I Was On Oprah

by James W.
(Dowagiac, Michigan, USA)

Twenty years ago, I was part of a group of men who were among the first to speak openly about our sexually abusive childhoods. Mike Lew, a foremost specialist in the field, had managed to get a spot on the Oprah Show when she was still on WLS.

Mike, and several men he had helped in therapy, flew in from the east coast to be on the panel. Our Chicago group phone-blitzed the studio to ensure the show would air, and were invited to be in the audience.

I was the first to speak from the audience, and would have been a substitute panellist if someone got cold feet. We all felt strongly that boys were further isolated by the media distortion of 'incest' as the ultimate form of male oppression of women.

Even at that time, experts in the field had documented cases of maternal abuse against sons, as well as daughters. They also had significant evidence that in many cases the mother knows and often allows the abuse to occur.

And the result of our effort...Oprah forgot.

Several years later, she had a man on a panel of child sexual abuse survivors. She commented that she felt abuse of boys was a truly important issue, and as far as she knew, that was 'the first time ever to deal with it on national T.V.'

What were we? Chopped liver? And if it was so important, why have I never seen the issue discussed since then?

Misandry and ratings, that's why!

Oprah and her protege Dr. Phil, know full well that the sooner a child understands what happened to him, the sooner he can begin to heal. They also say that if you see a wrong, and don't try to stop it, you are equally as responsible for the crime.

The majority of sex offenders were abused themselves. That's no excuse, but it is a fact. Rather than being pro-active, Oprah continues to distort the facts about the breadth, depravity and coercive subtlety of chid sexual abuse.

Rather than help all children, Oprah consciously lets boys suffer in silence and refuses to deal with the larger issue of maternal child abuse. She does this fully aware that a small percentage of those boys will grow up to re-offend.

She has literally waited twenty years to reap what she's sown. I'm sure her wall of sex offenders and the hefty $100,000 prize for turning one in gets great ratings, in a "you got a car! You got a car!" kind of way.

In her silence, she helped create those monsters. Whether conscious denial for the sake of ratings, or a subconscious denial because she can't deal with her own mother, Oprah has perverted the issue.

The result... Chris Hansen and perverted justice.

Oprah should take her own advice and 'admit she's got a problem.'

Darlene's comments to this Child Abuse Article titled "I Was On Oprah" are at the link below.

Email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses AND website/blog URLs in visitor comments are STRICTLY prohibited, and could result in being banned from making further comments on this site.

Comments for I Was On Oprah

Click here to add your own comments

Feb 12, 2008
Complex issue
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

James, how invalidating it must have been to have watched that second Oprah show, only to have the worldwide influential Oprah herself say the topic had never before been addressed on national television. It must have been crushing.

James, what if Oprah didn't forget. You were on her show 20 years ago, when Oprah was still on WLS (a Chicago-based radio talk show). Is it possible that her show was still only being aired on Chicago A.M. at that time, before the name changed to The Oprah Winfrey Show, before it went national? Given the timing, she may have been telling the truth about "national television" exposure.

I feel the need to clear up some misconceptions about Dr. Phil. He became a household name after his appearance on Oprah 11 years ago, off the heels of the Texas cattlemen's charges against Oprah and the subsequent highly-publicized trial, for which he was hired as a strategist. Dr. Phil has numerous degrees, he owns his show (as of 3 years ago), and through his common-sense, tell-it-like-it-is approach, he has succeeded in helping countless people. Yes I agree, both Oprah and Dr. Phil could and should shine more light on the issue of sexual abuse against boys, but the issue is far more complex than giving it more air-time.

Men are only beginning to speak out about the abuses they suffered as children. Most remain silent because of shame; shame they DO NOT bear. You and the male panel who appeared on that Oprah show some 20 years ago were so ahead of your time. I, for one, congratulate you and the other courageous men, who stood side-by-side in an effort to bring to light this very real, emotionally-traumatizing issue that affects young, vulnerable males in numbers we still cannot comprehend.

Society in general does not want to believe that mothers—who are the caregivers, the nurturers, the women who give birth—could possibly use a child, THEIR child, for sexual gratification. The mere thought tears at the fabric of our beliefs about what mothers should be. Add to that, societal biases about male/female sexuality, and biases toward male victims, the reasons male victims of sexual abuse DO NOT disclose; it's a horrible recipe that serves to yield more and more victims.

James, I cannot in good conscience make Oprah and Dr. Phil shoulder the blame for "creating monsters." The issue is so much more complicated than holding the icons of daytime talk show television responsible because they appear silent on the issue. I believe society as a whole must accept the lion's share of responsibility for turning a blind eye.

I hope you get the chance to address Oprah herself, James. You would certainly have my support if you did.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Feb 12, 2008
James was on Oprah
by: James W

Hi Darlene,
Thank you so much for your comments on my article. I want to clarify two points. First, the original show was on WLS television and definately aired nationally. Our show was specifically for men sexually abused as children. Second, the show where she said "I believe this is the first time this issue has been talked about on national T.V.", was within five years of our show and did not specifically deal with adult male survivors, but was part of a show about child sexual abuse.

I can understand your defense of Oprah, as she drew so much attention to the issue for women. But consider her underlying misandrist attitude.

