For a long time, there was this misguided belief that associating with Christians gave a reassured implicit message of safety, serenity, and high moral ground. Not so much anymore, where a game of word association starting with “priest” goes almost immediately to “pedophile,” where televangelists rack in millions in the name of God while their constituents barely scrape by.
I’m not a religion-basher like Pamela Geller—and I do consider myself a Christian—but I think the fact that so many people buy into the supposed safety offered by the mere mention of “We’re a Christian organization” and learn, to their grief, that this really means very little since people are people is an issue worthy of discussion.
Bottom line? An autistic teenager working at a Christian camp allegedly tried to engage in sexual acts with a third-grader.
Prosecutors said a worker at a New Hampshire Christian camp tried to lure an 8-year-old girl into a secluded area and sexually assault her.
Stephen Tecce, 19, of New Jersey, was indicted on a charge of attempted sexual assault. Police said he was working at Camp Spofford, a Christian family camp in western New Hampshire, when the assault took place.
“He is alleged to have lured an 8-year-old girl to a secluded place and attempted to solicit sex from her,” said Assistant Cheshire County Attorney Keith Clouatre.
There are two sides to every story, and it’s important to keep this in the back of your mind when contemplating this one. On one end is an eight-year-old child, and on the other is a nineteen-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism). There are no winners here, and I just wanted to make myself very clear there.
And the details are pretty creepy, actually.
According to court paperwork, Tecce was working as a maintenance staff member at the camp in July. In the paperwork, police said he took the girl on a walk and told her he wanted to have sex with her. When she said no, he allegedly told her he wanted “to play a game of ‘tie up,’” according to the paperwork.
Police said Tecce then “attempted to place tape with something on it” over the girl’s mouth.
Clouatre said the girl was able to scream and run to her family for help.
This one really breaks me up, not gonna lie.
I have worked with autistic children through my role as a secondary school English teacher for nearly ten years now, and Asperger’s kiddos are among the most misunderstood (and interesting) human beings in the world—check out Jodi Picoult’s House Rules or Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for some really interesting (and surprisingly realistic) literary takes on this condition.
As a mother, however, I don’t care what sort of extenuating circumstances the offending party had going on—if someone hurts my kids, I go into hard core Mama Grizzly mode (and I’m not talking Sarah Palin here, I’m talking nature).
Prosecutors are arguing that Tecce is likely to do something like this again, making him a threat to society, and I have to say that there’s unquestionably some truth to that.
So what’s Tecce’s camp saying?
Tecce’s lawyer said that his client denies the allegations. He said Tecce and his family have attended Camp Spofford for 14 years and never had a problem.
Which brings me back to my basic point. Why is Tecce’s decade-long attendance at a Christian camp supposed to be some sort of proof that he is “okay”? Just because you say that you walk with Jesus Christ doesn’t mean that you follow the basic tenets of his teaching—and there are millions of very specific examples of that.
I know a little girl who was allegedly molested by her mother’s boyfriend. Her allegations were very specific, her statements compelling enough for the court system to remove her from her mother’s custody. And to this day, this child’s mother does not believe that her boyfriend did it.
In almost every case, young children are not sophisticated enough to lie effectively over a sustained period about something so serious. Professionals are trained to check every facet of their story since charges of sexual offenses are so serious, so my personal take is that Tecce’s lawyer is full of shit, that his client probably did what he was accused of doing or prosecutors would not be pursuing the case.
The Asperger’s excuse does make it a bit more problematic, although it really pisses me off the way that this is being used. If your child has a condition that makes social interactions difficult and awkward, it is your responsibility to make sure that he or she is supervised, particularly around young children. You can’t have it both ways.
This is a very sad story all around (and, even more sadly, not unique).