This is another installment in a continuing series of stories about incidents of child abuse from many years ago which are now being reported. The incidents were at Salem Township Consolidated School. We will have more stories in future editions of this newspaper.
Editor’s note: This is another installment in a continuing series of stories about incidents of child abuse from many years ago which are now being reported. The incidents were at Salem Township Consolidated School. We will have more stories in future editions of this newspaper.
HAMLIN — A couple of weeks ago, the memories came flooding back.
“It was common knowledge he liked the boys,” said Rose, who asked that her last name not be used.
Rose was referring to a story in this newspaper in which Darrell Edwards, 78, now living in Maryland, approached the Western Wayne School Board and discussed the issue of Otto Mickel, a former teacher and principal at Salem school who he said was a pedophile. Edwards had written letters to the board saying he was upset there was any talk of possibly naming the new school after Mickel and also complaining about a bronze bust which was hanging in the former Hamlin Elementary building.
At that time, the superintendent of schools at Western Wayne told Edwards the bust had been removed and since then, Andy Falonk has said it was smelted.
For Rose, now 58, when she saw the story, so many memories resurfaced she picked up the phone and called this newspaper saying she wanted to tell her story. She also said there are others who are contemplating doing the same.
Rose went to seventh grade at Salem school and it was then she had Mickel as her teacher. At the time, he served as seventh grade teacher and school principal.
“It was a different time,” she said. “We were not taught good touch, bad touch as they are today.”
Rose said almost everyone in the school was aware of what was happening and they all knew they would have to pass through his class in seventh grade.
“It began right from the start of seventh grade,” she said.
Rose said Mickel would single out many of the boys in class and the touch them in many places.
“He would start by playing with their hair and then their ears and then down their shirts,” she said. “He would rub their cheeks and then their back and then their shoulders.”
After that, he would then put two of his fingers inside their pants and run them around their waistbands, said Rose.
“It was fondling,” said Rose. “I was 12 years old, I didn’t understand it at the time.”
She also said he would put his legs on the desks of the boys and “he’d have his crotch right in their face.”
Rose said on one occasion, she did ask one of the boys about what was happening.
“He said it gave him the creeps,” said Rose.
But that’s where it ended.
“Nobody ever said anything,” said Rose.
Rose said Mickel “misused his authority” and left people scarred for life.
“It was that aura of authority,” said Rose.
For Rose, she had been somewhat able to suppress what had happened back at Salem school.
Until about 15 years ago.
Her granddaughter was enrolled at Hamlin Elementary and the first time she went there for a program, there it was.
“The first time I went there, I saw the plaque,” said Rose. “I was horrified. I wanted to know why that plaque was on the wall. It didn’t hit home until I saw that stupid plaque.”
But then, like so many years before, she kept her mouth shut, even questioning herself.
“Maybe I’m nuts,” Rose said to herself.
Yet the entire time, the memories of what had happened continued to enter her thoughts. She thought back to the summers when Mickel would have the boys come to his house “and he made them take their shirts off and do yard work. He just sat on the porch and stared at them.”
It also reminded her of how the girls in the class were almost forgotten. She said he would never call on the girls in the class and they wondered if there was something wrong with them.
“We didn’t exist. I hated it. I didn’t know why I hated it, but I hated it. That was a terrible year,” she said. “I can’t believe he was never caught.”
That all came rushing back when she read the story about Darrell Edwards.
“I felt awful for Darrell and his brothers,” said Rose. “I knew it was true.”
She was also aware of the fact Mickel took some of the boys into his house on many occasions. There were stories of him sleeping in hotel rooms with some of the boys on the annual field trip to Niagara Falls.
In his book, “The Edwards Family of Morgan Hill,” Edwards dedicated one chapter to his experiences at the school. At the time, he didn’t use Mickel’s name out of respect for his two sisters who were still alive.
Now, he says that’s a moot point since he went public with the story.
Here’s a passage out of the book: He said the man’s “arrogance was at its ultimate in his sexual relations with his boy-students. Whichever boy was his current favorite would invariable be assigned ... to a desk at the back of the room. There Henry (alias name) would squeeze into the seat next to him, unbutton the boy’s pants and fondle him while he continued to conduct the class.”
Edwards said he was molested by Mickel on a few occasions, including one time near the amusement park at Lake Ariel. Edwards said he was so unaware of sexual sensations that Mickel soon lost interest in him and “moved on to greener pastures.”
With the revelations by Edwards, Rose said she felt now was the time to come forward.
“I think he should be made as public as possible,” said Rose. “I think it would relieve a lot of people.”
For Rose, the story of Mickel is just one part of her pain.
During the interview conducted on Tuesday of this week, she revealed publicly for the first time that she was molested at age five by the son of her baby-sitter.
