15 Jan 2011

Oprah takes on child sex abuse in two shows, Wisconsin man details extreme abuse by Episcopalian priests

The Northwestern - Wisconsin November 5, 2010

Oshkosh man in Oprah audience for show about sexual abuse by priests

by Patricia Wolff

Kevin Kratsch volunteered to tell the world on the Oprah TV show the painful details of his sexual abuse at the hands of an Episcopalian priest in Plymouth for two reasons.

"Number one, I wanted to help victims out there, and number two, I'm really pissed at the Episcopal Church," he said.

Kratsch, 56, of Oshkosh, will be one of 200 members of Oprah's audience when the show airs today. All of them will hold photographs of themselves at the time of their abuse. In some cases the abuse occurred decades ago. In Kratsch's case, 40 years ago.

Oprah Winfrey is taking on sexual abuse in a pair of shows she calls "two of the most phenomenal" she's ever done.

Thousands of men volunteered to appear on the two-part show but only a couple hundred were invited to participate in today's show and on Nov. 12. Filmmaker Tyler Perry and a psychologist who works with male sexual abuse survivors are featured in the first show. In the second show, the men will be joined by spouses, partners and girlfriends to discuss the abuse's impact on their relationships.

Winfrey, who has frequently discussed her own childhood sexual abuse, said she is proud of the November episodes and hopes they "can be an open door to freedom" for the abused men.

Kratsch was a troubled 15-year-old when his mother placed him in the care of a Fond du Lac County priest in an effort to straighten him out. He had been expelled from Oshkosh High School. He spent two great weeks with the priest in Plymouth. But once the priest signed the papers naming him legal guardian of Kratsch, everything changed.

"He beat the living hell out of me. By beating me he got me to the point of submission. The sexual abuse began next," Kratsch said. "Once that happens you either submit, run away or kill yourself."

It was easier to submit. During this period Kratsch was abused by a second priest, a friend of the first one. It happened on a vacation to Colorado. The abuse by the first priest lasted about a year during which time Kratsch learned a strategy for avoiding the priest. When a steady stream of other boys began to visit the rectory, Kratsch found it easier to look the other way.

"I just thought 'Thank god he's leaving me alone.' Who would they believe anyway? A pillar of the community, or a troubled kid?" he said.

Later, Kratsch and the priest moved to New Orleans where a series of orgies orchestrated by the priest caused Kratsch to moved away once he reached the age of 18. He buried his memories of the abuse until a counselor dredged them up during a session in 1985. Kratsch had developed drinking and drug problems and was unable to develop healthy relationships.

He finally was able to fall in love and marry but the marriage ended in divorce after 16 years. A second marriage lasted two years, he said.

When scandals involving Catholic priests and sexual abuse of boys surfaced in the early 1990s, Kratsch tried to confront the Episcopalian priests who had abused him. He was unsuccessful in the attempt. He learned the first one had died just months earlier and the second one was in prison for assaulting three boys.

Episcopal church authorities did not believe his claim of abuse. It is Kratsch's hope that by speaking out, other victims will come forward and the Episcopal Church will have to answer to him and those other victims.

The impact of the abuse on Kratsch has been huge. He suffers from several psychiatric illnesses and is unable to work. He blames the abuse for his failed marriages, his inability to trust and his loss of faith in religion.

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Beacon Journal - Ohio November 4, 2010

Survivor finds freedom speaking out about abuse

Akron native on 'Oprah' to confront painful past

By Colette M. Jenkins | Beacon Journal religion writer

David Darr still carries the scars of his childhood abuse.

''Although I am not in turmoil about it anymore, underneath the surface, all the issues are still there,'' said Darr, 61. ''I don't expect to ever have complete healing, and I don't expect complete justice either. But since I have been able to talk about it and work through it in years of therapy, I have a freedom from all the anger, shame, humiliation, depression and secrecy.''

Darr, an Akron native, is among the 200 men who will appear Friday on the Oprah Winfrey Show (4 p.m. WEWS-TV, Channel 5) to collectively say that they are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The show is the first of two, the other airing on Nov. 12, dedicated to raising awareness about male sexual abuse.

Each of the 200 men in the audience will hold a photo of himself at the age when he says he was first abused, according to information released by Harpo Productions. The Friday episode will feature filmmaker Tyler Perry and a psychologist who works with male sexual abuse survivors. During the second show, some of the men — along with their spouses, partners or girlfriends — will discuss the effect the abuse has had on their relationships.

Survivors, like Darr, will be part of a montage at the beginning of the first show, featuring men in the audience sharing who they are.

''There are as many stories as there are members of the audience. Because of time restraints, everybody couldn't tell their story, but we all have a lot in common,'' Darr said. ''I am very proud to be one of the men giving voice to this issue and helping to open up the dialogue about a widespread problem that has been veiled in secrecy for too long.''

According to research from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, one in six men is sexually abused before the age of 16 and many never divulge it. Jim Hopper, a researcher, therapist and instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School, characterizes the estimate as conservative.

