Local Teacher Arrested for Criminal Sexual Conduct

Content warning for discussion of a teacher arrested for sexual touching of students.

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Earlier this month, as I was sitting in the airport getting ready to go to ICON, an email popped up from our school district superintendent. He was writing to let parents know that a fifth grade teacher had been arrested on five counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of assault with intent to commit second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

This was my son’s teacher a few years ago.

My wife spoke with my son while I was gone. He says Mr. Daley never did anything like that to him, which was a relief. He also talked about how disappointed he was in his teacher.

You and me both, kiddo.

My son is in eighth grade this year. If you’d asked me who his best teacher was in the decade he’s been going to school? I would have said Mr. Daley. He was patient, supportive, encouraging, and seemed to genuinely care about his students.

And now, every good thing he did is tainted by the question, Did he really care about his students? Or was it all some sort of grooming behavior, laying the groundwork to see what he could get away with, and with whom?

I trust and believe my son when he says nothing happened. I know fifth grade was a good year for him in many ways, and a relief after a rough time in fourth grade. Mr. Daley was a big part of that. But I also know at least four boys have come forward with these accusations — accusations the news reports claim are corroborated — accusations that were enough to justify an arrest and formal charges.

I’ve worked with rape and abuse survivors. I’ve observed groups with convicted abusers. My wife is a licensed therapist, and has way more experience than I do working with both survivors and abusers. Mr. Daley was one of our favorite teachers for either of our children. Neither one of us had the slightest inkling.

And I start thinking about other, more publicized accusations of harassment and assault, and the denials that follow. People coming out to proclaim the accuser must be lying because the accused is a “very fine man,” and they’ve never seen anything to suggest he (or she) would do such a thing.

Well, yeah. Predators don’t have neon forehead tattoos labeling them rapists and harassers and abusers. The soundtrack doesn’t shift to a minor key when they enter a room.

I understand feeling shocked. I understand not wanting to believe. I was so much happier thinking of this guy as just a great teacher instead of an alleged sexual predator.

I understand wanting to bury your head in denial. But every time someone proclaims, “The victim must be lying, because the accused is such a good man and he’d never do that,” not only are you hurting the victim — not only are you calling them a liar and adding to the burden and pain of speaking up — you’re also providing cover for predators. You’re saying all they have to do is act like a good person around you, and you’ll actively support them and help them to discredit their victims.

Sometimes it’s people you never would have expected. Sometimes it’s people on your “side.” Sometimes it’s people you really liked.

The next hearing in this case is scheduled for late November. Daley will have his time in court, and is legally innocent until proven guilty. It’s possible he is innocent. But given that false accusations are statistically unlikely, given that there are multiple, corroborated accusations, given that enough evidence exists for multiple charges to have been filed, I find that very unlikely.

No matter how much I might want to believe otherwise.

Mental Health Awareness Day (Another Post About Depression)

October 10 is Mental Health Awareness Day. If you’re a regular reader, you probably already know I’ve been dealing with depression for a while now. Got the official diagnosis back in April of 2012. Started on antidepressants the next month. Began seeing a counselor shortly after that.

The depression had been there a lot longer. I remember feeling suicidal as a kid, and getting close enough to scare myself at least twice. Looking back, I can see stretches where the brain weasels got the best of me in college too, and they had a good old time messing with my head the year I spent living in Nevada.

Lucy: Psychiatric HelpThe pills helped to stabilize my mood and get me back to a healthier baseline. The counselor helped me make some changes with my life. Neither of these things actually fixed or cured the depression. Like my diabetes, it’s still there — I’m just doing a better job of managing it.

Unlike the diabetes, I can’t take a drop of blood and measure how Depressed I am today. Wouldn’t that be nice? “My Depression Level is 193. Better watch a half hour of kitten videos.”

A big difference in my pre- and post-diagnosis life is that I now know the brain weasels are there. I’m better at recognizing when I’m just having a lousy day vs. when the Depression is getting the upper hand. Being able to identify the problem, knowing it’s real, helps a lot.

But it doesn’t make the problem go away. I know it’s there, and I know there are cracks in my mental health the brain weasels can sneak through. To choose a totally hypothetical example, say a book I’m working on is going a lot more slowly than I want…

One of the best things I’ve learned over the past six years is that I’m not alone. Since I started talking about the depression, I’ve spoken with a lot of people who are fighting the same disease. Others are battling different mental illnesses. And none of us are alone in that fight, even though the brain weasels will totally lie and try to make you think you are.

