordination, and to learn to enjoy competition. It takes trustworthy, committed coaches to do that; I volunteer because by doing so, I ensure that there's at least one more trustworthy, committed coach out there. And when I see volunteers like Hugo, demonstrating their trustworthiness through the care they take, I can see that I'm not alone.

The Gonzman

Well, I can't say I blame people - when I was teaching I didn't allow myself to be around female students with a closed door and no witnesses, and I do the same in my work life.

The latter might be a shame, because it is often inhibiting to the easy camraderie that a one-on-one produces, which often leads to trust, better assignmkents, promotions, raises... But I cannot afford the risk that one false accusation would do. And I adopted this strategy from a female and feminist attorney who is an associate at the firm which handles my business legal needs.

NancyP

I am just stating that most medical and counselling professionals have been educated on how to design patient interactions so that they minimize the chances of being suspected of inappropriate sexual behavior. Most people know and accept that there is some finite risk of being accused of inappropriate sexual behavior - if they didn't accept some level of risk, they wouldn't be in that profession to start with. If you are deathly afraid of getting sued by a patient, generally you don't choose obstetrics or neurosurgery/back surgery specialist as a profession. So when a pediatric specialists says that they no longer see female patients, I wonder a bit about the history of that specialist. It can be true that you might get annoyed at the hassle - I for one wouldn't fancy 40 years of dealing with angry people trying to get workman's compensation for back pain - these people occasionally come back with guns and shoot up the office.

Catty

"What is it when people start talking about legitimate issues (like rape, molestation, harrasment) someone has to pipe in and talk about how HORRIBLE it is that there's false accusations?"

I understand where this statement comes from. That said, there is a certain amount of fear that many in the teaching/counsenling/guidance field deal with. I have many friends that are teachers- both male and female- that are incredibly cautious when dealing with students now becuase of the climate. Just as it's a incredibly freightening situation to be raped, it's also an incredibly frightening situation to be falsely accused regardless of gender. I was a victim's right advocate at one point, and I often err on the side of victims. HAVING PERSONALLY KNOWN people that have been falsely accused of crimes, I can understand how people would be wary after a life-shattering experience like that.

Hugo

Uzzah, it's interesting that the only folks who think I'm foolish to be doing the work I'm doing are the men out there who are convinced that some vast anti-male conspiracy is sure to catch me in its claws sooner or later.

I've seen false accusations -- and real ones. But in the end, I have to act based on faith (with a healthy dose of common sense to boot). I will not punish "my kids" for either the hysteria of the culture or the misdeeds of other men.

Little Lion

It's rational to take precautions so that interactions with clients, patients and students are strictly professional and cannot be reasonably construed otherwise. It's helpful to have professional guidelines for this. Such precautions are pragmatic and it's hard to find fault with them on ideological grounds--those ideological grounds have to be volunteered. It's one thing to adhere to professional guidelines for the safety of all parties concerned; it's another matter to suggest that an entire gender is responsible for having to adhere to them. " I don't share in their guilt, but I must carry -- and carry cheerfully -- the burden of suspicion that their foolishness created." But why not adhere to professional guidelines of conduct, because it is a moral and professional duty?

Granting that most persons are aware of some risk of false accusation, and would not enter a field if they found the risk unacceptable, it is possible to enter a field having made the risk assessment and having found it acceptable; later, one might make a reassessment that the risk is no longer acceptable; e.g., in the wake of sweeping legal reform.

will

I am on the fence on this one. I had people tell me I was a fool for taking in a young woman (13) to live with me and my then-wife. "Too many opportunties for false allegations," I was told.

I have seen several false allegations so I knew that it could happen.

I, like Hugo, decided that I was not going to be totally ruled by the fear of what might happen. However, I think it is important to keep good boundaries and have lots of transparency. It is also good to have lots of witnesses around.

I am also a hugger. I come from a family of huggers. When we meet you, we hug you. However, if I was in charge of a youth group, I would be EXTREMELY cautious about hugging any young woman.

Uzzah

Uzzah, it's interesting that the only folks who think I'm foolish to be doing the work I'm doing are the men out there who are convinced that some vast anti-male conspiracy is sure to catch me in its claws sooner or later.

Foolish? No*. I think commendable was the term I used in the other thread. I still stand by that. I don’t point out your susceptibility to paint you out to be crazy for doing the work you do, I point it out because the situation is so ridiculous. And wrong. And worst of all, all of our kids suffer. It shouldn’t have to be this way. Good people shouldn’t have to be constantly looking over their shoulders when working with youth.

And I don’t call it a conspiracy either. I call it a growing mass hysteria that needs to be stamped out. But like most forms of hysteria, that can amazingly difficult if not impossible at this point.

* I reserve the option to consider you foolish in other areas however.

Hugo

Oh, I consider myself foolish in many areas, Uzzah my friend! The safety of children is not one of them, however. And though we may disagree about where the culpability ultimately lies, we can agree that it is a sad situation in which we find ourselves -- and we can look forward to the day when things are very, very different.

alexander

Hugo:

What is your take on cases like this:

http://www.ocweekly.com/features/sex-issue/great-dick,-babe_2006-02-09.html

where a woman makes a false charge of rape but the video proves otherwise?

I realize this is a bit off topic, but it is related insofar as an atmosphere of mass hysteria over sexual offenses contributes to the very problems you identify.

alexander

Hugo:

I have a friend who was a volunteer youth minister in his church. He just got out of jail on a “child molestation” charge. He took a plea bargain of four years rather than be hit with 20. Did he really “molest” anyone? I don’t know. Given the mass hysteria on this issue, and the fact that prosecutors make their reputation on sending up people on trumped up charges, it may be that he was innocent but felt that fighting the case in court would be a losing battle.

The point is, you may need to see a good lawyer. Heck, you might even check out MRA sites for advice and support.

I have my disagreements with you, but I do not want to see anyone victimized by the prison-industrial complex.

Hugo

Alexander, as I've said, I appreciate the concern for my legal well-being, but my faith is in God, common sense, my wonderful kids, my wise co-workers, and the fine pastoral team at All Saints. I'm going to love without fear, thanks.

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