When one of Bishop Eddie Long’s accusers spoke out last week, it offered insight into the tortured contradictions of male sexual abuse. But the question remains: Who’s telling the truth?
Spencer LaGrande, Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, and Jamal Parris have filed civil lawsuits against Eddie Long, accusing him of sexual misconduct. Recently, Jamal Parris, the oldest of the four accusers, made a statement to a FOX News reporter in Atlanta, becoming the first of the accusers to speak publicly since the lawsuits were filed.
Upon watching the full report, my heart went out to the young accuser. While I am making no judgments as to Long’s guilt or innocence, Parris left viewers feeling that he was either telling the truth or that he is a really good actor.
Parris: So while the media and the rest of the people around the city look at us like, “how could grown men let another man touch him,” what you have to understand is that this man has manipulated us since childhood.
Parris, like so many other victims of sexual abuse, grew up without a father. While there are arguments (many of which I hold) that purport that fatherlessness is used as a crutch that is too often used to explain criminal inclinations and deviant behavior in Black male youths, Parris’ comments provide an interesting rebuttal. Could there be something to notion that boys who grow up without fathers have issues concerning gender-identity development where some boys go to the extreme of hyper-masculinity and others femininity? Could the consequence of gender-identity development lead to problems with sexual identity? If it’s not true, it’s certainly logical. Parris’ unaired comments heart-wrenchingly address this question.
Parris: His [Eddie Long] presence alone is seduction to a young man without a father. You look at him and he’s everything you want to be and everything you see and you dream to be. And being around him is almost like a drug. You can’t believe the place you’re at in your life and the things that you’re doing and the cars that you’re driving and the people you’re meeting. So it becomes, “If I want to continue to feel this love and experience this power, I’ll do whatever my dad [Bishop Long told him to call him daddy] wants me to …”
Whatever my dad wants me to? That’s pretty serious. It also is evidence of the presence of some sort of psychological issues. The most pronounced of which are issues of abandonment, and fear of rejection. I would be doing a disservice if I paraphrase Parris’ words, so I’ll continue to let him speak for himself. At one point he was asked, “Why didn’t you just stop and say, ‘Bishop, that’s wrong?’ ”
Parris: You’re afraid to lose your father. You’re afraid that if you tell him no, the support that he gives to yourself, the support that he gives to your family, and the support that he gives you mentally, and the fact that you finally have a father that you always wanted and always dreamed of, will just walk away from you if you don’t give him what he wants. So you end up turning into something you never thought you’d be, which is a slave to a man you love.
This sounds like someone who is honestly crying out for help. It sounds like someone who is in a lot of pain and dealing with deep regrets.
In a CNN.com opinion piece about Bishop Long’s first Sunday-morning statement following the accusations, Harvard Divinity School professor Jonathan L. Walton wrote, “To hide behind legal counsel, biblical metaphors and spiritualized acknowledgments of one’s imperfection insults the intelligence of those who respect [Long] and his ministry.”
I have to agree with Walton. At a moment when we needed to hear something clear and straightforward from Bishop Long, he dodged the simple question many people in his congregation were awaiting an answer to: Did you or didn’t you?
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tim Lee.