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If sticks and stones can break your bones, what can words do?

By Sandy . . . A life has ended, the life of a man with a unique talent, a successful career, and, at 41, the expectations of a brilliant future. The circumstances are heart-wrenching but not unfamiliar.

Ed Piskor wrote what appears to be a suicide note on social media and was subsequently found dead on April 1, 2024. Nothing more is currently officially known about how he died. According to the New York Times, it was “. . . about an accusation of sexual misconduct that led a gallery in Pittsburgh to indefinitely postpone an exhibition of his work.”

Ed, a gifted comics artist, was the creator of, among other notable works, the “Hip Hop Family Tree” and “X-Men: Grand Design” and was scheduled for a five-month exhibition of his work, announced by Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to open April 6 at 707 Penn Gallery, an art gallery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was abruptly cancelled and announced to be postponed indefinitely after a woman made an accusation on social media that the artist had tried to “groom” her when she was 17.

An accusation. Nothing suggests an official complaint to the police, only an accusation; a rant; and words from what are purported to be his texts to her posted on social media.

That’s all it took. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust rushed to cancel his upcoming exhibition at the eleventh hour before it was due to open. Ed could see the handwriting on the wall. The ongoing social media pile-on of vitriol would have done nothing to give him any hope that he could receive a fair hearing on the subject.

As media coverage points out, he wasn’t under arrest. He was not charged with a crime. It is quite possibly doubtful if charges would have been filed even if an actual complaint had been made.

But that didn’t matter. It didn’t even matter whether the accusation was true or not. Any attempt he made to explain would have been ridiculed as his making excuses, his trying to justify his behavior, his trying to cover up his guilt.

Surely it was with this in mind that he wrote, “I’m helpless against a mob of this magnitude” and “Now it’s all gone. Art show evaporated . . . I have no friends in this life any longer. I’m a disappointment to everybody who liked me. I’m a pariah” and, as relayed through his agent Bob Mecoy, “. . . no matter what the circumstances were, what the truth of the situation was, his career was over, and what he had to offer would be objectionable no matter what he did . . .”

He ended his last message with “Sayonara.”

The next is total speculation and can easily be dismissed as coming from an over-imaginative writer’s brain.

What if . . . her accusation had been that he tried to kill her–or he tried to burn down her house–or he tried to overthrow the government? Would the railing against him have been so one-sided? Or would there have been an equal or greater number asking that she show some evidence, advising her to file a complaint with law enforcement? Would the Pittsburg Cultural Trust have so quickly shut down the upcoming exhibition? Or would they have announced a belief in innocent until proven guilty and bravely allowed the exhibit to open as announced?

But that wasn’t the case. The accusation was not for murder nor for arson nor for sedition; it was for sexual misconduct.

Back to reality:

This accusation alone is enough to destroy careers and end lives, figuratively if not literally.

Roy Price, abruptly removedfrom his position as the head of Amazon Studios due to a an accusation that never led to charges, can attest to that.

Cliff Hite, a senator in the Ohio legislature, resigned suddenly following a complaint from a woman that he engaged in “inappropriate behavior” with her.

Actor Ed Westwick was fired from his role in Ordeal by Innocence after allegations from several women, allegations that were never charged due to lack of evidence.

The revelation that one has a historic sexual offense conviction is a death knell wherever it sounds.

It kept Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame, from continuing a political involvement career path—40 years after the misdemeanor sexual incident for which he served a few months in jail.

It destroyed the aspirations of college athlete Luke Heimlich, a “shoo-in” for the MLB draft and a projected brilliant professional baseball career—until a newspaper found and “outed” his juvenile sexual offense.

In a case very similar to Ed’s, it caused a Maine art gallery to remove works of art by Bruce Habowski after he was identified as having, at some previous point in time, been listed on Maine’s sex offender registry.

Allegation of any of a dozen crimes will be met with, “Where’s your proof?” “What evidence do you have?”

Allegation of any of dozens of sexual offenses or inappropriate behavior has immediate and long-lasting consequences, destroying careers; ruining futures; even taking lives.

We were all taught, “. . . words can never hurt you.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sandy Rozek

Written by 

Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.

12 Thoughts to “If sticks and stones can break your bones, what can words do?”

  1. AvatarChuck

    Ed was a member of the comics community that I also beam part of. I did not know him, but quite a few of my friends did. He will be missed. The media, both social and news, attacked him. So sad.

    1. AvatarRon

      There doesn’t have to be such drastic measures. If one has hope and enough people around you, you can overcome. Life will never be the same as long as you remain in the U.S. Your doomed to achieve any dreams you had. Especially like acting or other personal activities. Move to another Country. Europe is about the only place one can live a somewhat decent life off any registry.
      Some Countries are cheap to live in. Spain is one of them. If your young and have a specialized trade there are many, many jobs in Germany and other Countries. Just give it a try. You’ll be glad you did. Visit commonsenselaw see what a difference that can make in one’s life. Good lick.

