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November 21st, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Goldie Taylor: Finding the courage to tell the story of my abuse

Editor’s note: Goldie Taylor is an Atlanta-based cable news contributor, author and columnist. She is managing editor of The Goldie Taylor Project and CEO of the advertising agency Goldie Taylor OmniMedia.

By Goldie Taylor, Special to CNN

1984.

It was supposed to be the best year of my life. I was at the top of my class and got my first car, a 1974 Ford Mustang.

But it was also the year that I was repeatedly molested by a school football coach. Twenty-six years later, just when I thought I had neatly folded and tucked it away for good, I am still battling shame and guilt.

A few days ago, I found a copy of the grand jury report detailing allegations of child rape against a former Penn State University football coach on the Internet. The first few paragraphs left me speechless. I tried again and again to read it. But I couldn't get past the first several pages. I laid the document on my coffee table and went for a walk. It was after midnight and the streets were empty. Alone with myself under the soft glow of streetlights, I began to weep.

Why didn't anybody stop him? How, I asked, did he get away with it for so long? Why didn't the children, some of them now grown men, speak out?

I was waiting for answers I already had.

Sexual abuse, whether the perpetrator is a relative or another adult, all too often goes unreported. In fact, according to National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center, rape is the most underreported crime in America.

I never told anyone.

Over a period of months, I was molested on and off school grounds, given drugs and alcohol to numb the pain.

First came confusion and fear, then shame and guilt. Decades later, I am still dealing with the vestiges of that guilt. Not for what he did to me, but not having the courage - the force of character - to stop him even when I knew there were others.

When it started, I was an A-student with designs on attending an Ivy League university. By the time it was over, I had dropped out of school altogether. Maybe I asked for it, I told myself. No one seemed to notice that I was slipping away. I never told my mother, never went to school administrators or counselors, never told my pastor, never called police.

I just let it go. I tried to convince myself that if I tried hard enough, it would all go away. Nobody needed to know.

Years ago, I re-enrolled in high school and enlisted in the Marine Corps. In the time since, I've been a working journalist, political consultant and an executive with Fortune 500 companies and global public relations agencies. But for all of that, I'm still re-building. I'm still trying to find my way home.

Until a few days ago, it was a private piece of pain I kept tucked away. Afraid of being shunned, of losing the career I worked 25 years to build, afraid of what my now grown children would think about me.

Then I read the rest of the grand jury report. What was immediately clear is that, if true, there was a culture of enablers surrounding Jerry Sandusky. There were too many people who suspected, knew of or outright witnessed his sexual depravity. While there are eight victims in the report, chances are - according to criminal behaviorists - there are many, many more.

I learned during a Sunday afternoon Twitter chat that Sandusky planned to fight the charges, which meant calling his victims to the witness stand. My chest tightened, my jaw clenched. A wave of anger, unlike any I had ever felt, swept over me.

While clearly Sandusky deserves legal counsel and should have his day in court, the very notion that his alleged victims would have to publicly re-live their torment tore at me. At that very moment, I wanted them to know that they weren't alone.

Somebody, I said, oughtta say something.

And so I began to write.

"At first I was angry that #PSU officials covered it up," I typed. "Now, I'm ashamed that I never had the courage to tell my own story."

Later, I tweeted: "Breaking my silence."

By the time a CNN producer called that afternoon, my decision had already been made. I needed a "safe harbor," I told her. Telling my story, even to my friend and colleague Don Lemon, was a deeply emotional thing. Afterward, in the corner of the studio, I broke down and sobbed.

There was no turning back. I knew that, once and for all, I would have to deal with a trauma I thought I'd long since buried.

The truth is it was never buried. I've been cloaked in coat of shame every day of my adult life. On my way to the studio, I received the unfortunate news that my abuser is still teaching and coaching - high school. Girl's track. I read the glowing report of his accomplishments on the Internet.

Although there is no statute of limitations for rape in Missouri, I do not plan to press charges or seek any other legal recourse, civil or criminal. My motive is giving others an opportunity to speak out, and to let him feel the shame I've felt all of these years. In the coming days, I plan to contact school officials in Missouri. I will share my story with them directly.

And then, I am going to move on. And make this year the best year of my life.

The opinions expressed on this commentary are solely those of Goldie Taylor. The school district where the assistant coach was most recently employed completed its investigation. To date, no other accusations have been made. The original school district where the alleged incident occurred released a statement reassuring students and parents it has strict policies against inappropriate conduct.

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Filed under: Gender • Women
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. monk

    inasmuch as you mentioned it, you should have the courage to follow up. otherwise, it appears you are accursing a man with no ability to refute your claim. which makes you seemily guilty of slander.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Fl Medicaid Eligibility

    http://www.sandiegoblogspot.com/san_diego_news/san-diego-real-estate-market-turns-rental-property-boom

    January 20, 2012 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. Patty Short

    I'm so glad your 15 minutes of fame is up! I can't wait to see our District rehire this Coach who is in the Coaches Hall of Fame back to train the kids. I noticed you took his name off. Guess he is taking YOU to court for slander.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ZZ

    Death Penalty for all Child predators found guilty. Brutal, slow execution chosen by the victims. Broadcast on national TV during primetime. No chance to re-offend!

