This post isn’t going to be funny or cute. I thought about ways I could make it amusing (Quippy dialogue with the 8-year-old! Playfully snarky remarks from the wife! Stories where I’m an idiot! Pictures of puppies wearing hats!) but that’s not happening today. And I need to tread carefully, because I’m about to talk about a situation that’s currently under scrutiny where I live.
The other day, Saucy and I were reading the paper when she looked up said, “Wow. Do you remember Mini-Pirate’s martial arts teacher?”
I did. Mini-P had taken the class for about six months during first grade. We enrolled her in it mainly because we couldn’t resist the cuteness of seeing little kids in gis, punching at invisible foes and shouting their high-pitched battle cries, a fleet of little Bruce Lees in the courtyard. (Let’s face it — that’s the stuff YouTube was made for.) The class was run by an outside karate academy that provided after school programs at several locations throughout the district, and had its own storefront fairly close to our house. We would’ve considered putting Mini-P in more classes, had she shown the interest.
The guy who taught the classes was a young dude, super-friendly and super-nice. He was wonderfully encouraging as he walked the line of little ninjas in the school courtyard, helping them adjust their position, urging them to kick higher, punch the air harder, yell louder. Mini-P seemed to really like him, possibly even had a crush on him. I’ll call him Mark.
“What’s up?” I asked Saucy. “Did something happen?”
Saucy then told me that that Teacher Mark was arrested for molesting a minor.
This was a few days ago. As I write this, Mark is facing 21 counts. Police are saying he sexually abused one of his students, a 13-year-old, for a year. His bail is set at one million dollars.
Like any parent, I heard this and I instantly shivered. Then I became enraged that such monsters can be allowed to exist in the world. I assumed that this guy is a monster, one who should be sentenced to a lifetime of painful alien probing at the very least.
I walked around that day and thought about Mark, and hoped for only horrible things to happen to him.
Then I did a little online searching. There are two Facebook pages about him. One is his own. His interests include Star Wars, The Matrix, Jeff Dunham, Office Space, and Starbuck’s. I like all those things too. (Except Jeff Dunham.)
The other is a paged titled “Mark D—– Is Innocent.” 318 people belong to it. The comments on the site are from those who are absolutely convinced of his innocence. They know Mark personally, therefore they know he can’t possibly have done what he’s been accused of doing. The 13-year-old alleged victim is a kid who had a rough childhood, whom Mark merely tried to mentor; a kid who then, for some reason, decided to lash out. The members of this Facebook site are outraged, accusing the kid (and his mother) of lying about the whole thing. They call Mark wonderful, smart, kind, generous, and a great teacher and role model.
I read their comments, and started to think more about Mark. I didn’t interact with him much when he taught Mini-P’s class. What if he’s not a monster? Maybe he did nothing more than attempt to help a troubled kid who then either fabricated his story, or deeply misinterpreted their relationship. If so, this type of false accusation is deeply damaging. If you own a Martial Arts Academy, it’s hard to bring in new students if people call you a sexual predator. Even if you’re found innocent in the end, the permanent damage is done.
My daughter knows all about Stranger Danger. She knows not to engage with adults who approach her in unfamiliar settings. Plus, she’s virtually never in unfamiliar settings without her parents. She knows how close is too close for an adult to get. She knows that No means No. She knows what to do when she feels uncomfortable with big people. She knows to get away, using whatever force necessary. She knows to yell. LOUD.
I hope Mark is innocent.
I don’t know if he is or not. I hope he is because last week, my daughter was at a day camp where at least four unknown adults were teaching her, hanging out with her, and completely in charge of her. This week she’s in another day camp, with another handful of new adults I barely know.
I hope Mark is innocent.