Anger, grief over charges of molestation
Many of us were shocked recently when we read that one of our best citizens, a local EMT, a coach and a friend of our children, was arrested on several counts of child molestation. Scott Muir of Stockbridge had worked for the Southern Berkshire Regional School District and was much admired by many in the Berkshires. Let’s remember, he is by no means guilty until he is found so by a jury of his peers. All too often, we are quick to rush to judgment before the facts are presented. This case goes back several years.
The children who were allegedly molested are now young adults, and they will have their say in court. No matter how much we may like the accused, if it is proven that as an employee of a school system he betrayed our trust, it will be terrible for all of us.
Obviously, this case is not unique. Scott Ritter, who almost single-handedly told the world that there were no weapons of mass destruction, was sentenced to prison for sexually predatory practices on the Internet. The story of what he did and why he was convicted is not pretty. And as in the local case now at hand, you’ve got to scratch your head and wonder how someone you admire could do something that would so obviously ruin his reputation and put his future life and career in jeopardy.
We are clearly dealing with psychiatric issues here, and in each case we are looking at tragic consequences. What could they have been thinking? What could have been going through their minds? If they knew then what they know now, would they still take those kinds of chances? Remember, Ritter had been accused of a similar crime before the one that brought him down.
In the case of the still relatively young man who allegedly betrayed his school position, there are now — as there always are — questions about what went wrong. When we are frustrated as a society about acts which harm people, be they children or adults, we always seem to look for someone to hold responsible. School administrators are questioned about what they knew and when they knew it. Ditto the police and district attorneys. Hints as to previous behavior are retroactively examined under a microscope. It’s as if we need someone to blame in order to make sense out of what can’t be made sense of.
Maybe years of analysis might have given us a clue about what went wrong, if something did indeed go wrong. Rules can be changed, as they have been in the case of domestic assault. Busy administrators and police and district attorneys can be quizzed about why certain things weren’t done, but just as a parent doesn’t know what is inside the head of his or her child, we cannot know the inner workings of all of the people to whom we entrust our kids. The sanity of perpetrators, be they men or women who came into school cafeterias and shot everyone in sight or those who raped somebody on prom night, must be questioned. There is a certain irony in the fact that probably the finest psychiatric facility in the United States is located in the very small town where our latest accused lives.
Everyone who knew the mother of the man who was charged will tell you that the woman, who has now passed, was a saint. More than a few people in these parts will whisper, “Thank God she’s not here to see this.”
Just one more thing to remember: People who are innocent are regularly accused of crimes they turn out not to have committed. Suppose, just suppose, you are accused of a crime and your name is smeared all over your hometown. Maybe we should all think about that before we rush to judgment.
Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 4/15/12