May 20, 2019
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People who suspected abuse by Carlson should be held accountable

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
"For you there wil be no crying. For you the sun will be shining," a woman who asked not to be identified said as she tossed flowers off the Penobscot Narrows Bridge on Monday, November 14, 2011. She was honoring the memory of the Rev. Robert Carlson, who jumped from the bridge on Sunday. She explained that Carlson had talked her out of jumping off the same bridge in June 2010. "I was supposed to be in the water." she said.

All that enables wickedness is silence and inaction by those with the power to stop it. The people who worked and were friends with the Rev. Robert Carlson and knew about his potential sex-abuse victims should be held accountable by police if they fail to admit their own complacency. There is no excuse for potentially letting children be traumatized for years. There is no excuse for knowing or suspecting and doing nothing.

Enough of remaining silent. If you received information about or witnessed criminal or inappropriate sexual behavior by Carlson and did not tell police, you displayed the same hypocrisy as the man who claimed to be a reverend. Instead of comfort, he brought torment to multiple children, as evidenced by a Maine State Police report released Wednesday.

The report details interviews police conducted with victims, the former president of Husson University, Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office employees, a Bangor police officer and a therapist who treated some of Carlson’s victims. It shows that Carlson — who was the chaplain of the Penobscot County Jail for 32 years and the chaplain of Husson for 11 years — likely sexually abused several children over four decades, until he jumped off the Penobscot Narrows Bridge on Nov. 13, 2011.

It should not require an anonymous letter to the district attorney’s office to start a police investigation into whether someone has sexually abused children.

If former Husson President Bill Beardsley — now the commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation — received a phone call from someone about an inappropriate sexual relationship Carlson had years prior, and Carlson resigned from Husson after Beardsley talked to him about the caller, why didn’t Beardsley take the additional step and tell police what happened? Even if Beardsley had no evidence of unlawful activity, why not let police make that determination?

An unidentified therapist in the report said there were at least six victims, and other staff members at the treatment facility were working with victims as well. The therapist said Carlson used money as part of his control over some victims and that there was a grooming process. Did the therapists report the matter to the Department of Health and Human Services? If not, why?

Carlson was a widely known figure as a founder of Penobscot Community Health Care and Hope House, in addition to a church leader in Orrington and chaplain for the Bangor and Brewer police and fire departments. But society should know by now that all types of people have been convicted of abusing children, whether physically or by using or creating child pornography: a Jackman kindergarten teacher, Penn State assistant football coach, Maine state trooper, assistant attorney general. It’s time people learned to report potential criminal activity no matter what position the person holds.

It’s also time for police to say how many likely victims there are and what was done to them. There’s been too much hiding, and much of the information in the report was redacted. The truth can be made clear without identifying victims.

We hope people who know something, anything, about the allegations that Carlson sexually abused minors will tell police. We hope potential victims will be able to share their experiences with people in positions of power and be confident they will be taken seriously. We hope people have learned, are learning, that there is no excuse for remaining silent in the face of suspicions that someone abused children.

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