Tuesday, January 10, 2006
News from Small Town America
I saw an old teacher of mine on the news the other night. It was the mug shot of a bedraggled old man. He was crumpled and defeated - layers of sagging skin and fat washed white in a bath of florescent light. The story behind the wrinkled, puffy eyed picture: child abuse. Rape, is the word used to describe the alleged crime in the local papers.

I come from a small town. Downtown is two one-way streets that meet in a Y by the corner of an old mill. The public high school is two hallways, one stacked on another, housing enough classrooms for grades 8-12. I graduated with less than 60 other students. Many of my former classmates still live in town - working at the new offices that have been built in the remodeled mill landmark.

They still walk the two one-way streets, eating at the same sandwich shops or at the McDonald's - the only fast food to be had in town. They have settled alongside their parents and their aunts and uncles and their grandparents. It's the type of town that you're born in, you live in and eventually, you die in. Case in point: the middle-aged officer, who arrested the teacher, was a former student of his.

It's a place where roots run deep, sunk firmly alongside the muddy banks of a slowly churning river. Headlines reading: Beloved Teacher Accused of Rape send shockwaves. Violent, rippling ones - shattering the quiet, droll life of a town stuck in itself.

News teams wondering the streets, poking their nosey microphones in the faces of shocked citizens How do you feel about Mr. So-and-So and the rape allegation against him? They don't understand, that in a town like this - they might as well be asking How do you feel about Uncle Charlie touching your neighbor? The town is knit too tight for outsiders with lights and cameras and questions.

And yet - someone, born and raised beneath the shadow of the 'ol Clock Tower was bold enough to shout the accusation: He Raped Me.

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Blogger Falconmyst said...

I really enjoy NEXT BLOG; and have surfed by several times, but with Empty Sky continually surfacing I've finally got the hit.

WOW! I'm linking to your site; very impressed. This post was done very well.

Blogger mreddie said...

And somewhere in the darkness of maybe more than one mind, the truth resides but will it be brought out into the open? ec

Blogger windowtomymind said...

"Grosse Pointe Blank"...where you used to live. I am with you. And "Amelie"...the place where you are now. I am still with you.

The sky is flesh and the universe is my home, I have met you somewhere in between.

Blogger katherine said...

love your writing.

Blogger Lucas said...

Mella--As I'm sure you know, children are generally sexually abused by someone they know and trust. Often a family member, but not always. Sad, but true.

Blogger Mella said...

falconmyst: Glad you stopped to read - thank you so much.

mreddie:The news is so recent, the stories haven't yet been told. We can only hope that the truth prevails.

windowtomylife:Lovely, and thank you.

Katherine:Thank you.

Lucas: I know only too well - there's a predator in my own family tree.

I don't know enough about either side of the story to write about the incident itself. (Although my gut reaction wasn't shock...and my immediate concerns were for the victim, not the teacher.)

I guess I just found that amidst the speculation, all there is to write about is the concrete - the impact of this accusation on a sleepy little town.

Until, as MrEddie suggested, the truth is revealed.

Blogger Neo said...

Mella -Sad story. Sounds like a really small place to live. I'd probably go crazy without the city life.

That's awful what this teacher did. You have to wonder how many others he did it too.


- Neo

Blogger Chris said...

I'll not get into my tirade about the bias of network 'journalism' here (you'll have to come to my blog to get my view on that detritis), except to say that we could all use more 'reporters' with your sense of discretion.

All I can hope is that this man is condemned/exhonerated by virtue of the FACTS of the case, rather than public rage and assumption.

If he did it, it will be to his eternal shame, and his best hope is that I never cross paths with him. If he did NOT do it... well...sadly, I think it's too late for him now. And that is unfortunate.


Blogger Mella said...

Chris Exactly right. Headlines running with the word rape beside your name pretty much ruins you.

I hate to think that he did it - but I also hate to think that the victim is destroying an innocent man's life. It's a devastating situation, all around.

Neo You know, as small as the town is, I never felt like I was far from the city. It's only about forty minutes from Boston and less from other major cities - no cows or anything. Just a small community, tightly packed. I've always said it was a great place to raise kids...

Blogger Jabafatboy said...

Grew up in small town much the same.
It could be any number of things that could mark a person.
Kudos to anyone for being willing to stand up and have a voice.

Blogger ~Deb said...

Sad to hear about someone so well respected abusing someone so vulnerable.

It give a negative outlook on society sometimes. Such a shame.

Blogger Chris said...

"Allegedly" abusing someone.

Let's not convict this man BEFORE the facts are revealed, please?

Sorry, Mella, for using your wonderful site as a soapbox, but this is a very real 'pet peeve' of mine.

I was a radio news reporter for many years, and I left it because it is not 'news'...it is a constant Witch Hunt.


Blogger Mella said...

Chris I agree completely. Innocent until proven guilty.

I just hope that the truth prevails, whatever it is, and that justice is served accordingly. (Without tearing that town apart beyond repair...)

Blogger Mella said...

Update for those interested:

Five more allegations have been filed against him - dating back to the 1960's - one of the accusers is from a police officer in the town.

He is on 50K bail and wearing an ankle bracelet to monitor him at all times.

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