Looking for Mercy Street

My father is an old and emotionally brittle man convicted of gross sexual imposition for molesting young trusts. He spent 180 days in the Hamilton County Justice Center two years ago. Where he'll sp

My father is an old and emotionally brittle man convicted of gross sexual imposition for molesting young trusts. He spent 180 days in the Hamilton County Justice Center two years ago. Where he'll spend eternity is between him and God.

I've spent my life looking for the real him. Hard to find.

These days are painful, and I'm angry. It happens each time I hear this kind of news.

I was people-watching Saturday in Eden Park when my on-loan cell phone chirped to break black news/breaking black blues. Stephen Hill, once Channel 9's "I-Team" investigative reporter and now a general assignment reporter, was charged Friday night with eight counts of unlawful sexual misconduct with a minor.

The alleged infractions happened between March 2001 and January 2004.

Mentoring. Licensed foster parent. Four teen-aged boys.

Cops broke in Hill's door Friday night when he refused to answer. He'd sliced at his wrists and neck.

I called in a favor the night my father was booked into jail. Though I was frozen in anger and humiliation, I asked he be put on suicide watch.

I knew he felt pitiful and victimized. I imagined his head was spinning in amazement by his punishment, by the swiftness and depth of his fall.

Knowing him, he was incredulous at the accusations. Suicide seemed a casual but real possibility.

Where do you plant yourself when a man you thought you'd figured out is accused of something you cannot reconcile? Try writing about it. It gets murkier.

We've lived with this enough as nationwide allegations against Catholic priests trickle out and the numbers of victims shift like sand dunes. Eight priests from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and two priests formerly from the Diocese of Covington number among the suspended or accused. Since January, 225 of America's 46,000 priests have been dismissed or have resigned.

From my father to Catholic priests to Hill, whether convicted or accused, the recurring theme is that none of these men are who we thought or know them to be. It's a breach of privacy, a finagling of private parts. It's devastating.

But to none moreso than the victims. They're left to devalue themselves through sexual promiscuity, confused sexuality, therapy and self-medication.

Redemption and reconciliation require lifetimes. Self-loathing is the endowment.

One of the boys Hill allegedly molested was a boy he was mentoring. Strange how the person claiming to be a guide into adulthood turns out to be the person who prematurely disturbs the most crucial pathway into adulthood. "To disturb, interfere with or annoy" is the first dictionary definitions of molest, before anything about unwanted sexual activity.

Hill has made me feel sticky. I want it off me.

Throughout, it's tricky coming down on him. Welcome or damnation available upon request.

If we're as humane as we say, we'll find forgiveness. If we're as humane as we say, we'll feel disgust.

Refuting the claims, Hill's family says the "inner-city boys" made up the stories. Understandable. What's it say about us that a man accused of man's greatest inhumanity to man is a relative?

There's no bravery in telling someone else's truths. I'm in no way satisfied saying these things because, in my father's case, I'm implicated.

I've lost days deconstructing how I might have aided and abetted him. It makes a black woman think.

And now, with Hill, I'm thinking there's something suspiciously alluring about a man who makes his living pursuing, unearthing and then exposing other people's secrets. Game recognizes game.

My father was a church deacon, hard-working family man and master manicurist of lawns. Until somebody told.

Likewise, Hill was a crusading journalist and a warm and affable man who'd grown up in Newark, N.J., and who wanted to show other black city boys they could make it through with a little help of someone who'd been there.

I've hated dealing with all this. Because I love my father and respected Hill. And it's not because of anything they've done. Or haven't.