“Two champions who stepped out of the shadows, shined a light on the the dark secret of child sexual abuse and showed us how to understand it and begin to heal.”
Gary Smith on heroes Kayla Harrison & R.A. Dickey in this week’s Sports Illustrated cover story: “Speak up, Speak out”
The latest: What we’re up to...and why.
“I had planned my exit strategy during the lockout — that took a lot out of me, and I thought (the 2011-12 season) would be it,” he said. “But it wasn’t just my friends and relatives opposed to me retiring, it was my wife, my kids, my pastor.
“I never felt so isolated before, and it was like a big conflict at home. Even my agent waved (dismissively) at me. I was like a kid who couldn’t get his way, and didn’t know how to handle it.”
Dooling, 32, signed the deal to make everybody happy. But his behavior became erratic, his cognition faltered. A public incident in front of his home, where a neighbor believed he was playing too roughly with his own children, led to a visit from the police.
“And when the cops came to my house, it just set me over the edge,” Dooling said. “But that’s all I can remember.”
His next lucid moment — this was after the medication wore off — was at a psychiatric hospital in South Florida. And it was there that Keyon was told by his wife, Natosha, that it was time to explain how this finest of men — a pro’s pro for 12 NBA seasons (two with the Nets), a deeply spiritual family man, and a superb father — could be dragged out of their house in handcuffs in front of their four children.
“We’ve known each other since we were 15,” Natosha told her husband. “And you’ve never hidden anything from me before. I need to know now how we got to this point.”
“So,” Keyon said, “I told her what I had kept hidden since I was 5 years old.”
It was at that age that Dooling was first sexually molested — by a male, teenaged friend of his older brother.
“It happened … many times,” he explained, “and also with young ladies in my neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale. I was so young I didn’t consider that part abuse, because I thought I was just hanging with the in-crowd. But it was something I suppressed all my life.”
If you express shock at the torment he has carried for 27 years — and the post-traumatic stress that triggered the meltdown in August — Dooling responds like this: “But I’m grateful it happened, my man — because now I have to deal with it, and now I know it’s my time to help others deal with it.”
He was driving down from Boston on Friday morning as we spoke, heading toward John Jay College in Manhattan, where they were holding the annual International MaleSurvivor Conference. Joe Ehrmann, the former Colts tackle from the ’70s — also a minister and abuse survivor — was to deliver the keynote.
Dooling wasn’t sure which part of the symposium he’d address, and he knows the details of his story are excruciating — just Google his appearance on the Katie Couric show last week — but he feels obligated to share it.
This is his reason:
“I always felt destined to do something important,” he said. “My basketball career wasn’t the one I wanted to have — I was a lottery pick, I had great potential, but I didn’t necessarily reach the level I wanted to as as ballplayer.
“But this is a time when I must maximize my potential as a man and as a human being. I know that now.”
That’s the thing that strikes you hardest, if you know him — which, clearly, nobody really did. But of all the guys who had passed through Jersey these past 30 years, he was a special one, and it had little to do with talent. It had to do with two other traits, which made others gravitate toward him: wisdom and attitude.
He could turn a losing locker room into a pep rally inside of five minutes. He could turn a dour, baffled coach into someone who understood his team better with a single conversation.
When we asked Vince Carter during the worst of times how he kept his sanity, he pointed at the Nets teammate wearing No. 51 and said, “Right there — he does it for me.” When it came time to choose a No. 2 man for the NBA Players’ Association, his peers voted Dooling first vice president.
When the Celtics spent a third year debating the merits of moving chronic irritant Rajon Rondo, they instead made him Keyon’s Project, and now Rondo is a top-three point guard who probably will retire in Boston.
That is the effect Dooling has on people, which is why the Celtics put him right back on the payroll as “Player Development Coordinator.” Basically, he’s a peer mentor, but he’ll be around the basketball ops side to learn from Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers. It’s also the kind of job that will leave time to do what he thinks he was destined to do.
“He can help a lot of people and a lot of kids,” Natosha said. “That’s what’s important now.”
The work already is in overdrive. Since the Couric show aired, Dooling has received “thousands of e-mails and texts,” and they come from every corner of the country, from every kind of community, from every race and religion and age group.
“You know, when I was in Jersey, that was my hardest period — I lost my dad, I had hip surgery, and we lost a baby,” Keyon recalled. “I knew I was on borrowed time, but I still loved the game, and I felt I had to play.
