For 26 years, Goldie Taylor lived with a secret.
As a 16-year-old cheerleader at a St. Louis area high school in 1984, Taylor says she was sexually abused by an athletic coach at her school. The abuse cased her to act out, to let her grades drop, and ultimately to drop out of school altogether.
Taylor, a former Marine and veteran journalist and media consultant, moved on with her life. She never told her mother about the abuse. She even thought she put the incident behind her, until the Penn State sexual abuse scandal broke out. It was then that Taylor was overcome with a desire to finally tell her story.
She appeared on CNN a week ago, telling the story of her abuse for the first time during an appearance with anchor Don Lemon. The following night, she appeared on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, recounting how the abuse fundamentally changed her, and telling the host why in the wake of years of alleged sexual abuse of children at the hands of Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, she felt she had to come forward.
‘What happened to these children is something so horrible, something so unthinkably evil, that to have them stand trial is unimaginable,” Taylor told O’Donnell.”’But if I were going to challenge these adults at Penn State to tell it, if I were going to challenge other people to speak up and speak out…then why not me?”
WATCH theGRIO’s GOLDIE TAYLOR DESCRIBE HER OWN EXPERIENCE WITH ABUSE:
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The interview with O’Donnell quickly went viral. But it was what Taylor did on her blog, The Goldie Taylor Project, that caused the most controversy. In a post about her decision to come forward, Taylor named her abuser.
It was a risky strategy, carrying potential legal ramifications. But Taylor said she thought it was important to call her alleged abuser by name.
“Rape, incest and sexual assault are the most under-reported crimes in the country because the abusers use a ‘shame and blame’ game,” Taylor told theGrio (she is also a contributor to the site.)
“I named him because if I was going to be shamed, he was going to share it. And I didn’t want every coach I’ve ever had to have suspicion fall on them.”
Taylor said that in the wake of her disclosure, which was covered by the press in Missouri, her alleged abuser was “stripped of his coaching duties” at a different high school. And she said she began hearing from other women, classmates of hers and women who attended the school before and after her, who said they were abused by the same coach.
A source tells theGrio the coach, whom NBC News has not named, had been moved to four different school districts between 2002 and 2011, something the source said was unusual in the Missouri school system.
Taylor finds vindication in the fact that the coach no longer has access to young girls. And she said that she feels empowered by her disclosure.
“I didn’t fight then, but I’ve been fighting ever since,” she said. “I’m glad I was able to give other victims cover” to tell their own stories,” Taylor said. “But I’m heartbroken that there were so many who didn’t feel they had safe harbor to talk and I probably never would have if I hadn’t done it that day” last week.
“Every walk of life – rich, poor, black and white – is impacted by this,” said Taylor, and she said that for victims, the psychological torment doesn’t end when the abuse does.
She said the abuse “impacted everything about the way I live my life. I dress very conservatively. I’m very protective of my body and my personal space. I have been very protective — maybe overprotective — of my children. ”
Still, the response to Taylor’s disclosure has not been all positive.
“I’m gratified by the support I’ve received by a legion of perfect strangers, but distressed by the small response from a vitriolic few.” Taylor said, adding that she even received angry responses from people who focused not on the abuse, but on her political views.
“I had a lot of push-back from people who said that since I have attacked [Republican presidential candidate] Herman Cain, it was okay to attack me.”
“My daughter looked at some of the responses I received on Twitter, and texted me to say, no wonder people don’t speak out, because this is what is waiting for them on the other side,” Taylor said.
Taylor said she also heard from supporters of her alleged abuser in Missouri who “outright called me a liar,”
But Taylor said some of those who disbelieve her might just be uninformed – or lucky.
Like other sexual abusers, “he didn’t touch everybody,” Taylor said. “They pick children who they know won’t tell, and who they know nobody will believe if they do. They pick and choose and they groom [their victims] and make you feel like they are the only ones who care about you – like they are the only person in the world who loves you. And if you go back and ask then, they don’t believe they did anything wrong.”
Taylor says she has not been contacted by authorities or attorneys and has no interest in suing her alleged abuser, the school, or the school district, though she plans to travel to Missouri to meet with district officials.
“My intention is to go home and mee with the school district, to talk with school officials about this issue and the issues I faced, and hopefully, that’s where this will end,” she said.
“What I want is for people to know it’s okay to speak up,” said Taylor. “But if all that happens is that he’s sharing some of the shame that I had to endure, I’m satisfied with that.”