John Kline's Account of Sexual Abuse

By Laura Frank
The Tennessean
October 6, 2002

This is John Kline's account of how he says he became a victim of sexual abuse and why he now is coming forward about it.

In the summer of 1981, John Kline was the new kid in town. His mother encouraged him to meet the principal and get a tour of Father Ryan High School. Ron Dickman befriended the shy, skinny kid with bright blue eyes who barely weighed a hundred pounds.

"He mainly came on in the guise of a friend," Kline said. "We started doing things together. We talked a lot. We'd go someplace and eat, or see a movie. He took his time. It wasn't just like we met and all the sudden he started doing this."

Kline said that before he moved to Nashville, he had a close friend who was a priest. Being new to Father Ryan, Kline said, he saw Dickman's initial attention as a welcome and natural fit. Kline said Dickman began asking Kline to come to his apartment on White Bridge Road to listen to music or talk. Eventually, Kline said, Dickman performed oral sex on him.

Kline said he felt intimidated to keep silent and continue the contact with Dickman, though he could recall nothing directly that communicated the intimidation.

"What if I didn't do what he said? He was the principal. I was a teenage boy," Kline said. "I didn't know what he could or couldn't do."

Dickman, through his attorney, denies ever having had sexual contact with Kline or any other teenager. He has not been charged with any crime.

Kline said he knows people won't want to believe such allegations against Dickman, who was by various accounts a popular priest and natural leader. Kline knows some people will ask why he kept going back to Dickman's apartment. Why didn't he fight back?

"I've asked myself that a bunch of times," Kline said. "I've wondered how it could have happened. What enables people to overcome others? He was charismatic. He always had an answer. He was certainly smooth. I think he had experience doing this before me.

"I think it was a combination of embarrassment, fear and his position of power" that allowed the abuse to continue, Kline said.

Kline said such abuse happened about five times but not every time he went to the apartment. On the visits when no abuse occurred, Kline said, he thought perhaps that was the end of it. The contact ended in November 1981, Kline said, after he got in a fight at school in which he stabbed another student with a pencil. Dickman sent him for counseling, which lasted one session.

Kline said he expected to be expelled for the fight, but instead Dickman called him into his office.

"He basically told me he didn't want to have any more contact with me," Kline said. "He said he didn't want anything (about the sexual contact) talked about. I think he was afraid if I was expelled that would come out."

Dickman, through his attorney, said he didn't expel Kline because Kline's parents were out of town at the time. George Barrett, Dickman's attorney, suggested that Kline's description of the office meeting with Dickman casts doubt on his entire story.

"Why would a school principal allegedly intent on blackmailing a student into silence refer that student for independent counseling?" Barrett asked.

Kline said he didn't know why Dickman sent him to a counseling session but he believed Dickman knew he was afraid of being expelled. Kline said Dickman cut off contact with him after Kline was sent to the counseling session and after he'd been informed that he would not be expelled.

John Kline is now employed as chief of a land surveying crew and married. His wife is expecting a baby.

"I'm 37, happily married - I have my sense of self," Kline said. "What I'm worried about is other people losing their sense of self. I can't with a clear conscience sit back and not speak out."


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