The following column, written by journalist and fellow Survivor Amanda Beam, was featured on July 17, 2012 in the online edition of the News & Tribune from Jeffersonville, Indiana and is reprinted with the author’s permission. Amanda’s column can be found every Tuesday at www.newsandtribune.com.
I’ve always said everyone has a story. Most often, you just have to ask the right questions to discover it. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to tell the tale on your own accord without those inquiries being solicited.
In the news recently, two stories have come to light that certain cowards wanted to keep hidden in the shadows. People decided to ask questions too late. One is the Penn State scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
The other is about a California man named William Lynch.
On May 10, 2010, Lynch walked into a Los Gatos retirement home and allegedly beat 65-year-old retired Catholic priest Jerold Lindner. But Lindner wasn’t any ordinary priest. Through the years, more than a dozen people, including members of his own family, have accused Lindner of child molestation.
Thirty-seven years ago, Lynch maintains he and his brother were victimized. According to the now 44-year-old Lynch, the priest violently sodomized he and his brother at a church summer camp. He also claims Lindner forced the boys to perform explicit sexual acts on one another. They were 7 and 4 years old.
By the time Lynch confessed the purported atrocities to law enforcement more than two decades later, the statute of limitations had expired. Lindner remained free and never would serve any jail time.
Lynch’s story is unfortunately not unique. A 2009 Clinical Psychology Review study estimated 19.7 percent of females and 7.9 percent males worldwide have suffered from child sexual abuse. Many researchers believe the prevalence is actually much higher. Due to the social stigma, fear and shame of the abuse, a high proportion of children and adults never report the crimes.
Whether if anyone ever questioned these relationships, or if the children’s pleas and assertions were ignored, we’ll never know. Many of the stories remain untold.
But somehow, even in silence, the poison bubbles to the surface and permeates the lives of the survivors. You feel hate. You feel despair. And, at times, you want to destroy the person who made you feel so worthless and ashamed. Lynch felt that anger and acted on it.
I never got the chance.
More than a decade ago, the man who molested me for four years as a child died. It began when I was a preschooler and continued until I believe third grade. I say believe because I really don’t know. I can remember at least 30 different times. It makes me sick so I stop. I know there are more. I just don’t want to deal with that at the present.
For the following nine years, I had regular contact with my perpetrator. He continued to verbally berate and try to exert control over me, although the sexual aspect stopped.
And, until I was 17, I told no one. Even then, only my high school boyfriend knew. I opened up to more people about the abuse later on. I still hope my silence didn’t cost any more children their innocence. But with a recidivism rate ranging anywhere between 10 to 50 percent, many of these criminals don’t just stop. They adapt.
During a counseling session in college, the psychologist asked me if I wanted to kill the man who had done these acts to me. I said no. I thought it was the Christian thing to not want revenge. As I grew older, I realized I had lied.
If I had the chance without any legal retribution, I would have kicked the living hell out of that animal. I would have done exactly what some purported Lynch did in that retirement home. But the laws, and either my own conscience or something else, stopped me.
That’s not bad. Violence begets violence. Revenge should be restricted to the confines of the legal code.
The man who hurt me died a cruel, long death. I was never sorry for his suffering or his passing. His pain, in my mind, was God’s earthly retribution. After years of pretending to be normal, I was relieved to get rid of the burden. However, his death didn’t remove the psychological scars the abuse caused over all those years, nor the weight of my secret.
At the age of 37, I’m hoping this confession might finally do that. At least a little. These monsters obtain power from silence. They feed their sick urges in its shade.
The only way to stop their destruction, and to start healing, is for the survivors of their acts to tell their stories.
When I was a child, my voice was taken from me. I will never lose it again.
I ask for others who survived sexual abuse to find their voices. It’s difficult, I know. But we need to come together and tell the young men and women who are facing the same struggles that they are not alone. We need to shout loud and clear and break the walls that protect the molesters. And we need to bear witness to our sorrows so that, in time, we might also find some inner peace.
At the beginning of July, a jury found Lynch not guilty of several assault counts stemming from the aforementioned case. They were hung on an additional lesser charge, and the prosecutors have decided not to seek a retrial.
Lynch maintained throughout the ordeal that he only wanted to bring awareness to Lindner’s alleged past assaults as well as highlight the problem of child sexual abuse. He accomplished both these goals. I hope he now finds some relief.
I only have one goal to accomplish. I just want the truth to emerge for all. And I want to ask, to all those who have held these secrets for so long, what’s your story?