Kevin Clash Scandal: Cash Further Muddies Water
Settlement talks threaten the fight against child sex abuse -- or clearing the accused
That about sums up most reaction to the underage sex allegations against "Sesame Street" puppeteer Kevin Clash, who on Tuesday amid growing scandal, announced he was resigning, after decades as the voice of the beloved Muppet.
The few available details surrounding the 52-year-old Clash’s alleged relationship with at least one of his now two young male accusers, and a supposed settlement for that accuser’s silence, indicate that this is yet another case of “powerful public figure” versus “troubled victim.”
Michael Jackson versus disadvantaged boys. Bishop Eddie Long versus his juvenile “fellows.” And now Clash versus his accusers, 24-year-old aspiring model and alleged armed robber Sheldon Stephens and 30-something Cecil Singleton, both alleging they had sex with Clash at ages 16 and 15, respectively.
In all of these types of cases, the truth was and is certain to be hard to prove. And news of financial settlements in each of the earlier cases only perpetuated public doubt that the accusers were telling the complete truth -- and that their rich and influential alleged abusers did not indeed have something to hide. It seems, at least morally, when it comes to high profile sex-related scandals, justice for sex abuse victims is far less important than swift civil settlements and protection of the brands – a music career, a church ministry or a beloved children’s program.
This is by no means a wholesale indictment of the above-mentioned accusers or the accused. But financial settlements seem to insinuate that neither side is willing to stand firm on the complete truth. And not being completely honest from the beginning seems to hurt both sides. And for victims of child sexual abuse, the truth -- and issues surrounding the telling of it -- can be a complicated thing.
“The problem is you can get a check as big the world, but there’s no place to cash it and get your childhood back,” said Curtis St. John, a spokesman for MaleSurvivor.org, a group dedicated to helping male survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
St. John, a survivor himself, says victims aren’t simply susceptible to lawyers beckoning them to the often-lucrative negotiating table. He believes the public gets the wrong message in cases where there is a settlement, because too little is understood about the healing process for victims.
“Survivors are desperate to be believed,” St. John said in a phone interview. “People who are early in their recovery definitely want something to hold on to. Money makes you feel better at first, but it’s not going to solve your problem.”
Statistically, male survivors of sexual abuse so rarely come forward and if they do, they come forward later in their lives. That appears to be the case for Clash’s accusers.