Friday, October 1, 2010

Praying or Preying? What do you really know about the man you trust with your son?

Several years ago I was on a panel at a women's conference discussing the issue of HIV/AIDS in the black community. It was in the mid to late 90's, around the time that the first hoopla about men on the DL (Down Low) became popular, and a man on the panel was talking about the deep, dark, ugly secrets of his former life as a man on the DL. As an HIV/AIDS educator, RN/attorney, I was used to this conversation and not much that he had to say shocked me... that is until the panel was over. Mr. Prey (as I will call him here), and I sat down to talk about his work and mine, and compare notes and information. Before long, Mr. Prey was sharing some information with me that he did not discuss on stage. I'm not sure he would have gotten out of the venue filled with women in one piece if he had. He began to tell me, as a favor to me he said, how he managed to trick, manipulate and turn out boys in his church, especially young boys with single mothers.

Mr. Prey was a deacon at his 5,000 member church in Ohio. I had heard of his church when I was a law student at Ohio State, but I had no idea that what Mr. Prey was about to tell me was going on at his well known and highly respected church. He said there were many men at his church, himself included, who were married to women, but slept with men. AKA men on the DL. He explained to me that these men, himself included- do not consider themselves gay, they just simply enjoy sex with men. The name for in the health services community for that population is MSM (men who have sex with men).

Anyway, Mr. Prey said he wanted to inform me that as a single mother I am a target for men on the DL/MSM's. They seek me out, the single mom. Not because they want to date me, but because they want to have an easy to hide relationship with my son. Many single mothers, Prey explained, feel as though they cannot raise their sons alone. They feel they are in dire need of a man to mentor and be a role model for their sons. They are seeking a surrogate daddy of sorts, someone to take Junior out to ball games, to play sports with him and in some instances have "the talk"- you know, the one about sex.

These single moms, Prey said, are often sad, lonely, and looking for potential spouses- an instant daddy for their children. Allow me to point out that many of the men who fit into the DL category are camouflaged as metro-sexual; they are well dressed, well mannered, well manicured, chivalrous and very, very polite. They are a single mother's dream for a spouse- at first blush... no pun intended. If the metro man is married, mom might settle for him simply taking an interest in her son. Married or not, Mr. Prey sizes up his prey and sets his trap. All he has to do is look for the woman without a wedding ring, who shows up in church week after week - young man in tow, and the preying begins. For Mr. Prey, being a deacon made this hunt child's play. It was way too easy. All he had to do was position himself to greet the mom and she-without any prompting- would do the rest.

One wide toothed smile and a hearty "Grace and Peace Sister Single Mom, glad to see you in the house of the Lord", "have a blessed week", or some other saintly greeting and she is off. Talking way to much and giving way TMI ( too much information) moms would unknowingly rattle on and on, providing the preying mantis with all the scoop he needs to set up her son. She provides information about her sons father and how involved he is or isn't. What kind of young man her son is, his school habits, what kind of friends he has, what he does for fun, his education, her plans for him and what he likes to do. Then, according to Mr. Prey, Ms. Single Mom would always ask what programs the church has for young men that she can put her son in. That is when he knew he hit pay dirt.

Listening intently as mighty mouth moms would ramble on and on about how difficult it is to be both mom and dad to a young man, Prey would start planning to set the son up for the DL turn-out. Before long Mr. Prey would be picking Junior up, taking him out alone and laying the foundation for a trusting but dangerously sick relationship, ... all unbeknown to mom and son. Prey would become the young man's best friend, making himself invaluable to him, all while he was still very young. He targeted the mothers of adolescents 12, 13, 14 years of age. During these years, Mr. Prey would engage the boy in intimate conversations that can appear to be seemingly innocent to a young man who doesn't know better. He would talk to him about sex, girls, and let the boy know that their conversations would remain between them. Mr. Prey would promise not to tell the boy's mother anything that they discussed. He would continue this "friendship," never physically touching the young man, for years... until he turned 18 or the age of consent for the state in which the child lived.