  2. Avataredward Sanders

    That were 2 of the best articles I have read from NARSOL about registered Citizens.
    If I may add, there are a lot more citizens contemplating suicide because of the below an Americans standard attitude. Can’t find a job,hold a house, can’t travel,etc. But yet, you see your neighbors who are drug dealers,murderers, or Even terrorists against there own government,and they don’t get treated as bad as our class of citizen does.
    In the next few years the US GOVERNMENT will indeed start taking heat of hundreds or thousands of registered citizens began suicide.
    I was in Military for 24 years, was on active duty, got convicted, tried by my peers, stayed on active duty. But this year I was denied access to a military base because of my conviction that happened 20 years earlier and had been through military court and retained,until I honorably retired in 1998. In 2024 I can no longer enter a us military installation.
    I am in agreement, something needs to be done…….

    Edward Sanders

  3. AvatarMaureen C Mahaney

    It is disheartening to see people willing to judge others so quickly with very little factual information. So much talent and contribution go untapped because we label people as if that is the only dimension to their life. I wish more people lived by the quote from Bryan Stevenson — I believe that each person is more than the worst thing they’ve ever done.

  4. AvatarBrian

    So true. After what I have gone through I try to educate people of the fact that all it takes is an allegation. If a woman or child says you did something then by God it has to be true bc they would never lie. Men are predators so we know it has to be true.
    All the pain caused by people who are your best friends 1 minute and then despise you the next. So sad. So sad. People are so shallow.

  5. AvatarAj

    It’s a shame that at my age (72) and the 15 years i served my country, in the belief, that America was the best in the world. The actions leading up to this persons suicide, has shown me, just the opposite. Many will say, “no loss, he was a sicko” or some other crap. But depression strikes us all, it knows no boundries, and with the registry, we all walk hand in hand with it, and it is a constant shadow with us.
    America will not see the error of it’s ways, untill something or someone does something to bring attention to it. A death by suicide here or there will never do it.
    America did nothing to fight terrorism untill 2001. When terrorists attacked the world trade center. (Which was the worlds wallet.) We lost 200+ marines in Lebanon in the 80s and did nothing.
    But loose billions we go to war.
    Maybe 970,000 individuals should go to war.

  6. AvatarDiane

    Thst sticks & stones quote was made in a long ago time of innocence before the sex offense hysteria. At least with sticks & stones you have a chance of healing with medical care. Words, especially in online posts, never heal. The damage outlives you. Bruises fade but a damaged reputation never does.
    I heard the most chilling but true statement made by one of the Mississippi men tortured by police. He said, “They killed me, I just didn’t die”. That is so true for people accused of anything sex crime related.

  7. AvatarChristian

    The judgements are real and the consequences of those judgements are real and life impacting. In my case, I sadly did commit the crime. I was punished and served my sentence. No complaints from me on that. But even years after what took place, I have been barred from local restaurants and even lost one of my company’s suppliers because they found a post about me on the internet. Prior to their knowledge, I had great relationships with all involved and there was never a hint of impropriety. I just wanted to run my business and have some social outlets in my community. Nope. People don’t want the whole story. They just want to overreact, not realizing the harm that they themselves are creating.

  8. AvatarDouglas Martinez

    In my state (Tennessee) the state supreme court just ruled that only an accusation backed by one witness which includes the accuser is required to be convicted of any crime. Again First Sting’s Postulate has struck again.

    First Sting’s Postulate: First they came for the sex offenders….

  9. AvatarJoyce Howard

    Yet they are grooming children all across the country with porn in the school libraries! If I read one of those books to a child on a park bench, I’d be arrested and jailed! It’s just not right, what has happened to Mr. Pastor and so many others and to what our government is doing to our children!

  10. AvatarScott

    In the usa, many are ok with men pretending to be women and competing in womens sports. Kids are identifying themselves as animals, tv commericals show women shaving their crotches, they push condoms in commercials, sell meds for ED, they advertise pads for mentruation and incontenance, we use sex advertising for anything so that they can push their products. But, when a Man looks at a woman in a way percieved as out of the oridinary they are veiwed as predators. And NO ONE is ever allowed to make a mistake when it comes to anything sexual and theu are attacked by Law Enforcement, Politicians, the average person and the Media….what is wrong with the people in the USA, are we being influenced by a super natural malevolent forces? Are theses the signs of the end of days? Hmm, who knows…

  11. AvatarJim

    If enough of us suicided them back the registry would end.

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