Wilson looks to provide hope for sexual abuse victims
Delegate featured in Netflix doc ‘The Keepers’
It’s 2:30 in the morning. The Wilson residence is quiet. Everyone has gone off to bed in the early hours, preparing for the day ahead.
But in his bedroom, Maryland State Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles) sits at the edge of his bed watching Netflix. Tears run down his face as the result of his own pain and grief, but also because of the pain of what he’s viewing.
Wilson is watching “The Keepers” — a documentary focusing on the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a nun at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, and also details the suspected sexual abuse to students by the Rev. Joseph Maskell. Maskell is suspected to have abused children from the 1960s up until 1992, when allegations were first made.
The pain is all too
familiar for Wilson, who was abused by his adoptive father throughout his early childhood. Wilson already struggles to sleep through the night, said Nicole Wilson, his wife. But the documentary added another layer of pain for him to endure.
“The toll it takes on him personally is immeasurable. I don’t even think he remembers [watching] it,” Nicole said. “There were tears streaming down his face. I cracked a terrible joke, and we went back to sleep. He doesn’t even remember it.”
This past legislative session, Wilson had a bill passed allowing victims of sexual assault to wait up to 20 years after their 18th birthday to press charges against their abusers in Maryland. Previously, the statute of limitations was
only seven years.
With that bill, Wilson plays the part of hope in the documentary. But that is not the way he sees in. “There has to be more,” he said.
“This can’t be it. This doesn’t solve the problem,” Wilson said. “I hope this makes a difference. I hope all this embarrassment makes a difference. It’s probably an oxymoron, to talk about it. But I can’t miss an opportunity to make a difference. Not while I’m in this office.”
Giving people more time to talk about their experiences is all well and good, Wilson said, but there are issues with victims who are afraid to tell their stories because they see others coming forward — but failing to get results. People seeing they are not alone “is something,” he said, but fighting for victims cannot stop with a piece of legislation.
Participating in the documentary, Wilson said, like the book he wrote
about his experience, was never supposed to be therapeutic.
Each time he talks about his experience, he said, it hurts him. Different people feel comfortable opening up to him, but he also hears their stories of pain that only make him hurt more.
And Netflix is on a national scale, he said. “This ain’t just The Washington Post or the Maryland Independent,” Wilson said. “Everyone is seeing this.”
Since the release of the documentary, he has become more and more recognizable for something he never asked for and never wanted to happen to him. No one wants to be recognized as a person who was abused or raped, he said.
Still, he said, if his embarrassment is what it takes to save someone else’s life or prevent abuse from happening in the first place, he will do it.
Wilson said he forgot
he did the documentary. It was filmed during the 2016 legislative session before his bill was even passed. Wilson said he was surprised by the reaction he had when it was released.
“I didn’t know the magnitude. I had over 500 new Facebook friend requests. I had entire pages dedicated to me,” Wilson said. “I’ve gotten so many calls, texts, emails from people all around the world. I hope it’s worth it.”
People now know the most embarrassing thing about Wilson and are identifying him “solely by that,” he said. That is not something that is going to go away, he said.
In 2016, Wilson said, the bill never made it to the floor for a vote because of reluctance from fellow legislators to pass the bill due to concerns from the Catholic Church.
Nicole Wilson said she did not understand the opposition he was being met with from church
members or different legislators. Her husband was only trying to “give a voice” to those who haven’t been heard. He was trying to create hope for those who had none before, she said.
“I could not understand why it went up against the opposition it did,” she said.
But what is done is done. The bill has been passed, she said, and Wilson is bearing his burden. There have been tough times, but Nicole continues to try and give him ground to stand on.
“It was frustrating watching him tell his story and try to make a difference,” she said.
Del. Sally Jameson (D-Charles) said she did not know why the bill was being held up because she did not sit in on hearings surrounding it, but said many people sitting in on the hearings she spoke with said they were unaware of the pain Wilson had gone through.
For many people, Jameson said, Wilson is providing hope.
“I don’t think you’re ever able to overcome living through that. But I just think it shows you that it was time to look at the statute of limitations,” she said. “You can see what he’s been through and how difficult it has been to find any acceptance of what he went through. I think he’s done a good job.”
Despite some opposition, Wilson said he was determined to do what was right and promised to bring the bill to session until it passed. By doing that, however, he has made “a few political enemies.”
But he said he does not care. No matter what happens during any election, he said, what he does as a legislator only makes a difference if he can help people. If he cannot because of opposition, “I shouldn’t be here anyway,” he said.