Monday, May 19, 2008


Thank you all for the comments and the calls and the emails. It was a little scary to put that out there quite so boldly; thanks for making me not regret it.

I have to write about the courage of the two primary victims in the case. Listening to their statements in court on Friday has humbled me, and I must rush to add a qualifier to this narrative: what I experienced was nowhere near as severe or damaging as what these incredible women endured. That they could get up on the stand, face their abuser in the courtroom, and speak about the emotional aftermath of the abuse with such bald honesty was inspiring. And, questions of degree aside, we are now part of a sisterhood, for better or for worse.

Almost everyone I've spoken with or heard from has been flabbergasted that there was no jail time -- that the negotiated sentence seems very light. It's my understanding that the primary victims in the legal proceeding were more concerned about an assured guilty plea/verdict and acceptance of responsibility, than about a highly punitive sentence. They both (the victims) had to testify at length at a preliminary hearing earlier this spring, and it was a horrible, wrenching experience -- a plea agreement spared them from having to testify again (what they read on Friday were victim impact statements, and there was no questioning). And given that Klever is a 76 year old man in very poor health (cardiovascular disease, brain aneurysm, history of TIAs, prostate cancer and early-onset Parkinson's), jail time seemed to me to be somehow irrelevant, and possibly cruel.

At least, that's how I felt going into the courtroom. Seeing Klever in person after all these years did not disrupt my nervous system as much as I expected, but it was disorienting. I was seated toward the back (the room was packed) and as he scanned the crowd, his eyes did cross mine once or twice without any hesitation or recognition. (I am alternately relieved and infuriated by this fact.)

The legal proceedings were, initially, very dry and uneventful. There were endless readings of the charges and pleas, with line-by-line attention to whether Klever understood the implications of what he was agreeing to. There was a bit of housekeeping as the two lawyers jousted over minutia in the paperwork. And there was more than one recess, during which the on-camera reporter from Channel 3 trolled blatantly (and rudely) for victims to interview.

Most of the people packing the courtroom were from Klever's old church, and many of them clearly had been members for decades (lots of white hair in the room). At one point during the victims' statements, the deputy D.A. asked that anyone in the room who had been abused or otherwise affected by Klever's actions to stand, and half the room stood up, which was staggering.

After the victims made their impact statements, his attorney indicated that Klever had a statement to make. To my disappointment, he was not required to allocute to his crimes, but merely read a brief and wholly inadequate apology. There was a complete disassociation between the (very banal) words he was speaking and his affect -- it reminded me of nothing so much as the way a little boy acts when he's apologizing to a parent for doing something wrong, but not understanding that it was wrong (or why it was wrong). Very creepy, and very disappointing. I think we all hoped that Klever's guilty pleas would signal a true understanding of his crimes, and a full repentance of them. This is clearly not the case.

I don't believe that Klever has any understanding that what he did was wrong, and I don't believe he is capable of empathy with anyone, let alone his victims. In this light, I begin to wish that he would rot in jail for the rest of his life...

Many of you have been asking how I'm doing/dealing with it, and the truth is, I think I'm doing okay. I may have been a little extra-high-maintenance this weekend (hush up), but otherwise, not bad. My sleep has been disjointed and strained for the last week, and I'm sure the old psyche is working things out in the wee hours. But the case is over (except for the formal sentencing on July 29), and we are leaving for a long weekend in Chicago on Thursday. The potatoes and strawberries have been planted, the bills have been paid, and I hauled 3 bags of crap gently used clothing to Goodwill today. This is how I heal: through getting my hands dirty, through chasing dust bunnies out of closets, through crossing items off lists.

I think I can finally cross Gerald Klever off my list.


Domestic Goddess said...

Just because you didn't endure what others did does not discount that what he did to you was wrong. I know you know that. This man is as creepy and vile as they come, in my opinion.

It still makes me wonder. He gets a light sentence. They give Lindsey and Paris and Nicole these teensy sentences for drinking too much and driving. And yet, a man can victimize children (and in some cases RUIN THEIR LIVES) and that's all he gets? Disgusting.

I am glad you are doing so well. We're here for you if you need anything. And enjoy your trip!

Anonymous said...

I second what DG says--it's not a question of degree. Abuse is abuse and the damage is there, the betrayal is there, and it's there for a lifetime. You can never get back what was taken from you.

I don't think the abusers ever fully realize that what they've done is wrong. They convince themselves that they're doing it out of love, at least that's what my abuser did. :-( In my case, it was made worse because he is the father of my childhood bestfriend and was close friends with my parents. So, I continued to see him throughout the years when he and his wife came to events at my parent's house. No, I never told my family. I felt that it was my friend's story to tell. There was also the feeling of not wanting to upset my parents or burden the with guilt--they thought they were sending me off for weekends with people they could trust. Anyway, seeing him throughout the years, there was never any sense that he felt any remorse or any understanding of what he did. From my reading and talking with other victims of sexual abuse, that seems to be the "norm", if there's anything normal about this.

I hope this helps you and the other victims find some healing. So sad that there were so many victims of this man, but so good that you've found each other and have connected with each other. You will come through this stronger.

Take care of yourself. You are amazing.


HG said...

Ruth, your strength has been inspiring. I too was aghast that he got a slap on the wrist. And I'm glad that his health is horrible - I hope he is in a lot of misery in his last days on Earth.

Anonymous said...

Ann said it better than I could, but I will repeat one thing she said which can't be stated often enough.

You are amazing.


Anonymous said...

Ruth, Somehow I found you while searching Google for new articles on the Gerald Klever case! I can't believe you were in the courtroom on Friday - I was there too, and hope that someday all the girls/women might have a chance to meet. I too was a victim of this pervert from 1969 - 1970, at age 14-15. I too lived in Swarthmore, was a neighbor, and babysat regularly for the Klevers. For many years I thought there were only several girls from Swarthmore who had unfortunate experiences with him -I think we would be terribly saddened to know just how many girls he molested or abused over the last 40+ years. After the court case last Friday, several of the victims and church members from Springfield Presbyterian gathered at the church for an informal gathering. There was another Swarthmore babysitter there as well as some girls from the church. It was a cathartic experience for us all to meet and share some thoughts. I believe the church will have a future gathering - I hope to be able to meet you at some point.

What is very ironic is that I am a Kidney Transplant Social Worker. From your posted comments it seems as though you are taking good care of yourself and are doing well physically! I am also involved professionally in organ donor awareness activities. I really believe that our paths have crossed for a reason - there is too much coincidence in this situation to say that it "just happened accidentally."

Your account of the court proceedings was "right on" and I found the whole experience to be very emotional. I still am trying to close the page on this situation - but it has been haunting me for 38 years - I am now 52. I think it will take some time.

I really hope to have a chance to talk to you soon.

RuthWells said...

Everyone, thank you, again, for your supportive words. I'm hoping Cindy will come back and see this comment, as she didn't leave an email address. Cindy, you can email me directly if you go to the top right of this blog, click on "my profile", and then click on "email". Send me a note; I'd love to talk to you.

Magpie said...

Wow. What a terrible story - I'm glad you're holding up okay.