Counting the victims

November 03, 1997|By Carl T. Rowan

WASHINGTON -- Nushawn Williams was despicably criminal in having unprotected sex with dozens of New York state girls and women after he knew that he was infected with the deadly AIDS virus. He was a devout criminal who apparently hung out near the high school in Mayville, N.Y., seducing many female students who would give him sex for drugs. And, after he drifted into New York City, this 20-year-old was able to charm dozens of adult females into having sex with him.

At latest count, health officials had identified at least 28 girls and women who had had sexual intercourse with Mr. Williams, some of whom are now infected with the virus that causes AIDS. And at least 70 other people live in fear because they have had sex with the females who slept with Mr. Williams.

Health authorities learned that Mr. Williams was virtually a one-man AIDS epidemic when he and some of his conquests were treated for syphilis.

Attempted murder

It is understandable, then, that many officials want Mr. Williams prosecuted on charges that include attempted murder.

But somewhere beyond justifiable rage and contempt for Mr. Williams lie some questions that we must face:

What's wrong with family life, even in a little town in western New York state, when a conscienceless predator could find so many schoolgirls willing to risk their lives by trading their bodies for drugs?

Is the answer as simple as the assertions made by some in Mayville that the girls Mr. Williams preyed upon were alienated from their families and trapped in loneliness and poverty?

And what percentage of women in New York City must be starved for sex to make it possible for an unkempt drug peddler to get some 75 of them to have sex with him, as Mr. Williams claims he did in just a few months?

Perhaps we have not faced up to the full horror of drug abuse in and around junior high and high schools. Even as this horror story erupted, the Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE) was reporting that in 1996 more U.S. students in the sixth through eighth grades admitted to using illicit drugs than was the case in 1995. PRIDE also reported that 11.4 percent of junior high school students used drugs once a month in 1996, compared to 10.9 percent in the previous year.

Drugs clearly play a major role in sucking kids into trouble. Here in Washington, police reported that 72 percent of juveniles arrested last August tested positive for marijuana compared with just 6 percent of those arrested in 1990.

Drug czar

White House drug czar Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey said at PRIDE's news conference that ''It's now literally at age 10 where you can see the onslaught of drugs.''

Perhaps we all had better face reality and move more boldly to protect school kids from the curse of drugs and drug peddlers. But who knows a ''bold'' approach that can succeed?

But almost as appalling as this story of school kids as druggies and sexual prey is the story of grown women becoming sex victims so promiscuously. It is not easy to pity adult women and regard them as total crime victims in this astonishing case of Nushawn Williams.

Carl Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 11/03/97

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