Monday, December 28, 2009

Searching for Angela Shelton




Searching for Angela Shelton paints a very disturbing picture of child abuse in America. It seems everyone in this country, from the family to the court system, is, in some way, guilty of enabling molesters.

The premise is novel. Angela Shelton, the actress, begins by calling everyone who happens to share her name. During her intro phone calls with all the Angela Sheltons, our Angela brings up the topic of sexual child molestation.

Wow! That's gotta be a real winner at parties!

"Hi, I'm (fill in your name), did you know a disturbingly high amount of people with our shared names have been sexually abused?"

It almost seems forced, were it not for the fact that every Angela Shelton interviewed has either been raped as an adult, sexually molested as a child, or both. The implication being: if this is the case with everyone who shares the same name as the director, what must the reality be for all the non Angela Sheltons of the world?

Of course, by the time we get to the part where Angela Shelton, the director and actress, reveals the details regarding her case, we suddenly forget the novelty of Searching for Angela Shelton.

We find ourselves focused on the sad, abominable reality that everyone one of us, to some extent, has experienced yet tries to ignore and deny.

Her father, according to the testimony of both Angela and her brother, left Angela's mother for the mother's best friend. Angela was given a choice as to which parent she wanted to live with. She chose the father because his new wife made great kool aid.

Hey, she's a kid! What else is she going to base a life altering decision on?

During this time with her father and stepmother, the dad gets a brilliant idea for 'sex education in the home'.

Well, I can tell you from personal experience at the fundamentalist school I went to, they totally opposed sex education in the school. I've always wondered how parents in denial, who refuse their children objective sex education, instruct them in private. If any of them are like Angela's father and step mother, we have a very serious problem with incest in the American home.

Like Angela's stepmother, some of these places, and families, make very good kool aid.

Her case did go to court. Her father never served jail time. In fact, the wonderful people at the courthouse were so disgusted by the case they tried to get Angela to drop it and move on.

What gives?

None of the perpetrators in this movie ever served jail time, which means that it's up to the victim to achieve closure on his, or her, terms. In Angela's case, that means visiting her mother, grandmother, stepbrother, and father for some answers.

Her mother, grandmother, and stepbrother, are very supportive of Angela.

The movie takes an interesting turn when the stepbrother, who happens to be gay, discusses the conflict he felt regarding his sexuality.

Was he born that way? Or, did the sexual abuse turned him onto it? Politically correct answers, and even scientifically correct answers, pale in the eyes of a gay teenager trying to come to terms when sexual abuse enters the picture.

All of this is extremely relevant in the stories regarding the various cases against my former church/school that is the basis of this blog. When I went to Jacksonville to host the public awareness meeting on the clergy abuse of children, the conversation came up about one male victim. This person did not pursue a legal case like another (non gay) male victim did.

This person happened to be gay, and I found myself engaged in conversations where the statement was made: "If he was gay, it's because (the predator pastor who molested) made him like that!"

I countered that line of reasoning.

I don't believe that sexual molestation turns a child gay, but I do believe there is the strong possibility that a child predator might sense the future sexual orientation of the child, take advantage of it, thereby sending the victim on an odyssey of sexual confusion during his later years as an adult.

Searching for Angela Shelton explores this issue in a way no other movie has. In fact, I don't believe there is a movie that's explored this subject! Not in this way. That makes Searching for Angela Shelton groundbreaking.

The climax occurs when she confronts her father. We've heard the testimonies of her stepbrother. Support from her mother and grandmother and aunt. Now, when Angela meets her father, we are introduced to his selective memory.

He blames it all on nudist camps.

Angela surprised me by saying she did not have a problem with nudist camps.

I'm with Angela on that one.

Why should we let sexual predators, and those who enable them, become our moral arbitrators?

Why should we allow predators to have an easy way to deny their actions? There are so many predators who want to blame their behavior on pornography, movies, music, drugs, alcohol, but they don't want to embrace the consequences of their own actions. Angela does not let her father get away with that kind of deniability. Nor should we give predators the gift of easy escapism that can only come from blaming others.

The message of Searching for Angela Shelton seems to be that finding closer outside of an apathetic legal system can only come from confronting your predator.

That is difficult! Kudos for Angela Shelton for doing this, much less doing it on camera. Most of us would have a difficulty doing that even if there weren't any cameras.

That is the challenge. Angela does point out that a victim must be ready for that kind of confrontation. You can't just force someone to confront the person who helped make their life hell. Yet, it is a necessary difficulty.

Searching for Angela Shelton is a great meditation on what it takes for a victim to become a survivor and then, ultimately, lead their way to triumph. It's not an easy road. There will be some 'bumps in the road', a phrase that stands in my mind thanks to the late, ever ironic, Jerry Falwell.

You might remember after Bob Gray, the former pastor of Trinity Baptist Church (Jacksonville, FL), and founder of Trinity Christian Academy, the school I graduated from, was arrested on multiple accounts of child molestation, Jerry visited the church and told them their court troubles would ultimately amount to a 'bump in the road'.

Victims will also have bumps in the road. They will be pretty agonizing bumps, too. There might be moments when they have acted out their behavior on others. That must also be confronted.

If you can do so, accept the bumps, and endure to the end, you will be 'saved'.

That seems to be the message of Searching for Angela Shelton.

This movie can be ordered at Searching for Angela Shelton.

You can also watch it for free by visiting: http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/searching_for_angela_shelton.


1 comment:

Meggs said...

I can't say enough how grateful I am for your blog and for the fact that you're taking the time to review these films and share them with people. Angela is an amazing woman, and this film has started a movement. If you're interested in furthering the cause, check out Angela's facebook fan page or look into becoming a member of Army of Angels, a bunch of people who are doing what we can to get the word out about prevention and resources, etc. I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog, and again, so grateful to you for your efforts to do what you can to keep the dialogue going. The more people who are talking about this, the bigger it's going to get... Kudos to you for speaking out!!!