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Lesson One: Depression lies. It says you’re alone, you’re unworthy of love, your failures are deserved and your successes are flukes, your happiness is fleeting but sadness is eternal, your problems are inescapable, and things will never get better. It’s all lies.

Lesson Two: Mental illness is real. You know, I had zero problem going to the hospital for my diabetes back when I was diagnosed. My blood sugar was over 600 at one point. It didn’t matter how strong or determined or optimistic I was if my pancreas was taking early retirement.

Mental illness is just as real and valid as any other. Willpower won’t make my pancreas start working. Willpower also won’t rebalance the chemical makeup of my brain. There are things I can do to help — exercise can be a useful tool for both diseases — but it won’t cure the problems.

People get sick. That doesn’t make you a failure, and it’s not your fault.

Lesson Three: Getting help is … helpful. Going to the doctor and the counselor was hard. Really hard. But it made a huge difference. It may have saved my marriage. It helped my relationship with my kids, and with the other people in my life. It helped my writing.

It may take time to find a doctor and/or therapist who’s the right fit. If you go on medication, it may take time to find the right dosage and the right med or combination of meds. And some health insurance plans can be a nightmare.

But if you can, it’s worth reaching out for help.

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For those in the U.S., Mental Health America has what looks like a good set of tools for getting started, including screening tools and steps to find help. MentalHealth.gov has some resources as well.

Be kind to yourself. You deserve health and happiness.

Back from ICON 43

Got home around midnight last night, collapsed into bed, and was immediately pounced upon by one of the cats. I guess Chewie felt I owed him four days’ worth of scritches, and he meant to collect RIGHT NOW. Cats, you know?

ICON was a great deal of fun, as always. We had a delightful set of guests this year: Mike Mullin, Daniel Mohr and his hetero life mate Wolfie B. Bad, Mike Miller, and Joe and Gay Haldeman. I love that my Toastmaster duties give me the chance to hang out with and get to know our guests each year.

And of course, I got to spend time with so many other great ICON friends. I emceed a silent film narration challenge for the first time, and also joined in the round robin storytelling, which I’d never done before. I won’t even try to recap the two stories we came up with, but the fire-spider erotica subplot was all Mike Mullin’s fault!

I ended up taking a lot of pics this year. I’ve got most of the good ones posted in their own Facebook album. If you’re Facebook-averse, you can also check the Flickr album.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Joe Haldeman and Gene Wolfe Wolfie B. Bad gives CPR to Mike Miller Author Mike Mullin Batgirl and Bane

And now, having pet the cat enough for him to leave me alone, I’m off to catch up on everything else from the past few days…

ICON Schedule

I’m off to Cedar Rapids again this coming weekend, where I’ll be Toastmaster at ICON 43. That means I get to introduce this year’s guests of honor, Mike Mullin, Daniel Mohr, Mike Miller, Wolfie B. Bad, and Joe and Gay Haldeman.

Here’s my schedule, for anyone who might be there and wants to say hi.

Thursday

Friday

  • 7 p.m. Opening Ceremonies
  • 9 p.m. GoH Challenge: Silent Film Narration

Saturday

  • 9 a.m. Representation in SF/F
  • 10 a.m. Author/Artist meet and greet
  • 1 p.m. Speaking to Paradise ICON writers
  • 4 p.m. GoH Interviews
  • 9 p.m. Round Robin Storytelling

Sunday

  • 9 a.m. GoH/Benefactors Brunch

I’ll also be doing author photos again this year. I believe there should be sign-up information at registration/check-in. (And you’re allowed to sign up even if you’re not an author.)

The Dragon Prince

The Dragon PrinceMy son and I watched the first (and only, so far) season of THE DRAGON PRINCE last week. Co-creator Aaron Ehasz was the head writer and director of Avatar: The Last Airbender, so I was really excited for this.

Of course, Avatar was an amazing show, and it’s going to be hard for anything to live up to that standard. The Dragon Prince might not be as amazing as Avatar, but I still enjoyed it.

OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING

The show is set in a more “traditional” fantasy world of kings and magic and elves and dragons. It’s a well-developed world, with a lot of history and detail, but there was a lot in the first episode that felt like variations on themes I’d read and watched a lot already. It didn’t feel new.

It picks up more with the second and third episodes, as human princes Callum and Ezran join up with the moon elf assassin Rayla to try to save a dragon egg. We also get more character development in general, which is one of the show’s strengths.

It doesn’t feel as diverse as the world of Avatar, which was disappointing. I mean, making a black man king was pretty sweet…until the show immediately killed him off. Seeing General Amaya, a deaf woman, leading troops and kicking ass, was wonderful, and I hope she gets more screen time in season two. (I loved her interpreter, too.)

