Since Dayton Moore mentioned the Royals were exploring the possibility of signing Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich to a contract, there has been plenty of reaction, discussion and debate. Rarely, if at all, have we heard from a survivor of sexual abuse. A reader of BP Kansas City reached out to us and offered to tell his story and to offer his perspective as a survivor. We think what he has to say is important and we thank him for trusting us as a forum. For obvious reasons, he wishes to remain anonymous.
I’ve only told a few people my story. I’m not sure why I am telling my story now other than at 41 I finally have the courage to unashamedly say: I was sexually abused by a family member when I was 5.
Ok, now for an abrupt transition to a few sentences on my love of baseball. At 41, I’m such a baseball nerd that I “scout” players for fun. I’ve paid good money for a class through SMWW to learn from a retired scout the basics of evaluating players. The height of my obsession occurred a couple of years ago when I used a chunk of my annual bonus to buy a Stalker Pro II radar gun. I’m the weirdo that attends high school, college, minor league and even professional baseball games to get radar gun readings and other notes on players for no other reason than fun. I’ve even written a few reports on players that have found their way on the internet that others have presumably read, which is fun. For me, watching baseball and evaluating players is pure joy.
All this to say, I experience this joy every year during the CWS, and watching the player Luke Heimlich pitch against Arkansas in the first game of the CWS finals was no different. There is a lot to like about Heimlich as a stud LH Friday night starting pitcher for Oregon State. A fastball in the low to mid-90s with life and late burst that proved difficult for the Arkansas Razorbacks despite them having one of the better offenses assembled in recent college baseball. Heimlich isn’t a perfect prospect though, his slider is a little slurvy and even though it induced several swinging strikes, his command of the pitch (or lack thereof) is a big reason why Oregon State lost. All this to say, even without a noticeably effective third pitch (at least in this game) and a lack of command of his slurvy slider against Arkansas, Heimlich is a solid front-line college starting pitcher that any team in professional baseball would love to have in their organization.
Except for one thing, Heimlich is an admitted juvenile sex offender who, at 15, pleaded guilty to one felony charge of molesting his 4-year old niece. My abuser was about the same age, I am the nephew and I was 5.
I didn’t have the courage the 4-year old girl had when she told her parents that Luke Heimlich abused her. I was too scared and confused. When my abuser told me to never tell anyone – I didn’t. I’ve lived with this pain, confusion and the effects of being an abuse victim for over 35 years. The effects are as straightforward as wetting the bed for years when I visited the house where the abuse happened. They are as devastating as the shame of having a secret that makes you bad, dirty, unwanted and worst of all, unlovable. They are as confusing as having your entire reality gaslighted. Simple questions become an existential crisis: Would my parents even believe me if I told them I was abused? Will you believe me if I told you that I was abused? Would my abuser acknowledge their abuse if confronted with my reality?
Reportedly, my beloved Kansas City Royals are considering signing Luke Heimlich. As an abuse victim (putting my love for evaluating players aside) I have some thoughts on this. Dayton Moore has called Heimlich’s situation “a very complex deal” and it unquestionably is complex. Moore cites Heimlich’s continued denial of the events as a possible defense and has suggested that he may not have the “courage” to sign the player. I have also read that Heimlich has paid his debt to society and that experts believe he has a very low risk of recidivism. Perhaps these are all relevant.
As an abuse victim under apparently similar circumstances, however, I question their relevance. My hope is to share with others the pain caused to the victim by simply having this conversation, especially the continued denial by Luke Heimlich. I would bet all my worldly possessions that if confronted by my reality, my abuser would deny anything happened despite my ability to retell in vivid detail the events that happened 35 years ago. I want to bring attention to the fact that simply having this conversation requires the victim to relive this terrible incident. Perhaps most painful to the victim, every defense of Luke Heimlich results in the gaslighting of that sweet little 4-year old’s reality.
I will probably never receive acknowledgment of my reality by my abuser. I have accepted that I will never receive an apology or an explanation of why those terrible things happened to me. All I know is that my abuser clearly knew what they did was wrong or they wouldn’t have asked me to never tell anyone and I wouldn’t have had to live with the deafening silence from my abuser for all these years.
My sincere hope is that Luke Heimlich chooses a different path. A path of courage. I beg Luke Heimlich to have the courage to change the dialogue. Acknowledge your victim’s reality, even if the events are different in YOUR reality. You’ve paid your debt to society and you have this one, solitary defining moment to affect this story in a positive way. Empower not only your victim but also every other victim of family sexual abuse, by embracing and defending your victim’s story. Ask for forgiveness and even if you never receive it work like hell to impact others in a way that shows that you have the humility and the courage worthy of a second chance.
If you’re unwilling to courageously champion your victim’s story, then I hope and pray my beloved Royals do not sign you. Because, even though you have a great collegiate profile, a plus FB, above average control and the mound presence to succeed as a likely future big leaguer, this story really isn’t about you – it’s about that precious, sweet little 4-year old girl. I pray we (and the Royals) have the courage to choose her and not the tantalizing promise of a collegiate star.