Op-Ed: Victim urges Pa. Senate to enact statute of limitations reform

Erie Times-News [Erie PA]

April 26, 2021

By Geof Lambert

Have you ever been sexually abused? Were you sexually abused as a child? I realize that those are fairly direct and personal questions.

For me the answers to those questions are now, “yes,” and “yes.”

If you would have asked me those questions not much more than a few years ago, I probably would have answered “no” and “no.”

Times change, people change.

While my father and mother were alive, I told myself there is no need to publicly tell anybody about the abuse I suffered. My father was a friend of my abuser. They both belonged to the same Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Chambersburg. They both shared an affinity for sailing, especially in the Caribbean. They were both active members of the same church, the Presbyterian Church of the Falling Spring, which was formed by the founder of Chambersburg, Benjamin Chambers. The abuser and my father were both active members of the Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce.

They were both significant donors to the Chambersburg Hospital, the Capitol Theatre, and the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter. They both enjoyed the Totem Pole Playhouse, and supported activities at Wilson College. They both fostered the development of Falling Spring Horse Valley Acres, where my abuser had a nice cabin on an acre lot.

My mom and my abuser’s mom were both best of friends. They were involved in many community activities together. They were both very active members and past presidents of the local chapter of American Association of University Women. They were both active leaders of the Presbyterian Church of the Falling Spring, where my mom was a trustee. They both attended various activities sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution. They both shared a passion for live music concerts and theatre.

This photo depicts Geof Lambert in 1974 when he was a member of Boy Scout troop 127 in Chambersburg. - Contributed
This photo depicts Geof Lambert in 1974 when he was a member of Boy Scout Troop 127 in Chambersburg. – Contributed

My abuser was proud of the photo he displayed prominently in his office of him shaking hands with President Gerald Ford. I think many in the town of Chambersburg viewed my abusers life as a “success story.” He graduated at the top of his class in high school. He was a decorated Eagle Scout. He attended prestigious colleges and universities. He drove a Mercedes-Benz and lived in a big comfortable house complete with a swimming pool and tennis court in a nice part of town. He was by many accounts living the “American Dream” while he was, by his own estimation in a grand jury proceeding, abusing more than a dozen children.

Was I motivated to share the intimate details of the abuse I was a part of as a kid while I was an adult with kids of my own? The simple answer is no, I was not.

Looking back, do I have regrets about that lack of motivation? Yes, I do.

You see, I was abused by a serial abuser. I didn’t realize it at the time. And I didn’t realize until 2018 — when I met with people from the office of Franklin County District Attorney Matt Fogal — that my abuser had been prolific for decades. At the time I spoke with the DA’s office, both of my parents had passed away. I didn’t have anything to keep swept under the rug. So, I came forward and went public with my abuse.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.

Geof Lambert is pictured in 2016 in a photo from the Chambersburg Public Opinion.-- Contributed
Geof Lambert is pictured in 2016 in a photo from the Chambersburg Public Opinion.– Contributed

Had I spoken out sooner, perhaps some of the victims would never have fallen prey to his abuse. In 2018 I testified in front of a grand jury in Franklin County about the abuse I suffered by C.Q. Smith as a kid while I was a member of Boy Scout Troop 127 in Chambersburg.

My name is Geof Lambert. I am a 59-year-old native of Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Chambersburg is where I was born. I now live in San Francisco, California. As a graduate of the Chambersburg Area High School, and as a resident of Chambersburg for approximately 25 years, or half of my life, I still have family and many ties and connections in Pennsylvania.

If you would like to read more information about my story and situation you can find an article published by the USA Today newspaper, which explains a lot of it in more detail at this link: https://bit.ly/3vjcDcp.

I hope Pennsylvania legislators will do the right thing any time the opportunity presents itself as it pertains to allowing victims of child sexual abuse to claim at least a small bit of justice for any abuse they have suffered, regardless of how long ago it occurred. And I hope they will see the wisdom in lifting the statute of limitations and creating a “look-back window” for child sexual abuse victims.

Geof Lambert, a native of Chambersburg, now lives in San Francisco, California.