“So you know I can’t run from this. I’ve never been a runner, I always stand for what’s right. I can’t lie: I thought this phase of my life was supposed to be more about me — pursuing a business, working my way up the NBA ladder in some way. And that’s still doable.
“But people are reaching out to me now, and God is using me to have a bigger impact on the world.”
For Chris Gavagan, the ongoing Penn State football child sex abuse scandal looks all too familiar. A Brooklyn-based filmmaker, Gavagan is working on Coached Into Silence, a documentary about sexual abuse in sports that includes interviews with experts, victims, and a roller hockey coach Gavagan claims abused him when he was a teenager.
To understand how Penn State fits into the larger context of sexual abuse by coaches—as well as how the university’s leaders could display what the Freeh report termed a “total disregard for the safety and welfare of Jerry Sandusky’s child victims”— I recently spoke with Gavagan for an Atlantic online Q&A about the report, Joe Paterno and where the school goes from here.
Below are additional, previously unpublished items from that interview: The Penn State board said it accepts “full responsibility” for failures that occurred, yet only one board member has stepped down. Paterno’s family and lawyers for other Penn State officials insist they did nothing wrong. How common is that kind of reaction from the people and organizations responsible for children’s welfare when wrongdoing and cover-ups are exposed?
With a Federal investigation still ongoing, much of this story is yet to be told. In general, institutions have adopted the deny what you can, admit what you must strategy. In one of the cases in the film, it was only after the coach who made a school a powerhouse for 30 years passed away that the school acknowledged that there were credible reports of sexual abuse of students. Not so coincidentally, this acknowledgment occurred after the statute of limitations on these crimes had passed.
In many cases, you also see similar “cherry-picked” information, such as Penn State’s decisions being made based on Seasock’s psychological report, rather than Dr. Chambers’ report. Loyalists who will back up the school’s version of events are pushed to the forefront, while those who line up against them are discredited.
Still, one need only look at each individual Olympic national governing body, sport by sport, to see the gamut of reactions to allegations of sexual abuse. Sometimes when a high profile program — USA Swimming, USA Gymnastics — is exposed for having ‘mishandled’ sexually abusing coaches within their ranks, those programs have learned from their mistakes, adopting a more proactive stance toward prevention. Many other institutions have responded by reexamining their own policies regarding, among other things, the mandated reporting of child sexual abuse.
Based on what you’ve seen in other cases, what do you expect the ultimate outcome of the legal process to be? Will people besides Jerry Sandusky go to jail?
Anything can happen when a case is handed over to a jury, but from the evidence that has been made public via the grand jury and the Freeh report, it appears quite clear that [Penn State athletic director] Tim Curley and [vice president Gary] Schultz perjured themselves. It is also clear, in denying any knowledge of the 1998 incident involving Sandusky, that Joe Paterno himself lied to the Grand Jury.
Were the coach alive today, I do believe that after the release of the Freeh report there would have been no way for him to avoid being charged with perjury.
What are the most important lessons Penn State can draw from the Freeh Report? What are the most important lessons society can draw?
For society as a whole, I think the most valuable way to see the Freeh report is as a dye-injected MRI through which we can learn more about a disease — the disease of willful institutional silence regarding the sexual abuse of children.
The has report has given us a clearer — though still imperfect and incomplete — picture of how a coverup like this can and does occur so often. It illustrates the positions where the decisions are made, the thought processes that led to those decisions and how very bright people chose to take the legally and ethically wrong path.
What steps can and should Penn State take now and in the future to prevent this from happening again, and also to address the damage done to Sandusky’s victims?
A change in the culture surrounding Penn State is a must, which is much, much easier said than done when the defining moment of a university’s week includes over a hundred thousand screaming “We Are …”
Having met many residents of State College and nearby Bellefonte throughout the course of the trial, I have seen people who are already having to come to grips with the complicated relationship between the geographical area and the university. As one elderly, dyed-in-Navy-and-White supporter told me “Love the Lion, hate the lies.” I admire that. And to that end, no less than full disclosure will do. I am all in favor of an international style truth and reconciliation commission
The soil in State College will remain toxic until the entire truth comes out. Until that time, the foundation is cracked. To build upon a foundation of lies, as shown so clearly in the Freeh report, only guarantees your eventual collapse.
