The recent #MeToo movement or revolution has been both praised and ridiculed by liberals and conservatives alike.
On one hand, we applaud these people for sharing their accounts of harassment and molestation. We cringe as we hear the details. We empathize as we praise them for their bravery.
In contrast, we have those that minimize the accusations and assume that the victim has an ulterior motive other than holding the accused accountable for their actions.
Men and women have come forth recently with allegations of impropriety by Hollywood executives and politicians even though the incidents may have happened many years ago.
Why now? That is a question we hear over and over. Why did they not tell someone immediately after the offense occurred instead of waiting years to come forth? Why did they wait until so and so started running for office? Why smear the name of a beloved and talented actor now?
The decision of when to tell someone that you have been violated is not something that a victim spends much time thinking about. There is no thought of holding on to the intrusion and waiting months or years for just the right time to come forward with the crime details in hopes of destroying the perpetrators’ aspirations when it would hurt that person the most.
The victim has decided immediately that they must tell someone as soon as they can do so. They do not consider any other option. Someone else has got to know what just happened to them. Maybe if someone else is aware, the victim won’t feel so suddenly confused and isolated.
They are not always heard. The ordeal does not always get acknowledged.
I suspect that there are those that did not confide in anyone out of fear of retaliation, ridicule, and shame; for a few, it is possible that they may not have had anyone near that they could fully trust. Some victims may have waited or given up but spoke up once they felt empowered to speak if they realized that they were not the lone victims.
There can be a number of reasons why these tales of abuse have never been documented or investigated.
In many cases, they did tell someone and nothing happened. No one believed them. The accuser is labeled a liar.
I know because I told someone immediately.
In time I was told to my face that I was a liar.
I could go into detail of what happened to me when I was fifteen years old and the specific events that lead to that incident, in order to have a full narrative that would not leave any gaps, thus making for a better story, but I feel that for the point I want to make, all that would be filler and I don’t feel like it would help right now. I just want people to know that I tried to tell someone.
The first person I told was a peer. A friend. A child like me. There was nothing that the fifteen-year-old was empowered to do, I do not fault them at all. Should I fault the Farmers Branch and Richardson police departments for not doing more when I tried to report the incident almost two years later in 1986?
I became a member of The Order of DeMolay in 1984. This organization is for young men aged 12 to 21 for the purpose of developing civic awareness, personal responsibility, and leadership skills. Past DeMolay members or “brothers” include Bill Clinton and John Wayne. I don’t remember who told me about DeMolay or any of the events that lead me to their doorstep. I know that I joined along with two or three high school friends. I don’t recall if I was excited about it, if I wanted to join or if I was doing it to fit in and be cool. It is no secret that I was a misfit.
I do not have any issues with the organization or any of its’ members. I found it to be exciting at first with our rituals and oaths that we had to memorize.
“In the presence of God, and with my right hand upon His holy word, on my honor, as one who holds his pledged word sacred, do solemnly promise, that I will keep all the secrets, entrusted to me by this Order.”
That is an excerpt from the DeMolay Oath. I was not entrusted by them to keep this secret, the secret was always mine to tell.
My chapter of DeMolay met in Farmers Branch, Texas, a little northern suburb of Dallas, where I grew up. All chapters of the DeMolay are sponsored by a Masonic Lodge or another Masonic group. We had a leader or sponsor by the name of Joel Sayers or “Dad” Sayers as he was called. It did not take much effort to trust him, especially if you had never really had any issue placing trust in an adult.
At this point we know where this story is going to culminate and I won’t spell out many details for fear of not wanting to remind myself too much of the specifics and I don’t want to upset any family member that may read this with vivid illustrations that they may not be capable of dealing with so unexpectedly.
Dad Sayers had been sexually inappropriate with me.
I told. I was labeled a liar by the friends I had joined up with. A hearing was assembled where I was basically told that I was spreading lies.
I was not a fighter back then. Just telling people it happened made me feel like I was bothering them. I was not comfortable with confrontations. I sat there and took it.
My membership was either suspended or I was exiled. Either way, I never returned to the club. The specifics are long forgotten. The feeling of being scrutinized still lingers.
A couple of years later I heard the term statute of limitations for the first time. A statute of limitation is the maximum length of time that parties have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offense.
I was almost 17 years old and I guess I had looked it up or asked someone about those limitations, and from what I remember, I had 2 years from the incident to do something legal about it.
I pulled out the big thick heavy yellow pages phone book, my contemporaries will fondly remember that this was our “Google” since personal computers and the Internet was not a reality to us just yet. I looked up the Farmers Branch Police Department phone number and called. I told the officer that answered what had happened. He said that this was a serious issue and wanted to help but that although I lived in Farmers Branch, the incident had happened at Sayers’ home and that was in nearby Richardson. I called the Richardson Police Department and told the officer that answered what had happened and when I gave the address, he said that street was on the border of Richardson and Dallas and that this would be a job for the City of Dallas. I don’t remember if I called Dallas, I only know that I gave up.
It was not easy to muster up the strength to revisit that night and make those calls. I wasn’t going to do it again.
It was in the past now.
Years later I was working at an Eckerd Drugs as a Photo Lab Manager when a conversation with a long time customer got on the topic of DeMolay and we discovered that we were DeMolay brothers. Somewhere in our conversation, I mentioned Joel Sayers. This man suddenly looked at me like he knew what I wasn’t saying out loud. I sensed that he knew. We never said a word about it. He did tell me that Sayers was dead. I don’t recall if he told me how he died or when he died. To this day, I still don’t know.
I suppose hearing that Sayers had passed did bring a closure of some sort. I realize as I write this that I had always been okay. I was not damaged. I think.
I am telling this story to illustrate the point that when someone tells of being a victim of molestation or harassment and you feel that they took their sweet time in saying anything about it, don’t assume they didn’t try.
I tried. I did not find the justice I was looking for. It was a different time. I persisted as well as I knew how to at that age. I didn’t seek the help of my parents, although my mother learned about it from a friend later.
We must take allegations seriously but we must be fair in not proclaiming a person guilty before they have their day in court.
Joel Sayers will never have that privilege.
If you make an accusation, be sure that you are ready for what is next. It may not be what you expect.
Edited by Michael Walker