Lack of outrage over sexual abuse on school bus shows we are ‘numb to evil’

Published 4:37 pm Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dear Editor,

I am still in shock over the rape of two school children by an adult on a Lincoln County school bus on March 16. It is the worst thing, I believe, to have occurred in our county in the 10 years since we moved here. 

I have been awakened in the middle of the night thinking about it and have shed tears reflecting on what this has done to the lives of the victims. “Ruined” is the word that was used by someone familiar with the case describing one of the children. 

I waited to see the response of the community and expected to hear of outraged parents; parents yanking their children off of the buses; protests; demands for the heads of those involved; letters pouring into the local paper; pastors denouncing growing wickedness in the community; politicians calling for change; and even a mob with tar and feathers. 

Instead I heard nothing. I made inquiries and found that the complaints were surprisingly minimal. 

That is what shocks me most of all: we have become numb to evil. 

This is not just some “sad situation.” If it was our child, relative or friend or that of a doctor, lawyer or prominent influential person in Stanford, then perhaps more appropriate terms like “terrible,” “horrible,” “wicked,” “deviant,” or “perverse,” would be used. Instead, it seems that most everyone has looked the other way, more concerned with five-cent taxes, beauty pageants and whether or not their child or grandchild has made the sports page. 

The questions raised by this event overwhelm and haunt me. Why did it take until the next day for the incident to be reported by a parent?  Did the two victims scream or cry out for help or did the alleged perpetrator, like most who abuse children, threaten to kill them? Where were the other children on the bus when this happened? Why didn’t someone run to tell the bus driver? Where were the older kids and why didn’t one of them stop him? Why was an adult (Ryan Allen Rayburn is 19 years old) allowed on a bus with children? How many times has this happened before?  What was done to protect others when Rayburn’s relative, Douglas Rayburn, was convicted for sexually abusing his own adopted child? How many generations of childhood sexual abuse exist? How many lives have been ruined? How many lives are still being ruined even as I write this letter? 

In my practice as a family physician, I work mostly with adults, many of whom I find were sexually abused as children. Since the bus incident, my eyes and ears have been opened – the more I ask, the more I find. 

Their stories are uniformly tragic and heartbreaking. Fathers, stepfathers, uncles, moms, boyfriends, brothers, neighbors and even grandfathers are counted among the perpetrators.

They do not discriminate. Selfish and perverted, they prey upon the weak and helpless, some as young as one-year-old. 

Their methods are similar: frighten, threaten, abuse, often over and over again and sometimes for years. 

The lives of victims are a living hell. Night after night, day after day, the abuser sneaks in, abuses and goes about his or her way. The abuser typically threatens to harm or kill the victim, or someone they love, if they tell. Typically, if the victim does tell anyone, they are not believed. Worse, they one they tell knows about it and does nothing. Or worse still, they condone and enable the abuse. 

Law enforcement officials say they can do little without a witness. The abused have no one they can trust or turn to. The scariness of that is hard for me to imagine. As I write this, a wave of nausea comes over me. 

The pattern that results is predictable – ruined lives. It goes something like this: sexual abuse leads to a deranged self-image, severe stress, stress-eating, obesity, sexual promiscuity at an early age and pregnancy out of wedlock. They marry young to get out of the terror of their home and typically marry other abusers, alcoholics or drug addicts. 

In my practice, they average two-to-three divorces and often abuse alcohol or drugs. They need something to numb the pain and dull the memories of the past. 

Many become addicted and become part of the drug culture of the community. If anyone is looking for a major root cause of drug abuse – here is a big one!. 

Chronic pain and physical symptoms from emotional distress ruin their lives. Without exception, the abused suffer some degree of mental illness, PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and/or insomnia. Many are suicidal and sleep, which is supposed to bring rest, is often a torment. For their symptoms, they go to doctors and receive prescriptions for addictive “nerve” pills, sedatives and narcotics. Smoking cigarettes and marijuana calms them and at my office, their drug screens typically light up. 

One abuse victim brought in a list of 20 to 30 problems that plague her. It overwhelmed the medical student with whom I was working so we skipped the list and asked her one question: were you ever abused? 

For an hour, through tears, she recounted her story, the details of which are too horrible to share. She told me things that she had told no one before and said I was courageous to listen to her. She is the courageous one, not me. 

I call one patient of mine my hero because the fact that she still works, in spite of her messed up life and the bad things that have happened to her, testifies that God has a purpose and plan in it all. Wow. 

I keep asking and listening. Just doing that gives them hope: somebody cares; somebody knows. 

So, I have a few more questions: Who is willing to stand up against childhood sexual abuse? Who is willing to make his or her voice heard? Who is concerned enough to do something it even though your child or relative is not involved? Who is willing to help shed some light on this tragic epidemic that is kept hidden in the dark, while each night, and in this horrible case, each day, another child’s life is ruined. 

As one official I talked with said when I mentioned the $400,000/year that it used to cost the county to pay for school bus monitors, “what price can you put on one ruined life?” 

Each day I ask myself this question: what am I going to do about it? 

I cannot escape the thought of another young girl or boy living in terror who will grow up and be tormented for the rest of his or her life. 

If you are willing to stand up against childhood sexual abuse, make your voice heard and get involved. For the sake of our children, please leave your name and phone number with the newspaper. I’ll contact you. Let’s see what we can do together! 

In closing, I am reminded of a quote by Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 

Barry T. White, M.D. 

Waynesburg, Ky