As someone who has been a victim of coach sex abuse, how did the Freeh Report affect you emotionally? Do you have any insight into the sort of emotional impact the report’s release might have on other victims, including those of Sandusky?
Preproduction on Coached into Silence began in the Spring of 2009, with with the first interview shot in November of 2009. That means that through our research and ongoing filming, we have lived with all aspects of the sexual abuse of children by coaches every day for three years. Even more personally, I have dealt with life after sexual abuse for the last 20 years. Far from being jaded by being steeped in this issue so deeply for so long, through the anguish of every victim that I speak to the loss is made fresh and real all over again.
The Freeh report, when coupled with what will likely amount to a life sentence for a highly-respected and powerful man who used his position to prey on children, provides a measure of empowerment in seeing that (a) the victims were (eventually) believed; and (b) consequences are occuring.
When it comes to the unbelievably courageous young men that took the stand and faced their abuser — as well as all other unnamed victims of Jerry Sandusky that will never have their photographs projected on a screen in the Centre County courthouse — my hope is that the verdict brought them hope.
What I know is that somewhere, sleeping peacefully in their bed the night the verdict was handed down, the next victim of Jerry Sandusky just gets to be a child instead. No thanks to the powerful men who ran Penn State — who would have sacrificed that boy on their pigskin altar — but with all credit to those courageous young men who took the stand, who looked the devil in the face and spoke the truth in Bellefonte, PA.
Should the school end its football program? Why or why not?
Many will speak of the unfortunate athletes who would lose the opportunity afforded by their scholarships. My heart goes out to any innocent party that could be counted as collateral damage of this coverup, but the responsibility for the trickle down effect of these crimes lies with those who committed, enabled and covered them up, not those who hand out justice for those crimes.
In my opinion, if children have been raped on your campus, on your watch, you forfeit the right to carry on playing games until a complete overhaul in the way that you do business has been achieved. Calling a billion dollar football-industrial-complex a game may seem naive, but contrary to the prevailing attitudes, that is still what football is.
I don’t believe the program should be ended. Suspension for a period of years? I believe that the NCAA will weigh in very harshly over violations of the Clery act alone.
(Editor’s note: interview was conducted before the NCAA’s levying of penalties on Penn State football).
An institution such as Penn State has learned the hard way that they must bring the same the same transparency, the same level of vigilance, the same strict enforcement to crimes committed on their campus as they have tried to bring to NCAA violations. As detailed in the Freeh report, when labeling a sports agent who bought one of their football players $400 worth of clothing “persona non grata” and banning him from campus, Spanier and his cohorts acted like Michael Corleone. When they were faced with one of their own raping children on their hallowed grounds, when it mattered most … they were Fredo.
The investigation was deep in the places that it dug, but it was not nearly wide enough to tell anything approaching the full story. The bulk of this story, and it’s corresponding missing 30 years, is still to be told.
Yesterday former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky waived his right to a preliminary hearing. He’s been charged with 27 felony counts of child sex abuse. Witnesses were to detail their versions of the alleged incidents, but Jerry Sandusky’s attorney said the hearing would have given Sandusky’s accusers a chance to publicly rehash allegations. Join us for a discussion of the latest developments in the Penn State case and its broader implications
editor, The Patriot-News
associate professor, Columbus School of Law The Catholic University of America
director of clinical services, Childhelp's Alice C. Tyler Village,a residential treatment center
filmmaker, currently directing a documentary on sex abuse in sports, "Coached Into Silence"
associate professor director, Sexual Behavior Consultation Unit Johns Hopkins University
New York Times article ”Coaching Gives Abusers Opportunity and Trust” Chris Gavagan, a filmmaker who is making a documentary on sexual abuse in sports called “Coached Into Silence,” based largely on abuse he said he endured from a youth hockey coach starting when he was 14, is among those who believe the problems for boys in sports are much larger than suspected. Not only does it happen more than people want to think, he said, but the culture of sports works against a child trying to report it.
“Sexually abused boys are going to be the most silent group,” Gavagan said, adding that the allegations involving Sandusky, if true, fit a familiar pattern.
