|Don Corley, as a scout leader, with one|
of his sex-abuse victims.
This moment in history, it seems, is when mankind will be forced to grapple with a child sexual abuse problem that is far worse than many of us imagined.
Since former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested in early November and charged with molesting at least eight boys over a 15-year period, we have seen a constant stream of stories about sexual horrors perpetrated on children.
Many of the stories have centered on boys and athletics--in Syracuse University basketball, Canadian hockey, AAU basketball, and even sports journalism. But the problem hardly is limited to those who prey on boys through sports. Here in Alabama, former teacher and church leader Daniel M. Acker Jr. has admitted to molesting 21 girls since the early 1990s
Just last week, we learned of two new cases. One, involving an elite hockey coach in Ukraine, was connected to sports. The other, involving two men in Johnson City, Tennessee, was not.
What has all of this taught us? For one, it's not just an American problem; it is international in scope. For another, the problem is hard to grasp because many victims are unwilling or unable to speak out. Some victims fear they will not be believed. Others fear they will bring shame to themselves or their families. For some, the psychological trauma is so severe that they struggle to function, haunted by depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship problems, and thoughts of suicide. For others, memories of the abuse are repressed, causing statutes of limitations to pass before law-enforcement officials can even try to take action.
One victim with ties to Alabama has found his voice--and he is using the Web to share his story. Jason Lee, a 36-year-old former Birmingham-area resident, was molested repeatedly over a five-year period. Charles Donald Corley, a respected leader in Boy Scouts and at Trinity United Methodist Church in Homewood, was convicted in 1995 of molesting Lee and two other boys.
"The bottom line is, I was just a kid and he used me as a sex toy," Lee told The Birmingham News.
Corley, who was 45 at the time of his conviction, received a 30-year sentence. But he comes up for parole on January 31. Lee and other victims have established a Web site, 30is30.com, to tell their stories and push for Corley to serve his full sentence.
Visitors to 30is30.com can click on "One Victim's Testimony" and learn about Lee's experience. It is compelling reading, to be sure:
I think there are two kinds of child molesters. One is the trench-coat-wearing, playground-stalking, child-stealing kind of person. He’s quick and violent. The other kind is the serial molester--he embeds himself in the community, wins the trust of families and children, and abuses that position of power to commit the molestation. Don Corley is the second type.
After my parents split up when I was 12, he saw my pre-teen vulnerability, befriended my family and presented himself as someone who could be a father figure to me. I was invited to hang out at his house, go on vacations with him, babysit his children. I won’t get into the details, but the molestation started under the pretense of trying to “educate me” on sexual issues. I was young enough and naive enough to believe him.
Lee says the abuse continued until his senior year at Homewood High School. Upon graduation, he went to a university two states away and tried to put the past behind him. But the Homewood Police Department contacted him one day, and Lee decided to open up:
After I left town, Don Corley finally made a move on a boy who had sense enough to say no, and to tell his parents. The parents did the right thing and contacted the police. The police investigated, and every stone they unturned seemed to lead to more and more information. If I remember correctly, the police informed me that they had identified 42 victims over a 25 year period, in a trail leading from California to Alabama.
They believed there were more victims out there, but had to take the investigation to the next level. Some victims didn’t want to go public with their story. Some victims were not open to talking to the police at all. Some victims wanted to press charges, but the statute of limitations had run out and they were unable to. In the end, three boys pressed charges, and I was one of them.
Jason Lee is not just hoping that his abuser serves a full prison sentence. He is taking steps to help make it happen. From 30is30.com:
I don’t want your money--I want your time. Please take 15 minutes to write a letter and tell the Parole Board of Alabama that you would like for Don Corley to serve his time--to stay in jail for his full sentence and not be granted parole. Better yet, print out one of our petitions and get as many people as you can to sign it and mail it to the Parole Board. Of course, the best I can hope for is that you do both.
That 15 minutes you can give towards this cause would really make a difference. Help us keep Don Corley in jail. Share your thoughts on the subject with the Alabama Parole Board and help keep an admitted child molester off our streets. . . .
I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
How can you help? You can take the first step by clicking here.
You can view several segments of an interview with Don Corley by clicking "From the Molester's Mouth" at 30is30.com. In the following segment, Corley says knowledge is the key for citizens to address the "dark side" that might be among them: