Chesley says he was sexually abused as a teen
WILMINGTON -- A former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker spoke out for the first time Wednesday on the sexual abuse he endured as a teen in Washington, D.C., and urged other abuse victims to come forward, too.
Al Chesley, 50, spoke outside the Wilmington Public Safety Building with two California sexual abuse victims, representing the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). They urged other victims to take advantage of Delaware's new law, the Child Victim's Act, which allows victims two years to file civil suit in child sexual abuse cases that previously had been barred by the statute of limitations.
They also urged law enforcement officials to use records unveiled in civil suits to investigate and prosecute other molesters.
Chesley, who played for the Eagles from 1979-82 and the Chicago Bears from 1982-84, said a Washington police officer molested him for several years, starting when he was 13 or 14 years old.
"I'm not crying here as a victim," Chesley said. "I seek no financial gain in any way. I'm here because this might help other kids."
Chesley said it was only in the past year -- after his mother's death -- that he had been able to speak to anyone about his experience.
Chesley said his late father had driven trucks for the police department, and Chesley said he felt safe accepting a police officer's offer to take him home from school one day. The officer told him he had to stop at his own home on the way, invited Chesley inside, showed him scrapbooks of naked teens -- some of whom Chesley knew -- then performed oral sex on him. Chesley said the officer molested him many times after that.
"He had some type of hold on me," Chesley said.
Chesley went on to play football at the University of Pittsburgh. He was an 11th-round draft pick for the Eagles in 1979 and was on the team that lost to Oakland in the 1981 Super Bowl. He became a starter when All-Pro middle linebacker Bill Bergey retired in 1981. Chesley then went on to Chicago.
Chesley said he has tried to learn the whereabouts of his abuser, but has not been successful.
"I'm sure he retired in good standing and continued to do this," he said.
Chesley, though, eventually started to use drugs and his life took a downward spiral.
"I've made a lot of mistakes," he said.
Joelle Casteix of Newport Beach, Calif., and Paul Livingston of San Diego said the men who sexually abused them were exposed publicly in civil lawsuits that also revealed how the organizations their abusers worked for protected them and allowed them to have continued access to children.
Both were able to sue under a 2003 California law that allowed one year during which suits previously barred by the state's statue of limitations could be filed. Delaware's law offers twice as much time as California's. About 10 other states now are considering similar legislation, which was the result of the scandal of clergy sexual abuse that emerged nationally in 2002.
"When the window opened up [in California], some 300 child molesters were recognized," Livingston said.
Laws like Delaware's give victims a chance to seek justice for abuses many have kept secret for decades.
"I numbed the pain, and it led me down a deep, dark path," Chesley said. "I'm 50 years old and just want to free myself from things I've been holding in. As they say, I'm as sick as my secret. But I didn't do anything wrong and every time I share it, the pain lessens."
Casteix and Livingston used the occasion to deliver a letter they had written to Wilmington Police Chief Michael Szczerba, noting the support law enforcement officials had demonstrated when Delaware's law was debated. They asked Szczerba to be sure his officers are educated about the law, treat every case that comes to their attention as if it was a new case and to use the information that comes out of civil cases to investigate those who may still be molesting children.
"The law can help you expose predators in Delaware, keep kids safe today, and possibly uncover more evidence that can put molesters behind bars," they wrote.
Szczerba was on family leave and not available to respond.
"Even if these cases are 50 years old, they find out that this guy has been molesting kids," Livingston said. "They've got a guy on their radar. They know and he knows they know. That may just save a kid."
The Rev. Francis G. DeLuca, who retired from the Diocese of Wilmington to Syracuse, N.Y., when similar allegations arose in 1993, is a case in point. DeLuca last year pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting his great-nephew over several years. After DeLuca's arrest in Syracuse in 2006, other victims came forward. The first lawsuit filed against DeLuca in Wilmington was settled Wednesday, but attorneys say at least eight others are expected.
Contact Beth Miller at 324-2784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about efforts to prevent child abuse in Delaware, go to www.pcadelaware.org.
For crisis intervention, telephone counseling and referrals, call Delaware's 24-hour confidential helpline at 761-9100.