“With the whole macho atmosphere of sports, it seems to be the perfect storm of circumstances,” he said. “There’s the cult of personality that keep these guys the kings of their little kingdoms, the sense of hero worship. The kinds of things Sandusky was offering those boys is every boy’s dream — trips to bowl games, going down on the field. It allows these things to go on for a long time. And when you don’t tell someone the first time it happens, you already feel complicit.”
Gavagan has become involved in the rush to respond to the allegations against Sandusky and Fine, including testifying in front of a Pennsylvania legislative committee supporting laws requiring people to formally report to the authorities any allegations of sex abuse.
Testimony before the Pennsylvania House Children and Youth Committee in support of increased mandated reporting of childhood sexual abuse & opening a “window” in the statute of limitations.
“I want to thank you all for being here, for convening this meeting, and for listening.
My name is Chris Gavagan and for the past two years I have been producing and directing a documentary called Coached into Silence which deals specifically with the sexual abuse of boys by their coaches. The silence referred to in the title is threefold: the silence of shame victims can find themselves shrouded in, the silence of institutions protecting themselves before children, and finally the legal silencing of the victims in their search for justice.
The process of first researching and then filming Coached into Silence, which is ongoing, would have been enough to make me a lowercase “e” expert on the subject of child sexual abuse, yet my expertise is of the decidedly capital “E” variety.
I am today because I am also an invisible, untabulated statistic. In my quest to be a better hockey player, having just turned fourteen years old, I skated down the wrong block in my neighborhood and into the carefully laid trap of a serial child molester. On this tree-lined street, a street just like yours, I would become the victim of an uncounted crime, perpetrated by a unaccountable criminal.
That day is the B.C./A.D line of demarcation in my life. My childhood ended on a Fall day in 1988 and that was that. I was exposed to everything that a parent would try to protect their child from. An adult world, a darker world, a world that is cruel and obscene. A world where you will be lied to and used, all the while being told that it was for your own good. One “It’s okay to curse here, we’re all guys” at a time. One beer at a time. Or one dozen. One Playboy at a time. One glimpse of pornography at a time leading the way for a hundred more. One “massage” of a pulled muscle at a time. A child in the hands of a polished master manipulator, who had perfected his grooming process over decades.
Fifteen years ago I was certain that I would take this secret with me to the grave. I had resigned myself to a life as Damaged Goods. As someone who brought nothing but pain to anyone foolish enough to care. I had also resigned myself to life as a liar, because from the moment you first answer the question “Is everything okay?” with “Yes” you have lied about something that is fundamental. Those lies and the echoes from those years of abuse poisoned every single human interaction that I had for a decade. That I am not counted among the other statistics…the addicted, the incarcerated, the incapacitated or the suicides, is it’s own miracle.
The crimes that occurred in & around State College are appalling, heartbreaking andanything but unique. The nation as a whole seems to be paying attention because of the celebrity status of the names & institution involved. Yet the scale is always the same to the victims. The loss of innocence, the shattering of trust, the sense of betrayal, the shame…occupies every inch of its container. “Grief fills the room up of my absent child”, said Shakespeare. Both my parents & their youngest son would concur.
In directing & producing my film for the last two years our research has introduced us to thousands of similar cases. All that changes are the proper names for the actors, but the roles played are the same. The pedophile is no doubt the lead, but without the supporting actors this tragic show would have a very short run. Without the willful blindness of the Head in the Sand Ensemble, the “letter of the law” of the Moral Minimalists, the excuses proffered by the Apologists, the Moneymen jangling their thirty pieces of silver backstage, and the uncritical praise of the Hero Worshipers there would be no show at all.
The Sandusky horror show has made itself a Broadway performance of ‘How Not to Handle a Child Rapist in Your Ranks”, but trust this: the curtain rises on this disaster of dramaturgy in Community theaters, in every community, every night. All the world’s a stage for this particular play. In every place that there is a hierarchical structure and a chain of command to be followed…whether in schools or sports leagues, our churches to our military to our families themselves..bucks are being passed, free passes are being given and all in the name of protecting a reputation or a brand, a legacy or a surname.
In these cases, bystanders are the load-bearing walls of the child rapist’s house of horrors. Without their support, the crimes would collapse in on the criminal almost immediately. Instead, each head turned away, each excuse offered, each whispered benefit of the doubt that it was “just a one time thing” or worse…each willful coverup of a known crime adds up to a generation of children used, raped, sodomized and eventually disenfranchised and silenced by laws that failed to protect them in the first place.
