How our abuser got away with it (NY Daily News)

“Powerful statement by survivors — why SOLs are unfair and protect predators” – Professor Marci A. Hamilton

How our abuser got away with it

Our legal system helped give Bill Conlin a pass

Bill Conlin — Philadelphia Daily News columnist for nearly a half-century, who passed away last month — was known to sports fans throughout the Northeast as a gifted writer and a consummate baseball fan.

We knew him as a serial pedophile predator who abused both boys and girls over the course of at least three decades. He sought out his innocent, trust-filled victims on and around the beaches of Margate City, N.J., where his nickname was “Slick Willie,” and in his close-knit neighborhood of Whitman Square, N.J.

His targets were not strangers. They were family members, his friends’ children and his children’s friends.

We were among them. At the time Conlin abused us, we were between 7 and 11 years old. His crimes ranged from aggravated sexual assault through digital genital penetration to criminal sexual contact via inappropriate sexual touching.

How this man got away with his disgusting crimes over the course of so many years is a cautionary tale for families and communities seeking to root out the scourge of sexual predators in their midst.

The first lesson is in personal and group psychology.

Countless adults knew that Conlin was a pedophile. Yet, for more than 40 years, no one went to the police.

Why? Conlin was a sadistic and vengeful man. He was a master at using his large stature, his prestige, his access to sports stars and sporting events and his wealth to prevent his victims (and his victims’ families) from reporting his crimes.

Obviously, most predators don’t wield this type of influence — but many find other ways to quietly intimidate those who might report crimes against children in real time.

As we grew from children to adults, the abuse we had endured remained seared in our memories. We were no longer victims, we were survivors.

We promised ourselves that we would do everything possible to protect our own children. We warned them about evil, sick predators like Conlin. We also taught them about accountability, that there were consequences for their actions. But in the back of our minds, each of us wondered if Conlin would ever be held accountable.

Which brings us to the second lesson: how the law perversely gives pedophiles a pass to commit their heinous crimes.

In late 2009, thanks to another survivor of Conlin’s crimes, three of us were brought together for the first time.

The rules of the game had changed completely. We were no longer vulnerable kids. We were now well-educated, successful, determined adults, and we had numbers.

Justice demanded that Conlin rot in jail for the rest of his life. So, in 2010, we took a leap of faith: We reported our abuse to law enforcement officials.

We were devastated when the Gloucester County prosecutor’s office investigation confessed to us via email: “We would love to find justice in this case. So many people have been victimized by this man, but our hands are tied by the law, which does not allow us to prosecute. ”

The statute of limitations had expired. We had waited too long to report Conlin’s crimes.

We didn’t want money. We wanted him exposed for what he was. We wanted his facade of fame and fortune to crumble in the face of what he had done to the young and most innocent of our society.

Then came the allegations against Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The ensuing media firestorm was the perfect time to finally expose Conlin.

We could have taken our story to any newspaper in the country — but we chose to go to The Philadelphia Inquirer, which just happened to be owned by the same company that had employed Conlin for decades.

True to form, Conlin made a last-ditch effort to prevent our accounts of the abuse from being published.

He failed. And it came as no surprise to us that, after our accounts were published, several other survivors came forward. Conlin’s lawyer immediately went to the airwaves, saying that Conlin “had engaged him to do everything possible to bring the true facts forward and to vindicate his name.”

Of course, that never happened. Our tormentor slinked off to Florida, where he lived out the rest of his life alone as a recluse, never to be heard from again.

We strongly urge every state legislature to remove the statutes of limitations for survivor of sexual abuse. Pedophiles like Conlin must not be permitted to use arbitrary time limitations to shield themselves from being held accountable for their crimes.

And we sincerely hope that by speaking out, we will embolden other survivors to find the courage to break their silence. It’s never too late to do the right thing.

Blanchet, Healey-Lange, Giusti and Norley say they were victims and are now survivors of Conlin’s abuse in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Giusti and Norley were previously anonymous.
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