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Houston Breakthrough 1979-09
Page 8
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Houston Breakthrough 1979-09 - Page 8. September 1979. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. September 21, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/536/show/516.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(September 1979). Houston Breakthrough 1979-09 - Page 8. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/536/show/516

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough 1979-09 - Page 8, September 1979, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed September 21, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/536/show/516.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough 1979-09
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date September 1979
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Physical Description 28 page periodical
Format (IMT)
  • image/jpeg
Original Item Location http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Page 8
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name femin_201109_553ah.jpg
Transcript Guilty until proven innocent! by Barbara Karkabi In August and September of 1978, four counselors at the Family Connection, an emergency shelter for youth in crisis, were arrested and accused of sexually abusing several children who had stayed at the shelter. Their ordeal lasted almost a full year, before they were found innocent of all charges. One of the counselors was a 31-year- old women named Sue Jean Bennett. Bennett's case stands out from the other three because it was her cause that rallied the lesbian community. The male homosexual community was almost totally indifferent to the plight of the three men. On the afternoon of August 28, 1978 Bennett was moving to a new apartment. She had just taken her roommate to work and had gone home to pack a few remaining belongings. "I looked out the window and saw several police cars, but didn't think too much about it because they were always in the neighborhood," she says. "But, all of a sudden there they were, knocking at the door and presenting me with a warrant which said I had sexually abused a child at the Connection." None of the officers involved were able to comment on any allegations made by the four defendants, under their lawyers' instructions. Officers Yarborough, Freeman and Mayes and the City of Houston are currently being sued by James Bond in a federal civil rights case. According to the suit, Bond alleges that he was deprived of his privileges and constitutional rights by the officers. D. Reid Walker, lawyer for the three police officers, said that an answer had been filed denying the charges and stating that Yarborough, Freeman and Mayes had acted in good faith as police officers. the sewer and back," Bennett recalls. "They did everything possible to humiliate me." When it became apparent that Bennett would not confess any charge, she was sent for a strip search, booked and placed in a cell with three other women. She was still dressed in her halter top and running shorts. After three hours in jail, Bennett was allowed her first phone call. She called Jim Horwitz, a lawyer friend, and found out that other friends were trying to raise bail for her. Later on that evening, a matron "I just felt like I had been on a trip to the sewer and back. They did everything possible to humiliate me." There were no specifics on the warrant, Bennett adds, and she was never read her rights. In fact, she says, it was months before she knew the state's actual charges against her. The officers who presented Bennett with the warrant were three Houston police officers from the Juvenile Division, Sexual Exploitation Detail — Officers Ralph Yarborough, Johnny Freeman, and Chuck Mayes.Y- When Bennett asked Freeman if he had the legal right to search her home without a search warrant she said he replied, "Sit down and shut up or I'll treat you like a man and knock you down." "I wasn't really frightened," Bennett says. "But I was in a total state of shock. It's very difficult for me to dislike anyone, but I really felt that those officers, especially Freeman, were cold, calculating and unfeeling." Bennett was dressed in a pair of running shorts and a halter top and had no change of clothes at her apartment. She was never given the opportunity to go back to change her clothes. "It was terribly humiliating because I had to parade around in front of all those men in the jail," she says, "and besides that it was terribly cold in both the city and county jails." At the city jail, Mayes questioned Bennett and attempted to get her to confess, even though Bennett says she was still not sure of her crime. "He kept trying to be friendly and would repeat the statement that he had nothing against homosexuals," she recalls. "I just told him I didn't know what he was talking about. I also told him to look at the child who had made the accusation and examine her record. She was known for distorting the truth." After searching Bennett's purse, Mayes pulled out a photograph of a woman and commented on how "good-looking" the woman was. She claims he said "I wouldn't mind having a piece of that." "I just felt like I had been on a trip to brought warmer clothes to her cell. Ben- net says she had to undress and hand her clothes through the bars before she could receive the new clothes. At midnight, she was transferred to the county jail. Meanwhile, Bennett's friends learned of her arrest when the 6 p.m. news broadcast her photograph across the city and announced that 31-year-old Sue Jean Bennett, a Family Connection counselor, was in jail on a felony charge of sexual abuse of a child. Within one hour, Bennett's friends began to gather at a house in Montrose. Each person dropped cash on the coffee