Once the young man reached the age of consent, Mr. Prey would make his move. He would begin with a hug that might last a little longer than usual. Then maybe a soft kiss on the cheek. Then an inappropriate touch. If he got resistance, he would back it up and start over again, all the while convincing the young man this activity was normal for men who loved each other and constantly reinforcing that he loved the boy. The young man who now trusted Mr. Prey, a man who has been his friend, confidant and often like a dad to him for years, would seek to please this man, and eventually giving in to Prey's sexual advances. Why is this plan so despicably devious? ? The young man is old enough now to have consensual sex. He is no longer protected by the law, and Prey could rest assured that he would never go to jail for statutory rape, child molestation or abuse. The law would now consider these acts as sex between two consenting adults. No crime, no time.

When Prey finished telling me this story, I had to pray hard while holding my mouth and hands to keep from spitting on him and slapping him upside his head a cazillion times, then stomping him into the ground. I called him a filthy pig- under my breath. I was smart enough to keep a poker face until he told me as much as he was willing to share that night. Prey needed to purge and I needed to know all of his demonic tactics and skulduggery.

So I let him continue. Prey reminded me again and again that single moms are the easiest prey. " You all are so vulnerable. You make it easy for men like me to take advantage of your kids." I am not proud of it, but I did it- a lot." "You just need to know what is going in around you", he told me. And he was right.

I asked him a few more questions and then I said to him, thank you for sharing, but if you ever touch my son or any young man I know, it will be the last boy you ever touch. And I meant it. He looked up at me with look that said, I trusted you, why would you say that to me?- I thought we were cool. I glared back with a look that said every mother I represent trusted you, they thought you were cool.

"I don't do that any more, I finally gave up that life to help the women I hurt," he said back looking down. "Good", I said, as I turned to go to my hotel room to pray and repent for wanting to beat this man to a pulp. I thought about the young men whose life he destroyed with his premeditated, wicked, and stealth manipulation. I thought about the legacy of anguish his down-low antics brought on generations of young men and women. I also thought about all the men who are still doing this to the unsuspecting single moms trusting men on the DL with their sons.

I thanked God that I was always in my son's rear-view mirror. I had him in sports and I was very very visible. I was at the trainings, the games, the practices, the tournaments. I talked to the coaches and I didn't need anyone to take Sean places that I didn't go, because I went everywhere. If he wanted to go to a baseball game, we got in the car and went to Yankee stadium. He liked to watch basketball, I did too- still do, college and pro ball. I loved football, but didn't know much about it, so I listened, learned and watched it anyway. I taught my son tennis and we still spend a lot of time on the tennis court...together. I wasn't always on the court with him, I might be on another court hitting while he played with his friends, but I was nearby. Just like the Dads whose presence kept men like Mr. Prey backed up, I was out there with a watchful eye.

Sean didn't have to suffer when his father was not around to do stereotypically guy stuff with him. I would do stereotypically guy stuff with him. What I could not do, I interviewed and selected men to mentor him- carefully. No one man had the chance to pour into him ideas that were unmonitored and contrary to the principles of our household. Oh, one other thing, I never let any male friends or relatives spend a whole lot of time alone with him either.

This note is not about whether Bishop Eddie Long is guilty or innocent. I am not saying Long is gay, bi-sexual, down-low or not. I am not saying the young men are telling the truth, nor am I suggesting that they are not telling the truth. I am saying that the situation as described by the young men accusing Bishop Long of indiscretions is possible. It happens. In church, in schools, at home, therefore Moms, Dads, Parents please pay attention. Get involved. Watch and be vigilant. Observe your children and teach them what is appropriate and what isn't. Monitor the people who you trust with your children. Just because a person has a title, money, stature or status doesn't mean that they give two hoots about your child. Predators come in all shapes, sizes and income brackets.

Is the man you trust with your child really praying for him, or is he preying for him? You may never know, but if you are always in the mode of protecting your children and protecting yourself, men like Mr. Prey will never get close enough, long enough to carry out their crooked little scheme.

I'm Just Saying,