In a July, 2010 feature story by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Ginger Gorman, Peter Truong and Mark Newton of Cairns, Queensland, Australia were celebrated as loving, caring, gay parents of their son, Boy 1. According to the story, headlined “Two Dads are Better than One,” Boy 1 was the biological child of Newton and a Russian surrogate mother. Gorman’s story was part of a special focus on homosexuals in Queensland, Australia, their lifestyle and the troubles they face in everyday society. She said:
There’s evidence that if you are gay, bisexual or transgender it can be a tough journey. You are more likely to have physical and mental health problems. You are more likely to have depression, experience violence, be homeless, take drugs and have suicidal thoughts.
The more I researched, the more compelled I was to cover the issue. This struck me as a significant opportunity to explore diversity in our community and hear the voices of those who usually aren’t heard. While we don’t always get it right at the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation], we try to reflect a complex, changing society with many faces.
As for Newton and Truong, Gorman’s article was sympathetic to same sex parenting and critical of the apparent extra scrutiny they experienced by the authorities when returning to Australia with the infant. “Mark said he’s sure that they were under suspicion of paedophilia. But despite the difficulties, he said the couple would do it again with no hesitation,” she wrote.
Gorman quotes Newton, “’We’re a family just like any other family,’ he said with pride.”
The article propelled the two men into the public eye, making them poster boys for same sex parenting, at least in Australia. Unfortunately Gorman’s article is more reflective of her wishful thinking than descriptive of reality.
Last week Peter Truong, 36, was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a federal judge in Indianapolis for the sexual abuse of his adopted son, Boy 1, since the boy was less than two years old. Truong’s domestic partner, Mark Newton, 42, previously was sentenced to 40 years (the maximum sentence for the charges) for the same crimes by the same judge. Truong’s sentence was less because of his cooperation with federal investigators.
Newton and Truong were indicted in early 2012, although they were originally taken into custody in October 2011, a mere 15 months after Gorman’s article.
Less than two years after the child was born, Newton/Truong were actively engaged in the sexual abuse of their “son.” The abuse started more than three years before Gorman interviewed them.
Newton maintained that their relationship with the boy was a loving one. At his sentencing hearing, Newton said “being a father was an honor and a privilege that amounted to the best six years of my life.”
That may be. But they certainly weren’t the best years of their son’s life. When the boy was under two years old the two men began to sexually abuse him, commemorating the activity with photographs and videotapes. In addition to their own abuse they shared their “son” with pedophiles around the world, presumably for a fee, although I haven’t seen any reference to that in the accounts I’ve read. Of course they recorded the encounters and then shared the material with an online network of predators.
Here’s how the prosecution’s sentencing memorandum summarizes the case:
It is difficult to overstate the depravity of the criminal conduct in this matter. The details of the victimization of Boy 1 quite simply shock the conscience, and the pattern of psychological, physical, and emotional abuse inflicted on Boy 1 amounts to an unimaginable twisting of every principle of parenthood and notion of a duty to protect children. Essentially, Newton and Truong bought a child, falsified the circumstances of his birth and citizenship, sexually abused him to such a degree and so early in his life that by 22 months old the child’s sexual awareness as depicted on video rivals that of an adult. They groomed Boy 1 to hide the truth from any who may inquire, and then transported him around the world for the purpose of his engaging in sex with more than a half dozen other men, all before his sixth birthday. This is the nature and circumstances of these offenses: a flat out assault on Boy 1’s humanity, through acts that simply cannot be presented as anything other than the worst forms of sexual exploitation of children offenses.
Truong and Newton were arrested, along with 182 others who had been swept up in an international investigation of the website “BoyLover.net,” which has since been shut down. The server for the site was located in the Netherlands, but the chat room for the group of 70,000 members reportedly was run by Cape Coral, FL attorney, Rex Powell, who was arrested in October of this year. In addition to running the BoyLover chat room, Powell is one of eight men, besides Truong and Newton, who are in photographs sexually abusing the boy.
Both Truong and Newton claim they love their “son.” They saw themselves as “a family just like any other.” Were they lying, were they deceiving themselves? I simply don’t know. From their perspective, I tend to think that they do. The problem with these two, and millions of other predators just like them, is that their perspective—on all things sexual and emotional—is so incredibly twisted as to be unrecognizable to non-predators. For one thing, predators like these two are psychopaths. And psychopaths don’t experience the world, life itself, the way normal people do. They don’t have empathy. They are narcissists. They are sexually promiscuous, probably because the closest feeling to what they think is love is sexual pleasure. They are liars. While they can be friendly and charming and seemingly kind, they are utterly indifferent to the welfare of anyone else except as it benefits themselves. They cannot be trusted. They use others—they don’t care for them, they don’t love them, they will betray them without a second thought.
