A local tradition of sexual assault of minors
The guilty pleas and prison sentences of a prominent father and his adult son on charges of child pornography has kept tongues wagging at Blue Ridge Restaurant and other gathering places in Floyd this week.
But sexual crimes against underage girls and boys was a problem around here long before Sheriff Shannon Zeman led 61-year-old Greg Clabaugh and his 31-year-old son Mark away to begin prison sentences for duplicating images of children engaged in explicit pornographic activities.
State police investigators found more than 600 images and videos at the home of the father but the problem of sexual crimes against children has long existed in Floyd County and it is so prevalent that Sheriff Zeman has a computer and special deputy whose sole purpose is to track online activity of those who prey on our young.
An examination of the Sexual Offender Database maintained by the Virginia State Police, and available online, shows 25 current residents of the county with convictions of various sexual crimes. With two more about to join the list, it’s a demographic reality that most residents live near someone who has sexually abused a child.
As a student at Floyd County High School from 1962-65, it was not that unusual for a girl to leave the area for a time for deal “with a family problem.” That “problem” was pregnancy with a child created from an incestuous relationship with a family member. I knew two who went away “because of a family problem.”
At least two athletic coaches in those years carried on affairs with students.
One night, at the Starlight Drive-In in Christiansburg, my date looked at a car parked in the lane ahead of us and realized that it belonged to one of the assistant coaches. A short time later, we watched a girl we both knew emerge, rearrange her clothing, and head for the concession stand.
Such situations still exist. An assistant coach in Floyd was convicted a few years for sexual activity with a student. Stories about such activities involving teachers appear in news in surrounding counties.
The difference then was that charges were seldom, if ever, filed by parents who learned of such a relationship. Shame overruled justice.
Now, cases involving sexual abuse of minors can be found on the Circuit Court document nearly every month.
Last year, a tip from a high school student led to discovery of a web cam video on a web site known as a “porno YouTube.” It featured a 15-year-old female student from Floyd County High School stripping to full-frontal nudity.
The video, we later learned, was part of a “fad” by students who posted the videos not only on the web site but exchanged them with friends via smartphones.
Technology has made creation and distribution of such material easier. “Sexting” is prevalent among students.
But while new technology creates new challenges for parents and law enforcement authorities, the problems behind such activities are as old as the hills that make up rural areas like Floyd County.
Back in the 60s, a common joke in Floyd County was that “family trees don’t branch” around here.
Like too many such jokes, that one had it roots in truth. True then. True now. Sadly, probably true in the future.
Long-time newspaperman, photographer and videographer who still shoots photos and covers government and courts for a newspaper, shoots video for TV and documentary use and owns web sites like Blue Ridge Muse, Capitol Hill Blue and American Newsreel.