    November 22, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. NurseLisa

    Goldie – been there, had that done to me too. Was much younger but guilt and shame were still baggage to carry – till I became aware that I didn't have to forgive myself for being the abusee. One thing that helped the most, (besides telling it & working with a terrific social worker in my thirties) was reading the book "Strong at the Broken places" By Linda T. Sanford – so many of the stories mirrored my experiences and helped me see how to heal, Thanks for your bravery in putting a beautiful public face on an oft hidden crime that we have the power to prosecute. Educating children and protecting them by mandating reporting by all adults, and also offering of self to be a safe adult they can turn to if they're ever in trouble – we can stop the cycle.

    November 22, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  6. Ariel

    I'm also sorry that she's using your abuse to fuel her own book sales. She's an attention seeker who has no self respect. You people who have suffered at the hands of real abusers, are venting your own grief here and I appreciate that. I respect you and I have compassion for you, but this is not the Penn State case where mulitple people knew of abuse of little boys. This is a grown woman who can't seem to get her facts straight even though she claims to remember it as if it were yesterday. Many of her other claims are false as well. I know the accused in this case, and he is a good man. Read the comments from students and parents of students he has taught. Read comments from stltoday.com from the community. I call out Goldie Taylor as a liar and a fraud. Shame on you for making false accusations when there are so many people out there who are legitimately suffering.

    November 21, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patty Short

      AMEN! Leave this man alone. I can't wait to hire him back myself!

      December 6, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ariel

    This is completes BS. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? If you go on Goldie's website, you'll see that she's just out to make a buck on the Penn State tragedy. No one in the 30 years of teaching has ever accused him of doing anything inappropriate. Note that she accused the "football coach" of abusing her when he taught track and field. Also, please note that after she accused him, she said it was consensual. So, first it's abuse and then it's not. And she's telling us that a grown woman who is in the news media isn't confident enough to accuse him 10 or twenty years ago? Really...I find that hard to believe. She said in her blog that someone in her family abused her when she was four years old and then again when she was 12. Um? Wouldn't it be more important to out those people? Assaulting a four year old or twelve year old is much more heinous then consensually sleeping with a 16 year old – if indeed that really happened. What a fraud!

    November 21, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rainbo

    When I was in high school, I was playing hooky one day with two other girls when two male teachers pulled up in a car and took the other two girls away. At the time, I was perplexed as to why they didn't take me too because they both knew me. It was until recent years that I came to the realization that they were abusing those girls and probably knew that I would not have kept silent about it had they tried it with me. My only consolation is that this was the 1960's both were middle aged and if not already long dead, more than likely retired.

    November 21, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Danny Lee Shaw

    Thank you. I do hope you follow through with the school.

    November 21, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. LAURA

    So glad you can finally began the serious healing process and put this behind you. You will never forget but now you can
    live with it knowing that you did all you could to ensure he never hurt someone else and it goes unnoticed. love u

    November 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. chris bodemann

    Sorry to here ur terrible expereince as a young girl ,if he is still teaching young girls in sports he is and prob. has done this sort of thing many times and I would hope as soon as possible u would report him to the police Goldie . U can stop this pervert now before he dstroys another yong girls life . Please consider that option . Best Regards and God bless

    November 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Struggling still

    Dear Goldie, thank you for coming forward with your story. I am too a professional with wonderful things going my way with a deep troubling past. My first memory of the abuse occurred when I was about 4 years old. It was a the foot of the bed of my sleeping mother. She claims she never knew of the abuse and claims she was perplexed when encountering my bloody 4 year old panties. The details of it come and go in flashbacks, I hate them. I know he abused other children and know that since it occurred in a foreign country, it cannot be reported here.

    I am still struggling with what happened, with the guild it having provoked it (at four years old) and for the guilt of not having stopped it. I am glad you are on your way to recovery, I wish you the best, however, I urge you to stop this man from hurting others by filing charges. Later on, you may feel the even greater guilt of not stopping him when you could. The predators will, unless stopped, continue to irrevocably damage other innocent victims.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. A survivor

    Goldie,

    I am so glad that you spoke out. Keep speaking – don't stop. I first told someone 5 years ago at the age of 38 and I still struggle some today. I have come a long way on the healing journey, but I realize that it is life long. Most of my days are good ones now, but every so often I go through a bad stretch. Talking about it with a qualified abuse/trauma therapist has been invaluable.

    The shame is the abusers – absolutely; however when you have carried the shame for so long it takes a while to let it go. It is a process.

    November 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JOE

    I Know the Pain

    November 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jen

    As an 8 year old girl, my art teacher told my regular teacher that I was going to stay after class and help him clean up. When everyone left he would have me straddle his lap while he sat on this big brown chair and kiss me. I remember that chair and exactly where it was in that room. I never told anyone and to this day it kills me to think that he got away with it and there was no way I was the only one. I can only hope it never got worse with any other little girls. I still search for him on the internet. In a way, I wish I could find him teaching in a school so I could tell them to find out if anyone stays after class to clean up so maybe I could at least stop it from happening to someone else. Now, I have my own children and it terrifies me to think that someone could do something to them and they would carry that secret too.

