A 71-year-old Waterville man holds a school photo of himself as a 6-year-old. The man, who asked that his name not be used, told the Morning Sentinel that he was sexually abused from age 6 until he was 12. He said the abuse began sometime after this school photo was taken. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

William sat in a comfortable chair by the fireplace in his large, beautiful house in Waterville, talking about the things he will take with him when he leaves.

There are the colorful steins lined up on the mantle, the books about Marilyn Monroe stacked on a shelf, photographs of his childhood, framed and lying on the coffee table.

At 71, William suffers from cardiopulmonary disease that his doctors say will cause his death. He is selling his house and everything in it, to move to a small apartment in a residential care complex.

“Last summer I started palliative care and they’ve given me a couple of years,” he said.

I’ve known William, not his real name, for several years, from covering various community events and activities he is involved in. He asked that I not use his actual name as he fears potential fallout if he is identified.

An articulate, intelligent man, William called me recently to say he wanted to tell his story before he dies and asked if I would be willing to share it. He felt an obligation, he said, to tell parents to pay attention to their children so they don’t experience the kind of trauma he endured as a child, from being sexually abused from age 6 to 12. The trauma would follow him into adulthood and affect everything he did in life.


“Watch out for your kids — that’s what this story’s all about,” he said. “It’s important to let kids know they can tell someone about it, and there’s no shame. I say to people in their 30s and 40s — it’s not going to get any better until you deal with it. There’s not enough alcohol in the world to erase it.”

William told nobody when, as a child growing up in a small town on the Maine coast, a 12-year-old neighborhood friend began paying attention to him when William’s own brothers wanted nothing to do with him and referred to him as a brat.

The boy sexually molested William for several years, during which time William’s two older brothers joined in, he said. He never dared to tell his parents or teachers about the abuse.

“I was always told if anybody finds out about it, we’d all be in reform school. I thought that for some reason I had done something to attract it. I thought it was my fault.”

All this happened as William’s family life appeared flawless to the outside world. His father was a respected business owner and they had a comfortable home in a nice neighborhood.

“We had everything. We had a camp at the lake. We were always the best dressed. It seemed like we had everything. But my parents had an unhappy marriage and it was just nuts all the time. Our house was so dysfunctional.”


William, who had always had good grades, started exhibiting behavioral problems. His teachers couldn’t figure out what was going on with him. The sexual abuse continued by the neighbor boy until the boy turned 16 and committed suicide. William’s oldest brother also later would kill himself, at 34.

William spent his 20s trying to ignore the memories of abuse, which came back with a vengeance when his own nieces and nephews turned 5 and 6. He became terrified for their safety.

“It finally hit me to what happened,” he said.

William became a successful chef, but had trouble maintaining relationships. He was angry, hated the world, hated himself. He abused cocaine and alcohol. He spent time in hospitals, got sober and fell off the wagon. And then time and circumstances led to healing.

William would eventually find peace, after lots of counseling, shock therapy, which ended the depression, supportive friends, and his sister and her family who stuck by him. But peace was a long time coming.

“The abuse was horrible, but living with it all those years did the damage, more than the abuse,” he said. “If I had gotten help as a kid, I would never have gone through the kind of life that I did. If a person gets raped and doesn’t tell anybody, that does the damage. The healing starts when you’re able to share it.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at acalder@centralmaine.com. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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