Molesters Should Pay Steep Price for ‘thefts‘

Charlotte Observer
February 9, 2009

What's justice for a stolen childhood, stolen innocence? Seven years and eight months in prison surely isn't.

But Mecklenburg County prosecutor Kelly Miller said that was the best plea deal she could make. “I hope the guilty plea gives the victim some sense of resolution and peace,” she said. “He was brave for speaking out.”

The young man, now in his 20s, was indeed brave for speaking out. That courage was on public display last week in a Charlotte courtroom where he faced his tormentor, Roman Catholic priest Robert Yurgel, who began molesting the boy at 14.

The victim's words are haunting and instructive about the devastation of child molestation. “For the past decade, I have lived in fear of you. You made me believe my family would be mad at me. But … my family did believe me. My family did not get mad at me. My family still loves me.”

Resolution and peace for the victim haven't come easily. “To this day I suffer horrible flashbacks and nightmares,” he said.

That's similar to what a teen boy said in 2006 at the sentencing of Jimmie Grubbs, a 67-year-old Sunday School teacher and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher. He pleaded guilty to molesting young boys and transporting them across state lines. He got 20 years in prison.

Clearly, child molestation is not just a Catholic church problem – though the church has been culpable for leaving perverted priests in a position to continue such abuse. This is a national problem.

Molesters are in homes, schools, neighborhood centers. Research shows more than three million children are victims of sexual abuse. At least two out of every 10 girls and at least one out of every 10 boys are sexually abused by age 14.

Most victims don't tell of the abuse. Many, like Yurgel's victim, tell only years after the abuse has ended. They don't believe adults will believe or help them. They blame themselves, fear their attacker and struggle alone to deal with the aftermath.

The adults and loved ones in their lives – family, teachers, coaches, ministers – must not let that happen. Adults must provide information to kids to protect them from molesters. Adults also must make themselves available to hear a child's cry for help, and provide comfort and love if the child becomes a victim.

And, yes, those who sexually molest should pay a steep price for doing so. The mother of Yurgel's victim said it plainly – what the “evil crimes” took from her son can never be restored. That's echoed in the words of one of Grubbs' victims: “Give the man the sentence he deserves because he gave me a sentence I did not deserve.”


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