Victims of Sex Abuse Fight Molester's Parole

By Carol Robinson
Birmingham News
January 22, 2012

Victim says Charles Corley was, "just a really bad man that played the system to do evil things.

Jason Lee wakes up every day and has to remind himself that he is worth something.

The 36-year-old former Homewood resident constantly measures himself against those around him and, in his own mind, always comes up short.

"I feel," Lee said, "like I am less than."

This is no pity party. It's his way of life -- a tragic mindset instilled in the throes of adolescence when, in the wake of his parents' divorce, someone he looked up to as a father figure took his complete trust and twisted it into tragedy.

"The bottom line is," he said, "I was just a kid and he used me as a sex toy."

"He" is Charles Donald Corley, respected Boy Scout leader, Trinity United Methodist Church leader, white-collar worker, husband, and father. It was at his hands that Lee was sexually abused, over and over, for a period of five years.

In a high-profile case in the Birmingham area, Corley, then 45, was convicted in 1995 of molesting three boys, including Lee. Authorities say he left a trail of abuse over three decades -- the 1970s, '80s and '90s.

Corley was sentenced to 30 years in prison, but comes up for parole on Jan. 31.

Lee and some of Corley's other victims have set up a website called "30 is 30," with the goal of ensuring Corley serves his full sentence.

"It's a way to atone for not speaking up when we were kids. Back then, I did what I had to do to survive," Lee said. "I am an adult now and I am better than I was. I can do more."

'A really bad man'

Lee and his mother and brother moved to Homewood from Atlanta in 1986. His parents had just divorced, and they wanted to be closer to relatives here.

Struggling with being divorced and a single mom, Lee's mother searched for activities for her boys. "She let two respectable organizations help her raise her kids -- Scouts and the church," Lee said. "Unfortunately, Don Corley was present in both. He used them as a feeding ground to identify his victims."

"We don't blame the institutions at all," Lee said. "He was just a really bad man that played the system to do evil things."

Corley befriended Lee's family and offered himself up as a father figure. Lee was invited to hang out at his house, go on vacations with him and even baby-sit his children.

"I was the perfect victim for him," Lee said. "I was weak. I was troubled. I had no confidence."

Lee said he was raised to listen to, and obey, adults. The molestation started under the guise of Corley trying to educate Lee on sexual matters. "I was young enough, and naive enough, to believe him," Lee said.

Lee said he was never overtly forced or threatened. Instead, he was manipulated past the point of exhaustion, and gave in.

The abuse lasted, and escalated, for six years.

"I was the longest victim," Lee said. "Most just lasted a couple of months with him."

"I lived a double life," he said. "I was just a kid. I was a geek. I didn't fit in well."

A teacher dared Lee to run for senior class president. It was a challenge that changed his life.

"I got elected. Maybe the kids elected me to make fun of me, maybe not. I will never know," he said. "But it gave me the confidence to tell Don Corley I didn't want to do it anymore."

In 1992, he graduated from high school and got out of Alabama.

"I wanted to leave town, leave my disgusting past, and start my life over," he said.

To tell the truth

In 1994, while in school in South Carolina, Lee got a call from a Homewood police investigator. "I totally remember the feeling that, damn it, I am going to tell the truth," he said.

It was a lengthy conversation.

"This guy had no idea I was going to verbally vomit on him," Lee said.

Corley, it appears, had made a move on the wrong boy. Someone finally told him "no," and then told his parents. The investigation snowballed, and someone told police they should contact Lee.

"In hindsight, I guess people knew, but they didn't know," Lee said. "My name came up more and more in the investigation."

Of those, three pressed charges, including Lee. Corley pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual abuse and two counts of sodomy involving three young men dating back to 1978.

After the conviction, Lee planned to move on.

"I pressed charges, and now I was going to leave it alone," he said.

But it's never that easy. While the fallout from sexual abuse can be controlled, it never really goes away.

"I tried to fill the hole in my life and had some unhealthy relationships," he said.

He married, divorced, and underwent hundreds of hours of therapy.

"Approaching that 10-year mark, I tried to forget and move on," he said.

But in 2005, he said he got a call from Corley's lawyer asking him to not oppose Corley's parole. He also received literature about sexual abuse from Corley.

"I yelled, I screamed, I was irrational," Lee said. "It was unbelievable."

Old feelings came back, and this time they sparked a fire in Lee. He vowed to make sure Corley stayed behind bars for as long as possible.

"I knew there were others and I didn't say anything because I just wanted to move on," he said. "And I know because I didn't say anything, there were more victims. It's a strong motivator for doing what I am doing now."

Lee spoke against Corley's release at his parole hearing in 2005, and parole was denied.

He realized he was needed on the front line. He went public with his story, and has stayed there.

"I decided it's part of my past. I can't change it," he said. "I can become a speaking platform for other victims."

About two years ago, Lee and other victims began a more organized effort. In late 2011, they launched their website,, and also joined Facebook and Twitter.

The primary goal is to get people to write letters to Alabama's Pardons and Parole Board against Corley's release.

There are links on the website for people to be able to do that.

A secondary goal is to demystify the topic of childhood molestation.

Recent incidents such as the Penn State scandal and child molestation allegations made against Alabaster teacher Daniel Acker Jr. have bolstered their mission, he said.

"My heart hurts when I read about new cases that come up," Lee said. "We are encouraging parents in every household to be able to start talking about it with their kids. We have to make sure our children know what appropriate boundaries, and by developing a relationship with our kids to where they are comfortable enough to tell us what's going on."

Lee, a sales trainer in the computer industry, is remarried and has a son. Still, he said he will be affected for the rest of his life by things common to victims of sexual abuse: sleep issues, a skewed sense of morality, sexual issues, addiction issues and low self-esteem.

"Every day I have to choose to be a solid person, and not to listen to what my inner kid tells me," he said.

He accepts that someday Corley will complete his sentence.

"Between now and then, I want to know I did everything I could to keep him in jail for as long as possible," he said. "By the time he gets out, I am going to have worked hard to make him irrelevant in my mind."



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