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Oprah, Tyler Perry, 200 Molested Men, But No Bishop Eddie Long

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Oprah Winfrey devotes three shows in her farewell season to discuss a little talked about issue: men being sexual abuse victims.  It is an issue that sparked major headlines over the last few months. 

Oprah’s show wouldn’t normally fall into the category of a news show for me, but I made the exception for a couple of reasons.  First: a number of television stations around the country localized the story in their markets, like WTVD-TV in Raleigh-Durham, NC.  Two: this story hits on a topic that is seldom told about men and especially men of color.  Third: this topic is related to the recent lawsuits filed against Atlanta area mega-church pastor, Bishop Eddie Long for allegedly having sexual relationships with young men he ministered in his church.  This topic was heavily covered by major media outlets when it broke because of Bishop Long’s global ministry.    

The first show aired in this series featured Tyler Perry, a well-known media mogul, sharing his stories of being physically, sexually, and verbally abused as a child.   Perry can’t contain his emotions as he talks about being abused and how it changed his life. 

The Queen of Talk gathered 200 men who were victims of molestation and/or sexual abuse at some point during their lives for the second show.  You can view the show on Oprah’s site by clicking on this link.    The men shared stories about how their fathers, family friends, and spiritual leaders sexually abused them. 

The third installment from Oprah brings back the same 200 men along with those who have shared in their pain, such as wives or mothers.  This show focuses on how the abused men have continued to live with the damage caused by being molested. 

I understand the inherit difficulties in covering these types of stories on the local news level.  In order to tell an effective and compelling story you  need to hear from the victims.  You also must be aware of the allegation aspect of these stories, because every victim isn’t a victim.  The stories are told too many times in the rapid-fire mode:  “Teacher charged with sexually assaulting a student.  Get shocked parents’ reaction.” And that’s about it.  But, from watching the two Oprah episodes, I see there are many areas that need to be addressed.  You can look at the short-term and long-term effects on the victims.  The education side can include ways to identify predators, how to teach kids to always communicate what’s happening, and methods for parents to better help their victimized children.  

Without having background knowledge of the Harper Studio story selection meeting, I can only speculate on this next part. 

I find it highly inconceivable that the Bishop Eddie Long sexual allegation case as reported by CBS News below didn’t make its way into the discussion.

 The mega-church pastor filed court papers recently denying the claims of the 4 young men who say he used his spiritual authority and lavish gifts to get them to have sex with him.  Here’s one account from an alleged victim reported by WAGA-TV in Atlanta, Georgia.

I can only assume that Oprah and Tyler Perry felt they were speaking out against the alleged acts of Bishop Long based on the timing of the shows.  It seems like this is Oprah’s way of speaking out against what Bishop Long is accused of without mentioning his case or name specifically.  I would think that giving the accusers in the Bishop Long case, who’ve already spoken to the media a chance to speak out on her show could shake up the blind faith of those who support the bishop.  That blind faith seems to foster an atmosphere in which victims don’t feel comfortable or safe telling their stories. Some of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church members said in interviews that they believe without a shadow of a doubt the pastor didn’t do anything wrong. This perpetuates the idea that certain people are above reproach.  So this makes it harder for victims to speak out against their predators.  CNN’s Don Lemon actually admitted to being a sexual abuse victim while interviewing young members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church who were adamantly supporting Bishop Eddie Long. 

A great pastor/teacher/coach/doctor/officer is capable of both great and horrendous acts.  So, if Oprah would have allowed Bishop Long’s accusers to speak out then she could have helped combat one of the very things this series of shows says all the sexual assault victims face: fear of sharing their stories because of shame or some type of retribution. 

I’m  glad Oprah shined a light on this topic, but a brighter one could have made a bigger impact on her audience.

Why do you think Oprah left Bishop Eddie Long out of the discussion?