Do Oregon voters share blame for sex abuse & exploitation?


by Dan Lucas

In the 1970s Portland author Ursula K. LeGuin wrote a short story titled The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. Omelas was a mythical place where everything was wonderful except for the small child who had to be kept locked alone in a foul cellar room. The people of Omelas “all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city”, etc., “depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery.” Former Neil Goldschmidt speech writer Fred Leonhardt used the short story in his brilliant and poignant essay in 2011 when the woman who said she had been Goldschmidt’s 13-year-old serial molestation victim died. Leonhardt drew the parallel between Goldschmidt’s victim and the small child in Omelas.

Goldschmidt’s victim wasn’t the only “Omelas child” in Oregon. There were reports of other Goldschmidt victims. There were also reports of other David Wu victims. There were reports of other Matt Wingard victims. Sometimes people act as if sexual predators operate in a vacuum. They do not. Many others in Oregon looked the other way to allow the abuses to happen. And it wasn’t just all the political insiders who Leonhardt described as Oregon’s “best and the brightest”.

After the Matt Wingard scandal last year, a blogger calling herself sporktastic wrote “with that information [the 2008 revelations of criminal child abuse] out there and ignored, I had this odd thought of whether or not the voters bear some responsibility in what happened to this girl, and to the one who won’t come forward because she is scared, and for the minors supplied with alcohol, and any bad consequences that came of that.”

Indeed. What responsibility do voters bear? The voters in Oregon’s First Congressional District who voted for David Wu seven times, after learning about accusations of an attempted rape in college. Don’t those voters share some of the responsibility for what happened to the 18-year-old who said she was sexually assaulted by Wu in 2010 or to any of Wu’s other possible victims while he was in Congress? The 18-year-old didn’t press charges because she thought it would be her word against a seven-term member of the U.S. Congress.

There are lots of people in Oregon who are “in on it.” People who turn the other way to allow abuse to continue. People who ignore or even blame the victims. Victims like all of the victims of Oregon’s thriving sex industry. Oregon has been cited nationally as having a large number of sex industry workers. Oregonians like to pretend that they’re cool, that they’re not prudish – and most of all they pretend they don’t know where the workers in the sex industry come from. They tell themselves what harm is it if consenting adults do what they want?  Who gets hurt in these victimless crimes?

If you were to look at Smith or Vassar or Harvard or Yale or Stanford, I think it would be difficult to find degree programs for working in the sex industry, which predominantly exploits women. Not many little girls dream of growing up and working in the sex industry. Not many people wish that for their daughters, their sisters, their wives or their moms.

So where do workers for the sex industry come from? As a relative contended about Goldschmidt’s victim, many if not most were abused as children. They are abused by family members, teachers, coaches, ministers or priests, camp counselors or someone else. This abuse then puts them on a much higher risk track to be abused or exploited down the road. That’s when Oregonians pretend they don’t know where these workers in the sex industry come from, and in the name of tolerance and a free spirit they “tolerate” these vulnerable people being further abused and exploited.

It’s been going on for a long time in Oregon – as Phil Stanford has documented. It’s part of Oregon’s dark side and part of Oregon’s largely unseen moral cancer.

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