    November 21, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Molly Brown

    I remember two male teachers from my childhood. They were charismatic, master manipulators. They knew how to relate to children and young women. After both were caught molestating young girls, they quietly left town and found other teaching jobs. Because many school districts need male teachers, very few of them were questioned before the Internet and google searches. A child or young adult is no match for these predators. I found it troubling that these two men also had wives who remained loyal throughout the job changes and relocations. I pray the Sandusky incident encourages rape and molestation victims to come forward. To hold these men and in some instances women accountable for their horrendous, evil acts. And to hold them accountable to the full measure of the law. Studies show many cannot be rehabilitated. They do and will continue to offend over and over again. By coming forward, perhaps you can stop their insanity and madness. Protect another innocent victim.

    November 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Ron in Iowa

    I was molested as a child and it had an impact on me as well. In my case, it was a baby sitter who was a family friend. One thing I wish I would have done is told someone.
    I will say, since there is no statute of limitations, I would still press charges. That is one sure way that this so called "teacher" can not do this again. It will effect his ability to keep or renew his teaching degree. He is obviously still in a position to have access and influence over young ladies. You need to pursue this to show your strength. And to make sure he sees that he no longer has any control over you, which in most cases of abuse is what they are trying to do.

    November 21, 2011 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  18. Painful Past

    Thank you for speaking up Goldie. The case had me sobbing all last week. Just posting this here anonymously is terrifying. I hate the fear. I am tired of letting the fear of him win. Enough is enough. My father molested me.

    Reading accounts of how the powerful men around Sandusky helped protect him instead of his victaims by turning a blind eye was so familiar. I spent my childhood hoping someone would step forward and help. I even told people about the physical and emotional abuse I knew of. No-one helped, my father was a rich, affluent man, I was clean, well dressed and had good grades. No-one helped. In the past few years old friends have come forward and apologized for not helping me. What could they have done? They were also children; powerless in the inaction of adults.

    It wasn't until my twenties when I began to remember the full extent of what my father had done. He climbed into my bed for the first time before I turned three. I know that because the first flashback I had I was transported back to his "office" where he held me down in a bed and did things I couldn't understand. When I tried to understand what I'd seen in that terrible moment by talking to my mother she explained why I would have been in that room. After she left when I was six months old I'd gone back to visit him at times. The room I had the memory in had been my nursery, he'd moved me to another room when I was three. I'd had no previous memory of that room being my nursery. It took me two more years and more horrible memories to accept he had molested me.

    The wave of people speaking up gave me a little courage to finally do something. I called a victim's advocate and the next day I spoke to the police in his town. I am still not sure if I'll make a formal report, but they know who he is. And they know what he did. That lets me sleep better at night knowing if someone else steps forward the police will know it wasn't his first victim.

    I'm a survivor. Years of therapy helped me get through it. But knowing my father has walked around all these years with no repercussions makes me sick inside. Many of the people speaking up are talking about people outside their family, yet the experts will tell you the perpetrator is often in the family. The stories telling parents how to spot a potential abuser are great. What I'd also like to see is articles telling people how to spot a child being molested or raped by his or her own parents. That is the true dark secret of our culture and it's time it saw the light of day.

    November 21, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  19. Courtney

    Thank you so much for telling your story and coming out with it, as much as it hurts it is better out then in. And in doing so you may have just helped some other people who were also to afraid to come forward. I am a divorced mother with a four year old little boy who just told me last week that his cousin molested him. And I DO BELIEVE him, I don't know where a four year old would come up with something like that. As parents you need to be there for your children and Teresa I am VERY sorry that you mother was not. But there are people out there who DO believe you and will hopefully be able to help you move on as well. I am truley hoping that after counsiling my son will be able to get past this and hopefully forget about it. Although he will NEVEV see that side of the family again.

    November 21, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  20. Teresa

    Too many times when the abused do come forward they are the one that is put on trial. When I did, I was told by my mother that I was a liar and she never wanted to see me again. She died last year, I never saw her again.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I would hope more of the boys molested by Sandusky come forward. I'd like to see them all in a room together so they can gather strength from each other. I'd like to see CNN do an interview with them, don't show there faces if they don't want them shown, show them from behind,. but show them! Maybe then Sandusky's lawyer will change his tune and plead out this case to save these now young men from further suffering.

    November 21, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  21. teremist

    Dear Goldie, The badge of shame given to you by your ATTACKER, was never yours to own. I was his, it IS his alone. Your silence was part of that badge of shame he wrongly gave you, in exchange for stealing your innocence and joy. He used it to place you in an emotional and spiritual prison, that would ensure he could continue to ATTACK others with impunity. He KNEW you could not tell. He counted on it. He knew he would have no consequences, he counted on that too. Not until he is prosecuted under the law will others be safe, and other victims able to speak out. Give the badge back to the one who owns it and deserves it.

    November 21, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |