More than anything else we do in our lifetime, it is what the youth of today learn from us that creates our legacy. Notice I didn’t say ‘what we teach’ because what we teach and what they learn can be universes apart.

You can’t escape hearing about the Foley Debacle these days. It is everywhere and for good reason. With all the finger-pointing going on, it’s easy to ascertain that not only did people know about it for years, but so many people knew about it as to create the classic abused/abuser environment.

As an abuse survivor, it took me years to unlearn some basic truths that I learned as a child. These truths were not true in the socially acceptable circles out in the open. But on the most very basic levels of my Self, they were rock hard truths.

In a classic familial abuse situation, it is the children that learn to read the parents. They learn to assess the feeling of the room before even walking in the door. They learn to read their parent’s feelings and attitudes and intents to gauge the danger level. The children become parentalized and must watch out for their own safety and welfare because no one else will do it for them. Parents/adults can’t be trusted.

Let’s say that at some point, those kids get to a place where they are brave enough to tell someone what is happening. They hone in on an adult that can be trusted. They somehow find the words to speak the agonizing truth of the situation. And here is where they learn their next lesson: will they be believed? And, if they are believed, will they be protected? A child learns many truths about life in the aftermath of telling their secret.

In this Foley situation, the things that bother me the most, and there are so many to pick from, are 1) the kid(s) that came forward years ago were not believed to the degree that they should have been and if they were believed, their feelings and the danger of the situation were minimized, 2) the adults in control ‘stuck together’ and most likely shuffled off those particular kids to new places to keep them quiet, 3) new interns and pages were told that ‘this is just the way Foley is’ and it then became THIER responsibility to monitor what happened in this completely power-lopsided relationship, creating the illusion that children can control the abuse that happens to them, 4) immediately after being found out in the mainstream media, Foley’s camp turned to ‘he’s an alcoholic’ and ‘he was abused as a teen’ and ‘he’s gay’ in order to divert responsibility and 5) these kids and young adults are treated with less respect and have less protection than working adults do with sexual harassment statutes in place.

I find it indescribably sad that our youth are going to what should be an exciting and knowledge-packed place and supposedly having this spectacular experience learning how our government works and the ins and outs of how things get done and instead are learning the very worst kind of lessons about dysfunction, which apparently, is how our government works.

We can teach our youth all kinds of things that we wish they would learn, but it’s what we do and what we allow to happen to them and to this country that they will internalize. That is our legacy.

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  1. This is so true and i find it nausiating that the governement or whomever is in charge is not doing more to protect and find justice for these kids. Foley should be arrested, charged and punished to the full extent. Everyone who stood by and allowed this to be swept under the carpet should be arrested and punished as well. It smells just like a child-porn ring.

  2. That is a beautiful post Leah. Got chills on me which means it’s good b/c it hit me deep. Bless you for your gift of words and your always courageous honesty.

    This is a priceless statement, I suspect it’ll show up on in the near future.

    We can teach our youth all kinds of things that we wish they would learn, but it’s what we do and what we allow to happen to them and to this country that they will internalize. That is our legacy.

  3. here, here. the lessons we should NOT be teaching are greed, secrecy, torture, and dishonesty. We need to rise up, to speak louder than the popular rhetoric, and take back the future. You are right, that is, and should be, our legacy.

  4. Amen sister. Wonderful point of view piece.

    The thing about the Foley scandal that has bothered me the most is how the parents protected the abuser. Maybe it was a well-meaning act on behalf of their own child’s privacy, but by doing so, they exposed other people’s children to victimization.

  5. I have watched this debacle play out and relived what most victims of childhood sexual abuse are more than familiar with. When I was desperate enough at 8 to finally tell, the first reaction was to not understand what I was saying. Of course, I knew that the message was my mom did not want me to talk about this. I had said ‘Mom, Papa Lee has been doing things to me.’ My mom said ‘What?’ in a really angry and put upon tone. That was the place where I was supposed to go away. That was the first place the GOP went, that they would just make this go away by ignoring it.
    I repeated what I had said, because even though I was terrified I was more desperate. She then said, ‘What things!’ with anger and impatience. I responded by saying, ‘Things.’ With that, she rose up and put on her shoes and stormed out of the house to their house.
    It was clear to me that she had known all along, because she certainly had not got any informative explanation from me before she charged out the door. Now she was the righteous crusader.
    The GOP pretends like they had no idea what was going on and then go all righteous about it assuring everyone that it is now handled. Then they all tried to pass along the blame while denying their own responsiblity. Poor Mom, she only had the perpetrator and his wife to pass the blame on to.

    My mom came back and drove me over there. I stood in the middle of the room while my mother, the perpetrator and his wife all sat grouped together to question me. They did not even give me a chair. I was supposed to support my allegations, which had been an accusation that he had done ‘things’. It went on for a long time before they started on each other. I couldn’t speak. They finally told me it was all my fault for sitting on his lap when I was three. By the time I escaped as they begin to fight with one another I went to lay down on the floor in the back seat of the car to whisper over and over. ‘I wish I was dead’

    I watched adults characterize those kids as sly devils who sought to entrap the poor congressman in their sinister snares. Then I watched them pretend that the abuse had any connection at all to the man being gay. That despite everything we all know about the almost completely heterosexual character of pedophile populations.

    I watch them posture and dissemble and rush to hide behind doors. I hope and pray that this country reaches out to the victims. I pray that they take ten minutes to realize the obligation they have to find, help and support for those kids. Because other wise they will leave them curled up inside their own souls saying the same thing I did, ‘I wish I were dead.’ And no one will come for them either.

  6. So glad you wrote this. I’ve been really frustrated with the nature of the coverage on this issue.

    Why so little discussion of the fact that Foley chaired a committee to protect children from the same behavior he was subjecting them to? I don’t care if he’s an alcoholic or gay or was abused himself, and I hate that more attention goes to those issues than everything else swirling around this story…namely the blatant hypocrisy of the Republican party in its leadership and in protecting an abuser while masquerading behind ‘family values.’

  7. Thank you for bringing this discussion to this level. My husband and I have been talking about this all week, but yours is the first thing I’ve read that brings this up. Preach it sistah.

  8. Well said, Leah. This story rocks me to the core and permeates my nightmares. They all do. I’m also an abuse survivor. I’m so glad to see in writing some of what has been rolling around in this head of mine. Thank you.

  9. i agree with you and the comments; it is disgusting that adults set such a bad example to kids and don’t listen to them, and it is terrible hypocrisy that a man whose job it is to prevent child abuse is involved in it himself. i consider his sexuality and alcoholism to be irrelevant to the issue.

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