The Law is supposed to function as a system of incentives, which incentivize us to behave responsibly, or face the system of accountability which is in place. It’s why we wear our seat belts. In fact it’s why we have them at all. So buckle up, I’d like to show just a few moments of interviews that I conducted with my own former coach and abuser. A man that I did report to the league to end his access to children. A league that did fire him, but did no more, allowing him unfettered access to a whole new crop of young boys, while coaching just six miles down the road. Prior to this interview, I had not had contact with him for nearly 15 years.
(I then played four minutes from interviews with my own abuser. His admitting sexual abuse and justifying it by calling it a “lesson”. His concern that doing this interview could put him in jail. His relieved laughter when the issue of New York’s statute of limitations—age 23—is raised, and then this man walking away, fading back in to his neighborhood.)
Coached into Silence is not a monster movie. The man that you met in that video would—to this day—be described by dozens of people around him as “the nicest guy you’ll ever meet” You’ve seen that face. There are no horns on that head. You’ve seen that smile; there no fangs among those teeth. Yet the sound that has persevered longest & recurred to me the most often in my life is those teeth. The sound of those dentures being removed.
The wet clicking sound of a serial child sexual predator moving in on his prey. When he was sure that a just-turned-fourteen-year old had consumed enough alcohol to pass out…after countless hours of shock & awe bombardment of pornography. After months of methodical grooming, semi-conscious, I looked down to see the bald head of my hockey coach…while the wet, clicking sound of dentures being removed boomed in my ears. It still does. It always will.
Because I eventually reported the man that you saw on that screen mere months beyond an arbitrary statute of limitations in my state, he—who explains performing oral sex on children as a lesson—lives freer than I have been any day since the age of fourteen.
I must add, that after sexually abusing children for a minimum of three decades, that man would also pass any background check in America. The law says: Unprosectuable, unregistered, unrestrained. His neighbors will not see a red flag on any registry warning them to keep their children away. Just as crucially, without the simple truth that victims of these crimes can so easily provide, law enforcement will continue be forced to fight these crimes blindfolded.
In the world of Homeland Security, the mantra “See something, say something” has gained traction and proven effective. Yet we are missing an entirely different and much more prevalent terrorism. When it comes to the crime of sexual abuse of our children, “See something, say something” has too often been replaced with “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” This is not good enough.
Maya Angelou writes: “History, despite it’s wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced, with courage need not be lived again. The key phrase is “if faced with courage”.
When a child’s future is hanging by a thread, there can be no margin for error. We must face the wrenching pain of what we see or suspect with courage—and make no mistake—the difference can mean life or death to a child
My documentary focuses on boys who were sexually abused by coaches because I was one of those boys. Life handed me and so many others that narrative, yet the statistics for girls are even more staggering.
Two days ago, my wife & I saw the face of our daughter for the first time, in utero.
We will meet her early this spring. When that day arrives, I need to be able to look into her eyes and know that I am doing everything that is humanly possible to keep her safe. Just as you need to be able to go home to your own children, to see your own nieces & nephews, your grandchildren….and look them in the eyes and know that you are facing this issue—with courage. That you are doing everything within the power your elected position provides to keep them safe. You must answer to those eyes. Today you are a step closer. You are facing this issue with courage today by being here, by convening this hearing, by lending us your ears and your attention this December day.
If protections are strengthened and bills become laws enacted, come springtime your courage to look at the tragedies surrounding Penn State and provide remedies can be the cause of the thaw that turns the tide of this epidemic forever.
Moral minimums will not do that. Passing the buck will not do that. Denial will not do that. Heads in the sand will not do that. Wishing it would go away will not make it so. The time is now to face these troubled and tragic histories with courage.
History is being written every day, with every choice. Every action & every inaction. You have the power to write a safer & more just future wherein you have demonstrated that the protection of our children is paramount. Where you have done better than the moral minimalists and their “I wish I had done more”s. You are all here today, and you are listening. That gives me hope that all of you; elected to serve the people of Pennsylvania, might use this tragic moment as an opportunity to do the right thing. By leading by example. By facing this with courage these dark days can be transformed into a light. If sunlight is the best disinfectant, the time is now to unshutter and open a window provision in your statute of limitations. Let the light of justice, the light of hope, and the light of truth lead the way.
Thank you for your time.”