My own journey

It’s time to talk.

Those of you who have followed my blog may have noticed that it was dark for much of the fall.

There were some good reasons for this. I am on the faculty at the UCI School of Law this semester, co-teaching a course on how to use the legislative process to fight child sexual exploitation. I have also been doing a great deal of speaking across the country (my favorite thing in the world) educating parents and service providers on child sexual abuse prevention strategies. I’ve been to six different states speaking to all kinds of groups.

I am working on my next book project, focusing on my real expertise: child sexual abuse in institutions. That book is in its infancy, and I am looking at bringing in some collaborators.

But these are all of the good reasons that the blog was dark. There was another:

I had a decade-long battle to finish. A few weeks ago, I was finally able to get the man who sexually assaulted me as a teen out of his job at Adrian College. The school didn’t fire him. They let him quietly resign. I’m guessing they probably gave him a pot of money to do so.

From the Toledo Blade:

ADRIAN — An Adrian College music professor and choir director accused of sexually abusing two students decades ago has resigned.

Frank Hribar, vice president for enrollment and student affairs for the college, confirmed in an email to The Blade that Thomas Hodgman resigned “for personal reasons.”

“The college will make no further comment regarding this matter,” he said.

Mr. Hodgman could not be reached for comment.

Joelle Casteix, 47, has long said she was abused by Mr. Hodgman in the 1980s when he was a teacher at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana., Calif. Documents released after a settlement with the diocese show Mr. Hodgman admitted to school officials about the abuse of two teenage students.

He resigned his position in 1989 and has worked at Adrian College since 1999. Mr. Hodgman claims the documents are “false and unofficial.” Adrian College has long stood by him, calling him “an exemplary faculty member” in 2005 when the documents were first released.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has campaigned against the college’s support of Mr. Hodgman, despite its knowledge of his past transgressions. In an emailed statement, SNAP Toledo leader Claudia Vercellotti accused the college and President Jeffrey Docking of secretly firing Mr. Hodgman after covering up his behavior.

School officials previously admitted they confirmed Mr. Hodgman “engaged in inappropriate behavior while teaching in a California high school approximately 30 years ago,” but argued they could take no action because Mr. Hodgman was tenured and a member of the Adrian College Faculty Union.

Ms. Casteix has repeatedly made public criticism of Adrian College for its relationship with Mr. Hodgman. She says she was 15 when the abuse started. She filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Orange County in 2003 — when California temporarily lifted its civil statute of limitations on such cases, clearing the way for hundreds of lawsuits to be filed against Catholic dioceses in the state.

She received $1.6 million, part of a $100 million settlement with dozens of victims — the largest payment at the time by a Catholic diocese to victims of alleged sexual abuse.

As part of the 2005 settlement, the diocese agreed it would not try to block the release of documents relating to the allegations. But Mr. Hodgman objected, and a judge declined to approve the release of the documents specific to his case, sending it to a higher court.

But some papers were released inadvertently in 2005, according to the Orange County Register, which printed parts of the letters. The Blade also obtained copies of the letters, and Ms. Casteix has published them online.

Mr. Hodgman was most recently excluded from an upcoming Adrian College Choir performance March 19 at the New England Symphonic Ensemble at Carnegie Hall in New York City. SNAP had sent letters to the production company, MidAmerica Productions, the participating schools, and Carnegie Hall, though it was unclear if their campaign was the reason for Mr. Hodgman’s removal from the event.

SNAP suggested Mr. Docking be removed as president and called for further action from college officials.

“We call on [the Adrian College] Board of Trustees to immediately investigate why Hodgman was allowed to leave the school quietly,” Ms. Vercellotti said. “We also call on them to demand full accountability from Jeffrey Docking for the decade-long cover-up of Hodgman’s behavior and his actions against Joelle Casteix, including besmirching her character. He — and the Adrian College Board of Trustees — owe her a full apology.” 


This whole process was … soul-sucking. Heart-wrenching. Stressful beyond anything I remember in recent years. I lost hair. I lost sleep. But I am one of the lucky ones. I have a family and support and love. I had disclosed the abuse.

All I’ve ever wanted was for people like Adrian College to do the right thing. They never have.

In fact, the college didn’t make the announcement. We (other advocates and I) discovered it and asked the local media to pressure the college into making a statement.

What happened to me and the other girl(s) has always been an afterthought for Adrian. Do they feel that way about their students? Their female faculty?

I fear that the sickness and cover-up inside Adrian College is far bigger than one second-rate music professor. I encourage people there to speak out. You will be heard. I hear you.

So the blog is back in business. My hair is growing back. I’m also working out with a boxing trainer, so I will be pitying many a fool. As if they ever got off easy.


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