Taking Steps to Remove the Fear

By John Baker
Canby Herald

September 17, 2008

Steve Fearing knows all too well the dangers of hiding abuse

Ending the secrecy and fear that surrounds child sexual abuse isn’t a pretty topic to talk about, but it’s one that needs attention.

Canby special education teacher Steve Fearing doesn’t just think that, he knows it. As a victim of abuse and a trailblazer of legal precedent in prosecuting those cases against the Catholic Church, Fearing said doing nothing about it is no longer acceptable.

To that end, he will participate in the inaugural Walk Across Oregon event. The event is traveling the length of Oregon in September, and Fearing will be part of the walk Sept. 14 and 21. The walk passes through Canby Sept. 24-25 on its way to Portland.

It’s a cause that Fearing said brings attention to an important issue in society. It’s also a cause he knows of first-hand.

Fearing was abused by a Catholic priest as a young boy and many years later he came forward after haphazardly running into an acquaintance who had also suffered abuse from the same man.

“My kids were about that same age and it gave me a new perspective on things,” said Fearing. “So, I took it to the authorities.”

What ensued was a nine year odyssey just to get the Oregon Supreme Court to say he had the right to take the church to court.

“The church offered me counseling, which I took and after a year of that they thought I should see a therapist,” he explained. “They didn’t want to pay for it and asked how much money I wanted to make it go away. I hadn’t asked for any money and my therapist finally said I needed to see a lawyer.”

After being turned down by two attorneys, Fearing found a lawyer in Wilsonville to take the case and that began the long trek to a successful court case.

“I decided that no matter what, I was going to help kids who have been abused find their voice,” he said. “Secrecy with this is a huge deal. For my own healing I needed to find something that makes a positive affect on kids.”

After a move to California, Fearing returned to Oregon and worked at the Christie School. He then earned a bachelor’s and master’s in special education and has been at Canby High for three years.

Fearing’s involvement with Walk Across Oregon came about when he met Virginia Jones, herself a sex abuse and rape survivor and co-founder of Compassionate Gathering.

She got Fearing involved in Compassionate Gathering and as she started the process of creating Walk Across Oregon, she recruited him to be part of the program.

“This is about finding a solution and getting it out of secrecy,” Fearing said of the walk. “That’s the part that allows the abuse in our culture. The more it’s addressed and talked about the closer we can come to stopping it.

“It’s a societal issue, not just a Catholic Church or Boy Scout issue,” he added. “This is a socially acceptable way to work for a cause.”

On Sunday, he walked in Creswell and on Sept. 21 he’ll be in Salem. He’ll also make an appearance Sept. 24-25 when the walk stops in Canby.

“Ghandi said that we should ‘be the change you want to see in the world,’” said Fearing. “For me, if we’re going to see change, we have to start doing things. Fear of the unknown or what people might say keeps us from doing something. There’s a lot of victims out there going through some real tough times. Part of this walk is to raise funds for those people, too.”

Walkers will wear bright yellow T-shirts saying “Stop Child Abuse” on the front and “Walk Across Oregon” on the back. They will stop in each town for discussion and other activities, though where that will be in Canby is uncertain.

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