OLYMPIA CHILD MOLESTATION CASES HITS CLOSE TO HOME – MY HOME
April 15, 2014
Summary: Child sexual abuse can happen to anyone, anywhere – even the little city you grew up in, or the school you went to.
When most people read the news – particularly bad news – they have a way of removing their emotions from the story. Thoughts of “it didn’t happen to me,” or “I’m not there,” or “it’s far away” can creep in and rationalize the story for the reader; perhaps as a way to digest the story. I read the news often and rationalize bad news by disassociating myself from the story without even thinking about it. Really, it has become second nature for me at this point…reading or watching the news doesn’t exactly bring out a grin, as it’s mostly focused on all the bad things happening in the world.
Yesterday was different for me. I was reading the online version of The Olympian and read an article about the ongoing litigation of Gary Shafer, a former Olympia bus driver convicted of child molestation back in 2011. Basically, this creep acted as a ‘helper’ to learn the bus route from the elementary school – unpaid, on his own time, and for no obvious reason – and used his access on the bus to sexually abuse three kindergarten-age girls. This article disclosed that three more of Shafer’s victims might have been identified, and that the plaintiffs filed suit against the Olympia School District last week.
By itself, this didn’t startle me; it was specifically where it happened that threw me off…Centennial Elementary School. Though I spent most of my childhood on the outskirts of Olympia, about 10 miles away in the small town of Tenino (pop. 1,699), I lived in Olympia from ages 8-10. I attended Centennial Elementary School in 3rd and 4th grade, and I rode the same bus routes these children rode. This hits home, very closely. Those years were formative for me; that’s where I met my first best friend, Stuart. That’s where I first began playing baseball – a hobby I still carry into my 30’s. My two years at Centennial were some of the happiest memories of my life, but it won’t be for at least three children. That’s a sobering reminder; bad people can live everywhere, and sexual abuses can happen anywhere – even in your happy place.
Not two hours later, I was preparing our daily Institutional Abuse – In the News segment when I came across an article – again from The Olympian – discussing a female teacher pleading guilty to having sex with a student from Black Hills High School in the neighboring city of Tumwater. Much like the bus driver story, the story itself didn’t affect me too much. The former detention teacher, Courtney Keller, is awaiting sentencing after hooking up with her former students, providing him with tobacco and painkillers, and even accompanying him to a fellow students’ party. I lived in Tumwater for a couple years as well, and even umpired some baseball games there as a high school kid to make some extra money. If the point hadn’t been driven home by the bus driver story, it certainly was after this story.
Sexual abuse, in any fashion, is a heinous crime that deserves to be strongly punished. When it happens so close to home, as it has for me in these stories, it gives you pause. It makes you think about what you could do in the future to prevent crap like this from happening in your community. Now, personalize this: what if this happened in YOUR community? What could YOU do to demand change in your local school district?
If your child, or a child you know is a victim of sexual abuse, contact your local police department and report it. To find out more about the victim’s legal rights, contact Estey & Bomberger today to get a free consultation at (800) 925-0723 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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