To New Bethany and back: One woman’s journey to report the man she says sexually abused her

To New Bethany and back: One woman’s journey to report the man she says sexually abused her April 3, 2014

After years of frustrated attempts, of being ignored by the press, dismissed by law enforcement, and disbelieved by the adults that should have protected them, the heroic women of New Bethany have finally achieved a breakthrough. This week, Louisiana’s Times-Picayune is serialising the story of their journey back to New Bethany to report Mack Ford, New Bethany’s preacher-owner,  for rape.

This story should not have been necessary. The reason it became necessary is because of negligence.

Five months ago, New Bethany survivor Jo Wright travelled from Houston to the Bienville Parish Sheriff’s office (a five hour drive each way) to file a report of rape. She sent me a message soon afterwards asking me to chase it up.

I tried a few times, each time getting bounced from department to department and fobbed off, eventually being put through to voicemail. Another journalist, more persistent than me, managed to speak to a human and was told that the department had no record of any report being filed against Mack Ford.

That was the impetus for the journal chronicled by the Times-Picayune. This time, it would all be documented.

This is a breakthrough for New Bethany survivors, and those everywhere campaigning against the Troubled Teen industry. It’s not the end.

Before I got into campaigning, here’s how I believe it worked:

  1. There is an injustice
  2. This injustice gets reported by mainstream media
  3. The media reports get the injustice referred to a competent authority
  4. Justice is done

Now I’ve been doing this for a while, here’s what I’ve learned actually happens:

  1. There is an injustice
  2. Eventually, you might manage to get some section of the press to take an interest. Maybe.
  3. The media report results in a storm on social media.
  4. Angered readers click ‘Like’ on Facebook, and then feel that they have done their bit towards getting justice done. They then forget about it
  5. Everyone assumes that because it’s in the media, someone competent is taking care of it
  6. Nothing changes

Given how Sheriff Ballance claims the matter has been referred to Louisiana State Police, it’s easy to imagine a situation in which both the Sheriff’s department and the state police claim it’s the other’s problem. This can’t be allowed to happen.

Still, despite what I’ve said above, social media storms are at least a start. This is a story that needs to be heard. Please read and share it.

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