table and sat down to discuss the arrest. Bond was set at $5,000 and $750 in cash was needed for bail. By 9 p.m. that night The Sue Bennett Fund had been organized to raise bail and legal defense funds. By midnight there was $750 on the coffee table and at 4 a.m. Bennett was released from the county jail. "I guess that's what I remember the most out of the whole experience." Bennett says, "It's really hard to get a positive experience out of being in jail but I think I did. The way the lesbian community supported me and came up with those funds really meant a lot to me." with HPD has been strained in the past. "I believed they felt we harbored runaways," she says, "and they often looked askance at us because we were not the usual social workers, and that's true." The Family Connection is an emergency shelter and residential treatment program that has provided services to more than 2,000 children since its founding in 1970, Bennett says. It was founded by eight people from the Montrose community who realized the severity of the runaway problem and the dangers for a child on the street. According to Carl Boaz, director of the Connection, the home was founded on the principle that runaway children could work out their problems with a mediator. Staff members functioned as mediators. They listened to both sides of the argument and encouraged parents and children to try to reach a compromise. For the first six months, all workers at the home received no pay except for free food which was supplied by donations from local churches. After that, Boaz says, a large donation from a local business made it possible for the staff to receive $30 a week for their work. Soon, professional volunteers from the Texas Research Institute for Mental Sciences began training the staff in individual, group, family and drug counseling. The girl had been asked to leave because, according to Bennett, who was her counselor, she was extremely disruptive and hostile. The decision to ask her to leave was a staff decision, Bennett says. In the girl's statement to JP Officer Maggie Hineman, she claimed that Bennett had taken her to gay bars and had given her gay books. Juvenile Judge Criss Cole instructed Hineman to take a formal statement. Later, in Bennett's trial, Hineman would testify that the girl did not claim any sexual indecency or abuse by Bennett in this statement or in any conversation that Hineman had with her. Later that year, Boaz was called to juvenile probation and told about the accusations made by the girl. Boaz says that the administrator did not believe the statements but he warned him that "one never knows where something like this might go." "In July, another administrator named Jack Murray called me and asked what I had done about Bennett and if I still had 'gay' people on the staff," Boaz recalls. "When I told him we did, he said this might be a problem for the Connection." One week later, Boaz says, juvenile probation caseworkers received a memo telling them not to place children at the Connection. The caseworker who told Boaz said no reason was given, but it was probably because some of the staff were gay. According to Officer Freeman's testimony during Bennett's trial, police began an investigation of Family Connection after a phone call from Frank Salzhandler, a former employee. Bennett says that Salzhandler, a transient who claimed to be from New Orleans by way of California, was hired by the Connection because he had experience with runaways. "None of us had examining trials, and we were indicted before we had a chance. I was treated from the first moment as if I were guilty and would begin paying for it now." In 1971 the home was licensed as an emergency shelter by the Texas Department of Public Welfare. In 1976, the home received a Child Placing Agency and Foster Group Home License. Bennett says she feels the police started investigating the Connection because of two separate incidents. One involved a child at the home and another former worker, Frank Salzhandler. In the spring of 1978, a 15-year-old "I felt like the jury knew I was a homosexual woman, but it didn't matter to them. There were several women on the jury that didn't shudder at the word 'homosexual'. I think they realized that you would have to look far before you find abuse of a child by a lesbian.1 99 Bennett says that it is hard to know all the motivating forces behind Family Connection's investigation by HPD. She does admit that the Connection's relationship girl who had stayed at the home for two months earlier in the year, made some statements about Bennett to a juvenile probation worker. "Both (counselor) Richard Kellogg and I voted against his hiring, so he was placed on the staff for a probationary period," Bennett says. "But it was a staff decision to let him go after four weeks." Among other things, Salzhandler made sexual advances to female staff members and when rejected, accused all the women of being lesbians, Bennett says. After he had been fired by FC, Salzhandler wrote an "expose" of the Connection and took it to the police, social services agencies and the media. He took the story to the Houston Post and the University of Houston Daily Cougar, but neither of them would pick the story up. However, Freeman began an investigation of FC and Yarborough re-interviewed the girl who had previously made the statements about Bennett. After a two-hour interview, the girl gave Yarborough a one-page statement accusing Bennett of sexually abusing her on March 19, 1978, at the FC home. Later, during Bennett's trial, the girl explained she told the police more the second time because the "police could see there was more to the story." It was the girl's second statement, according to the police, which led to Bennett's first arrest in August. HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH SEPTEMBER 1979