By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
One of the most puzzling, and frustrating, reactions to this whole Roy-Moore-chased-and-sexually-assaulted-teen-girls story is the lack of compassion and understanding from men.
First, whether the stories are absolutely true, we’ll probably never know. There aren’t any selfies, though a 30-something man signing a high school girl’s yearbook is pretty damning: “Love, Roy Moore, DA.” Unless Moore, who refuses to answer questions other than to holler the tired “fake news,” finds his real Christian spirit and confesses and repents, it’ll likely continue to be a he-said, she-said.
Yet, while there may never be an outright confession (like Donald Trump, confession isn’t in Moore’s “evangelical” soul), there is just too much there there, to misquote Gertrude Stein. It’s not he-said, she-said. It’s they-said, he-denies.
The original Washington Post story that launched Moore’s current real-life nightmare is credible. As a journalist for more than four decades, I’ve read a lot of stories. What we have to do as news consumers is critically think through reports where the credibility depends on our own critical thinking.
The Post thoroughly reported this story. Post reports found these women; they just didn’t come forward to ruin a bad Senate candidate a month before the Dec. 12 General Election.
The four women’s stories were corroborated by dozens of other people. Then a fifth woman surfaced, with the smoking yearbook that Moore denies he ever signed. Reports claim that Moore was banned from a Gadsden mall because he walked around supposedly pestering teen girls. A colleague said it was common knowledge that Moore liked to hang out at high school football games and date teen girls.
These stories allegedly have been circulating around Etowah County for years.
Yes, there’s just too much there.
So here’s what’s so frustrating. The lack of respect from so many for the victims of sexual assault disgusts me. These women, who clearly didn’t want to come forward, but sacrificed their stories for the better good, are being villainized because they didn’t come forward during the 1970s, when the assaults supposedly occurred.
Women who have been sexually assaulted, especially by powerful men, are often reluctant to tell their stories. Especially women who are then teens, and the person accused of doing the assaulting is a powerful prosecutor in their small hometown.
Women who are victims get to decide when (and if) to tell their stories. People, especially the men now blasting them, should have compassion for that.
Sure, some women will make false claims against men, and those are most often vetted right after they happen. Women who have an agenda against an innocent man are going to respond right away.
These women quietly held their stories until The Post tracked them down.
My wife, Veronica, has been sexually assaulted twice. I knew about the incidents before we were married. She was reluctant to take action because, in one case, she was but 6 years old, her assaulter was a relative, and she was confused about what had happened.
Veronica was afraid that maybe she’d done something wrong, and that her abusive mother would take it out on her, not her abusive relative.
The other incident happened when Veronica was 19 years old, just starting her journalism career. The publisher at the newspaper she worked for liked to spank his women employees. Veronica’s turn came. She fought him off. But she didn’t report, because she was understandably afraid her father would kill the assaulter and her dad would be sent to prison. Veronica wasn’t the only woman employee of that newspaper assaulted by the publisher.
Again, in the 1970s, women really had few options: The laws were weak; they knew they’d be exposing themselves to who-knows-what; and the men were very powerful.
The women who have said Roy Moore assaulted them have nothing to gain. They don’t work for Moore’s opponent. And if one is going to outright lie about something like this, make it the big lie: Roy Moore raped me, and threatened me with violence if anything was said.
None of these women accuse Moore of rape, but penetration isn’t necessary for a sexual assault to occur, and the effects, both mentally and physically, on a girl (or woman) who becomes victim are often the same.
For Moore’s denials to be credible, a lot of lies must have to have been told – by everybody from the women and the others they confided in; the people who know about the mall banning Moore from its premises; his colleague and others who said Moore’s creepiness was pretty much common knowledge.
There’s just too much there there. There’s just plain too much.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]