Harrowing childhood

Darr was molested when he was 7 years old by a missionary colleague of his parents in the Kayes region of Mali in West Africa. The man had come to stay with the family during a visit and because of the limited amount of sleeping space, Darr was required to sleep in the same bed with him.

''He fondled me the first night and the next night it happened again. I didn't know what to do or say,'' Darr said. ''I remember bursting into tears and my father was upset with me. Boys are supposed to be tough — they're not supposed to cry. The message to me was I couldn't talk about it and I wasn't supposed to show emotion.''

It wasn't until 40 years later that Darr's father discovered the source of his son's tears. Darr sued his perpetrator, but the lawsuit was dismissed because the incident occurred on foreign soil and the statute of limitations had expired.

''Even though nothing could be done in court, the fact that I was fighting back opened up my life. The secrecy was gone,'' said Darr, who earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry at the University of Akron and is currently a graduate student in education at Ohio State University.

Unfortunately for Darr, his childhood abuse didn't end with the sexual molestation. He and his siblings —John, Richard and Dianne [Couts] — experienced and witnessed sexual, physical, verbal and emotional abuse while attending a parochial boarding school for missionary kids whose parents were stationed in remote outposts throughout West Africa.

Their parents, the late Dick and Anne Darr, were sent out from Akron's Goss Memorial Church to the mission field in Africa in the 1950s. The couple's work also was supported by The Chapel, Northampton Baptist Church, Community Church of Portage Lakes and other local churches and individuals.

The Darr siblings, who grew up in Akron and lived in the Kenmore area, experienced and witnessed rapes; beatings with the buckle-end of belts that left children bloody; and the humiliation of wetting and soiling their clothes because missionaries running the school would not permit them to use the bathroom.

Their parents, and other missionary parents, said they had no knowledge of abuse that was going on at the Mamou Alliance Academy in Guinea. The school was run by the Colorado Springs-based evangelical Christian and Missionary Alliance.

Allegations of abuse

As adults, Mamou alumni began uncovering repressed trauma and reporting the abuse to the alliance that ran the school in the late 1980s. The church, however, did not act until David Darr, his siblings and other alumni participated in a public protest at an annual meeting of the denomination in 1995 in Pittsburgh.

The alliance appointed a commission to investigate the allegations, and discovered horrific acts of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. The commission's report was the first of its kind regarding sexual abuse in evangelical circles. The alliance issued an apology to the victims and their parents.

Last year, a documentary film that gives voice to those who were abused at the boarding school premiered in Ohio at Goss Memorial Church in Kenmore. The Darrs were among those featured in All God's Children: The Ultimate Sacrifice.

''All of the pain that I endured had a terrible impact on my life. It prevented me from allowing people to get close to me. I couldn't build an open relationship. I spent years in anger. It affected the way I raised my children, and it brewed beneath the surface during my 32 years of marriage that ended in divorce,'' said Darr, who now lives in Columbus. ''You can suffer for years in silence, but you can't begin to heal until you can talk about it.''

Show of solidarity

Darr said he hopes that both the film and his appearance on Oprah will help raise awareness and understanding of the problem of male sexual abuse. He said he agreed to be part of the talk show to help others who have experienced the same trauma.

''My greatest desire is that by standing in solidarity with 200 other survivors, the millions of other victims who are now suffering in silence will know there is hope for them,'' Darr said. ''I know how difficult it is to talk about it, but we've got to open the dialogue so that people are getting the help they need sooner rather than later, like I did.''

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WMC-TV - Memphis, TN November 7, 2010

On Oprah special, Memphis man faces pain of sexual abuse
By Ben Watson

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Memphis man who experienced the pain of sexual child abuse was an invited guest for Oprah Winfrey's two-part special on the issue.

David Brown was one of hundreds of men invited to the audience of Oprah's show focusing on sexual abuse victims last Friday.

When asked what it was like in that situation, Brown said it was "very emotional."

At age 15, Brown was abused by a Nashville priest.

"I was silent about my abuse for over 35 years," said Brown. "I couldn't tell anybody, I was ashamed. I put it away somewhere back there where you hide those things."

Brown said he was not ashamed anymore. His story is now part of a powerful new documentary called "Sacred Secret", which examines cases of sexual abuse involving church leaders.

"It's not the stranger danger but the preacher predators that you've got to be on the lookout for," said Brown.

Thursday, Brown will show his documentary and be one of the speakers at a free workshop at Lindenwood Christian Church.

"This is dealing with sexual abuse in the faith community," said Brown. "When the minister abuses, how you deal with it."

The Sacred Secret workshop is being presented by Memphis' Child Advocacy Center. The goal is to create a greater understanding and response to child sexual abuse in congregations.

Brown also encouraged everyone to watch the second part of Oprah's special. It airs Friday, November 12 on WMC-TV.

"By the time that part was over, most every man in the audience was crying," said Brown. "Including myself."

For more information on the Memphis Child Advocacy Center, call (901) 525-2377 or visit memphiscac.org.

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Child sacrifice: a review of the documentary All God's Children - the ultimate sacrifice

All God's Children - the ultimate sacrifice [documentary]

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