Not all psychopaths are child sexual predators, but all adult child sexual predators are psychopaths. (The only exception is those child molesters who suffer from a mental illness.)
If you think that cases like Newton and Truong are rare. Think again. Recall that BoyLover.net was only one such site that catered to men with this kind of depraved outlook. Members numbered more than 70,000. Then there is the recent case of Carl Philip Herold and his domestic partner, Charles Dunnavant who were arrested last week for crimes that sound almost identical to those of Newton and Truong. Herold and Dunnavant, too, are charged with sexually abusing their “son” and producing child pornography.
One reason people like this can walk among us and not be noticed for the monsters that they are is that we are not paying attention.
Ginger Gorman was not paying attention when she interviewed Newton and Truong. After she learned of the arrests she recalled:
I can honestly say to you that when I met Newton, Truong and Boy 1 nothing appeared to be amiss.
It was a modern house with an off-white exterior. The gardens were manicured and a shiny child’s bike lay on its side in the front yard.
Newton was a tall Caucasian with a receding hairline, blue eyes and a strong American accent. Truong was Vietnamese-Australian and much shorter in stature. He had thick black hair, a round face and a wide, toothy smile. The two men welcomed me into their home with a firm handshake.
Just like the outside of their house, the inside was immaculate. The family room was light and airy. Boy 1’s toys were neatly stacked away and his name was written on the wall in wooden letters.
Personally, I would be suspicious of a kid that age whose toys were neatly stacked away. But I suppose you could chalk that up to adults trying to impress the reporter. What’s more telling to me is Gorman’s description of the child with his “pet chicks.” She writes:
We chat about the chicks. Truong and Boy 1 are trying to catch a couple of them, with some trouble. Truong asks Boy 1 if he’s fed the chicks today. Boy 1 says no. Truong tells him they would surely be very hungry by now. I ask Boy 1 if the particular chicken he has managed to catch has a name. Boy 1 replies that he hasn’t figured out names yet but he might call this one “Fasty” – presumably because it is hard to catch. Newton agrees that this chick is indeed fast.
If this is an accurate account, I would have immediately viewed this as contrived. Most kids tend to be pretty irresponsible when it comes to feeding their pets. But failing to name their pets? And what kid would want to have baby chicks as pets? This is a curiosity that I would have explored.
Even more curious was her narrative about the problems the two men had bringing their “son” into the country. She writes:
There’s another piece of my 2010 experience which is strange in retrospect, but for a totally different reason. Newton and Truong explained to me at length that it was difficult to get Boy 1 into Australia. They told me Australian customs quizzed them for hours at the airport.
At a later date, police were checking whether the couple had suitable equipment to raise a child: a bed, clothes and bottles.
At this point in the interview I said:
“Do you think that there was a suspicion there…[that] this must be something dodgy? There must be some paedophilic thing going on here?”
Newton replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely. I’m sure that was completely the concern”.
Why Newton and Truong thought the Customs officials were concerned is completely irrelevant. The question seems more likely to reflect her own unfavorable judgment of the authorities, and to reveal her bias that the culturally unenlightened and homophobic government workers must have presumed that two men with a baby have to be pedophiles.
Here are some questions that might have been more revealing. How many hours did they hold you? What explanation did they give you for the delay? What questions did the officials ask? What did they say was wrong with the Newton/Truong documents—birth certificate, passports, travel records, etc.? Did they notify local child welfare officials about the adoption before leaving the country to pick up the child? Why pet chicks instead of a dog or cat? (Or a Mongoose that could make short work of the deadly Australian poisonous snakes?)
The problems with international adoptions are notorious—illegal adoptions, baby selling, kidnapping. How could an experienced journalist ignore these possible concerns of the government officials? Because the house was well kept, everyone was smiling, the boy’s toys were neatly stacked, there were pet baby chicks for the child, the men had firm handshakes?
Gorman was blinded by her own bias and she was not paying attention. Like her, too many of us simply overlook the glaring signs that should concern us. We, too, are blinded by our bias, by what we want to see.
Just because something is different doesn’t mean that it’s bad and should be condemned. But it also does not mean that it should be embraced mindlessly. Two men and a baby (or two women and a baby for that matter) is far outside the norm. We can’t presume that people with such an unusual relationship will have acceptable views on what it means to “have a family just like any other.” They deserve to have extra scrutiny focused on them. The children of these unusual unions deserve to have all members of the community help smoke out the predatory psychopaths who are gravitating toward these kinds of relationships for the purpose raising up children into depraved lifestyles.
Boy 1 is now living with relatives in California. But what kind of a life is he going to have? What will he become? And why is the LGBT community so silent?