She sent Lisa Ling to investigate child prostitution in Thailand. Ms. Ling was talking to a female child advocate in a brothel. The advocate was talking 'girls this and girls that', when Ms. Ling interjected, 'there appear to be alot of boys here too.'

The advocate looked at her blankly and went on as if the boys, and the question, didn't exist. That 'don't go there girl' attitude also failed to mention that many Thai mothers see children as a cottage industry.

John Mark Carr, arrested in Thailand and later cleared in the Jon Benet Ramsey case, was raised by his mother as a girl. Love to see her on Oprah.

In another instance, Lisa Ling was sent to a prison to interview Sunny Schwartz, an 'Oprah Angel' who volunteered to teach prisoners to read. When Ms. Ling asked what motivated her, the woman responded, 'I'm not doing this for them. Most of these guys are going to be released and will re-offend. I'm not doing this for their sake, I'm doing it for the sake of women and girls.'

This, after the segment was preficed by saying 92% of men in prison were traumatized as children, sexually or otherwise. Read 'otherwise' as maternal abuse.

And I thought angels were supposed to be altruistic.

If Oprah really wants to be proactive, and break the cycle of child abuse, it seems logical to intervene before the victims mess up so bad they end up in jail.

Or does Oprah, like many 'women and girls', have a thing for the 'bad boy'?

P.S. My name is James, not Frank.

Feb 12, 2008
An apology:
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

My sincere apologies for getting your name wrong, James. I was working on several website "behind the scenes" issues very early this morning and mistakenly addressed you as Frank and almost addressed Frank as James. Although I caught the one, and thought I had caught the other—namely YOU; obviously that wasn't the case. Very unprofessional. I am deeply sorry. I honestly meant no disrespect. I've gone back to the page and corrected my error.

Regarding your additional post, you'll note I've moved it to this comment page. If you would like to comment further on the article you've written, or on comments offered about your article, the best place to do so is on the comment form that you'll find at the bottom of your article page. Doing so will keep this thread in a logically contained order. You'll find a link to it at the bottom of this page.

Thank you, James, for both your input and for pointing out my grievous error regarding your name.


Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Feb 13, 2008
Something to think on
by: Elaine

James,your article is of great interest for a number of reasons. I'll start by letting you know that what I write is in the capacity of both qualified Social Worker, and woman. I've also had experience of being the victim of childhood abuse at the hands of my parents.

The issues you discuss in your article raise several very significant questions, and sadly, there's a part of me that has to agree with what you say.

Ideally, the issue of child abuse should be well publicised, in order to de-stigmatise the subject. This should apply across the board, no matter the type of abuse, the gender of the perpetrator, or of the victim. In reality, I agree with you that this is not always the case. Perhaps some of this is due to a reflection of our social stereotypes; to the fact that most people are brought up to think, say, do specific things. It's the old "girls play with dolls, boys play with cars" stereotyping, which is still so horribly pervasive, despite our belief that we live in some sort of "enlightened" society.

Whilst I think it's great that TV shows like "Oprah" have begun to bring such issues as child abuse into the public domain, it's with some trepidation that I view them. The sad fact is that TV is (this is just my opinion, mind you!) NOT the real world. TV is about ratings, about audience numbers... it's often about shock tactics, about "you-heard-it-here-first" styled exposes, about glitz, glamour and artifice. In truth, perhaps the whole of the media is very much about the same sort of mass manipulation of societal opinions. After all, if it weren't for the tabloids, would we really have such a skewed opinion of AIDS having been spread by homosexuals? Sometimes there is a danger in a press release, or in a TV programme, being aired before the full facts have come to light... And research takes a long time.

Oprah has been very brave in trying to publicise a little disclosed issue. The sad fact is that sometimes society as a whole has difficulty in accepting the less palatable issues it may be made to confront. The truth is, as I pointed out above, many of us are still raised to see boys as "strong", girls as "needing protection". Therefore, the childhood abuse of boys becomes an uncomfortable subject to broach, in amongst the already stigmatised and uncomfortable subject of abuse in general. It is easier for society as a whole to "turn a blind eye", simply because the abuse of those whom we traditionally view as "strong" goes far too much against the grain to be acceptable (irrespective of whether it happens).

Apr 19, 2008
by: James W

Dear Darlene,

I wanted you to be aware of this web-site for the Canadian Children's Rights Council. As a Canadian you should be proud. Your government is providing substantial resources to a program called "A Canada fit for children." We should be so civilized here in the USA.

I found the site posted as a link from the Hague Convention. They condemned the "Vagina Monologues" for a segment that promotes lesbian molestation of teen girls. I was stunned.

Many Americans have a nudge and a wink attitude towards female sexual abuse of boys. In a sick way, I guess this is one instance where Eve Ensler and American feminists can't be accused of hypocracy.

It's good to see an inclusive and insightful perspective coming from our northern border. I hope some of it rubs off, because we need it badly.

Apr 19, 2008
Re: Canadian Children's Rights Council
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

Thank you, James. I am a regular visitor to this website; lots to read and keep up with there. Always glad when one of my American neighbours have found it too.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Child Abuse Article - Write one.