Wilson looks to pro­vide hope for sex­ual abuse vic­tims

Del­e­gate fea­tured in Net­flix doc ‘The Keep­ers’

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

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.

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