“I have never talked about it,” said Rose.
In fact, right after it happened she told her baby-sitter about the incident.
Rose was then beaten by the woman.
Her parents went to their graves never knowing.
Rose has been in counseling for years and years.
That’s one of the reasons she decided to come forward. She hopes others will follow.
“I encourage others to talk about this,” said Rose. “It’s got to be awful for so many people.”
Her final thoughts about Mickel: “The man was a pig.”
Michele Minor Wolf, executive director of the Victims’ Intervention program in Wayne County, couldn’t agree more with Rose about getting the information out to the public.
“Time doesn’t matter,” said Wolf. “It is when they are ready.”
Wolf said counseling can help people in many ways — even those who were molested decades ago.
“It affects other areas of their life,” said Wolf.
That can range from relationships to jobs to simply coping with their own thoughts.
Wolf said they use the “empowerment model” when helping victims. That means they don’t even have to talk about specific incidents unless that is their desire.
“It is where they are in the moment,” said Wolf.
She encourages anyone who has been a victim of abuse to contact the Victims’ Intervention Program hotline at 570-253-4401 or 1-800-698-4VIP.
Wolf said all of their services are confidential and there is no charge.
“Everything we do is case by case,” said Michele Minor Wolf, executive director of the Victims’ Intervention Program in Wayne County.
The program was founded in 1988, she said. It was 1986 when local residents and officials began working with a similar program in Lackawana County, which at that time was being stretched thin because they were helping in Wayne County. Within two years the local program was established.
It began with two people on staff and now there are 11.
Wolf said that’s not because there were less incidents back then but because there was less awareness and probably less reporting of abuse.
She also said that the caseload continues to grow each year.
For example, in the last fiscal year, VIP served 868 people. Of that, 241 were victims of sexual assault. Of these, 57 were against children, 114 against adults and 70 involved “significant others.”
There were 243 reports of domestic assaults last year at VIP and another 84 “other” cases, which can range from DUI victims to murder victims. She said nearly all of the cases were people from Wayne County.
Another misnomer about acts of violence, said Wolf, is that when it comes to percentages, the rural areas have just as much as urban areas.
Another issue which has surfaced over the last year involves the allegations at Penn State. Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is charged with many counts of sex abuse against children.
Wolf said those revelations have created one positive and that is “more men are coming forward.” She said many of them are adult males who have been “walking around their entire lives” with the haunting of sexual abuse when they were young.
But the bulk of the cases dealt with at VIP involve abuse against women. Wolf said rape is a common occurrence
in the county. She credited Wayne Memorial Hospital for being active in working with VIP. She said they coordinate with the program and in many cases a representative from VIP is at the hospital with the rape victim.
Wolf said the “majority” of rape victims in the county are under the age of 25. A lot of them, she said, are teenagers and the perpetrator is “usually someone they know.”
There are also many cases of incest in the county, she said, which is another aspect of VIP.
Part of the process for the program is working with local law enforcement agencies and the district attorney’s office in helping victims understand the process. There are task forces in the area which deal with domestic violence and sexual assault.
“We work well with law enforcement,” said Wolf.
The range of services offered through VIP is large, ranging from finding emergency shelter or food or transportation.
“The key word there is emergency,” said Wolf.
VIP operates a 24-hour hotline and victims can get help any time of the day or night and any day of the year. The numbers for the hotline are 570-253-4401 or 800-698-4VIP.
In some cases, she said the problem is dealt with initially at that time and then further steps are taken to work with the victims.
“We can do crisis intervention on the phone,” said Wolf.
Once the problem is assessed, she said a meeting is set up with one of the counselors. In that first meeting, confidentiality is stressed.
In fact, Wolf called confidentiality the “foundation of all the work we do.”
It’s also notable that all services at VIP are free to anyone.
Wolf said funding comes from a wide variety of sources, including federal, state and local.
In addition, she said the “generosity of the community” has allowed the program to remain strong.
However, she also said the program is always in need of monetary donations. They do a couple of fund-raisers throughout the year and she said the “bulk of the donations” to VIP come from private citizens in the community.
Wolf said the grant funding has remained level over the past 10 years or so but the need for services has risen each year. That’s why any monetary donations are welcome, whether they are large or small.
She said on some occasions, people will leave a dollar in an envelope and “it can bring tears to our eyes” because she knows those people are “giving what they can.”
Anyone who would like to make a donation can send it to Victims’ Intervention Program, P.O. Box 986, Honesdale, PA 18431. You can also call the business line at 253-4431 to make a monetary donation or a donation of goods. They are especially in need of paper products.
(In tomorrow’s story, we will outline some of the programs offered by VIP along with other information.)