There’s a lot of humor and banter and fun, but also some genuinely touching emotional moments. I particularly love Rayla’s struggles and conflicts, and moments like when she casually tells Ezran he’s worth losing a hand for.

Several people said they thought this was intended for a younger audience than Avatar, but I’m not sure. Avatar had some deep and powerful themes, but at its heart were a trio of young kids. The Dragon Prince doesn’t feel as deep, but it still deals with war and death and corruption and torture.

My son spent a fair amount of time drawing parallels between the two shows. (He was asking when the Appa-analogue would show up. Then we got the episode with Ava the wolf.) If you’re a fan of Avatar, some of the humor and characters and conflicts will feel familiar. I think that’s mostly a good thing. But Callum was a little too Sokka-like for me — they’re not only written with a similar voice, they’re played by the same voice actor.

My biggest complaint is that it’s too short. The season ends on a nice moment, but with plenty of conflict building on the horizon. Literally. And there’s obviously so much more world building and history to get into. In a lot of ways, season one was just laying out the groundwork and establishing the world and characters.

The animation style was a little annoying at times — a bit choppy. It could be striking and beautiful too, but not as much as the artwork in Avatar.

Netflix hasn’t officially announced a second season yet, but I’m hoping and assuming they will, and I’m looking forward to watching it.

Anyone else seen it yet? What did you think?

Lessons from a Viral #MeToo Tweet

I posted the following on Twitter yesterday, and it kind of exploded on me.

Now that the responses are beginning to die down, here are nine Very Important Lessons I learned from Very Helpful Men.

1. “Harassment” is just too vague, and men will end up shunning women altogether to protect themselves!

This is an actual thing Tweeted by, I assume, an actual man. I think he meant this to be a negative outcome of the #MeToo movement. But pretty much all the women I’ve spoken with and listened to would love it if guys who can’t distinguish flirting or friendly interaction from harassment would just leave them the hell alone. So, win-win?

2. Apparently, I’m bald.

A number of people made a point of mentioning this. As you can imagine, I was quite shocked. Bald? Me? When did this happen? Why didn’t anyone tell me sooner? (Many of these same men wanted me to know I’m unattractive as well. Which is a shame, given all the work I’ve done to appeal to the toxic male troll demographic.)

3. Women who don’t want to be harassed should stop dressing up and putting on makeup, since this is something women do only to get men’s attention. (Which is why men never wear makeup!)

This came as shocking news to the many women who wear makeup because, you know, they like the way it makes them look. And to women who dress up because it’s required for their job. And to men who wear makeup. And to the countless women who were harassed and assaulted no matter what they were or weren’t wearing.

Multiple guys jumped in with this victim-blaming bullshit. I’m happy to say they were thoroughly mocked and blocked.

4. A single accusation from the #MeToo witch-hunters is enough to destroy a man’s life and career.

I know, right? I mean, look what happened to this poor man who was accused of harassment by well over a dozen women. The only job he could find after that was President of the United States.

5. But men can be victims too, and women can be perpetrators!

I’m not sure what about my tweet made people think they needed to make this point, but yes. Absolutely. Men can and are often victims of sexual harassment and assault, and while the majority of perpetrators are men, there’s no gender restriction here.

Shoutout to Terry Crews in particular, who has done heroic work speaking out as a survivor of sexual assault, and helping to raise awareness for male victims.

6. I guess I pee sitting down?

Of all the trolling Tweets telling me I wasn’t a “real man,” this was my favorite. I mean, this guy has such a toxic, rigid, fragile sense of masculinity that his go-to insult was, “Oh yeah? Well, you pee sitting down!” Makes me wonder if this is one of those guys who’s so insecure he won’t even use the toilet seat to poop.

And the underlying assertion that supporting #MeToo and being against sexual harassment makes you less of a man? Just…wow.

7. This Tweet will not get me laid.

I’m so glad to hear this. I mean, that Tweet has had almost 700,000 impressions so far. If I had to have sex with even a fraction of those people… Look, I’m 44 years old, all right? I’m in pretty good shape, but that’s just ridiculous.

Also, does anyone else find it pitiful that, for some guys, the only reason they can conceive of for speaking out against sexual harassment is to try to get laid?

8. The #MeToo movement didn’t care about Bill Clinton’s sexual predation!

That’s right, this movement that didn’t exist during Clinton’s time as president had no impact on his sexual behavior. Alas, if only someone would invent a time-traveling hashtag.

9. Catcalls and sexual harassment are compliments!

Cool, cool. Please take this steel-toed boot to your nethers as a compliment as well.

Jim C. Hines