Kenneth Joe has been knownas the former child welfare chief for Fulton County whose overzealousand sometimes passionate management style helped lead to his ouster.
His friends, coworkers and even his enemies are about to discover another side of Joe.
|Kenneth Joe, Sr. is self-publishing a book about being abused by a Catholic priest when he was a child in Chicago.|
It is one that helps explains him, his actions, his zeal, he says.
Joe, 38, was sexually abused as a teenager by a Roman Catholic priest.
He lays the details out in a self-published book that he funded withhis $850,000 legal settlement with the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago,the city where Joe grew up.
"I have decided to more forward now," Joe says.
It is not easy to tell his story, he says.
He worries about how people will treat him. There are strongemotions he struggled with before writing the book. Fear. Shame.Betrayal.
"No one has written a book like this because of the shame," he says.
Then he explains:
"Will they think you are less than a man?"
"Sexual abuse is physical. It's mental. It leaves scars that never, ever go away," he says.
"It challenges your sexuality. It leaves many without being able to have intimate relations."
Joe survived. He grew and dealt with his issues, got married and hasa son and has a 17-year career working on behalf of abused children.
Joe still works for the Department of Family and Children Services in an administrative position.
Despite his successful life, the question of whether he should tellstill bounces around in his head. He wonders about the reaction hisbook will bring. "From Abused to Protector" is available starting todaythrough Joe's Web site, www.careenough.net
"I'm about to find out if coworkers and friends will treat me differently," he said.
The Archdiocese of Atlanta has had cases of sexual abuse by clergy,but they have been scattered. There is nothing here like the clustersof victims in cities like Boston and Chicago, victims who wonmulti-million dollar settlements offered by the church.
Joe's abuser, who is now dead, was implicated in abusing more than 20 boys.
Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory played an important and pioneeringrole in 2002 in the church's abuse crisis as president of the190-member U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He set an example bycalling the abuse a crime and refusing to let priests hide behind thechurch. He pushed the church to deal with the issue and to beginrebuilding trust and faith.
He credits previous church leaders, particularly former AtlantaArchbishop Thomas Donnellan who served from the 1960s to 1987, withdealing with the issue well enough to prevent large scale abuse.
A 2004 report from the Archdiocese showed 25 claims of abuse byminors in Atlanta since 1950. There are none under investigation now.
"The [Atlanta] church handled things well. I am not alleging wehandled them perfectly. But we handled them as well as we could givenwhat we knew at the time," Gregory said.
Joe describes a different reception to his revelation of abuse inChicago. Initial discussions with two other priests there were met withadmonitions to pray about it, otherwise with steely silence.
Last year in Atlanta, victims formed a local chapter of SurvivorsNetwork of those Abused by Priests. Another support group, Voice of theFaithful, has met and corresponded with Gregory. Joe isn't a member ofeither group.
SNAP member Denise Weaver said about 10 people have shown up for meetings.
The group is slowly attracting members, some of whom were living outof state at the time of the abuse. She believes more cases of abusewill come out in Atlanta in coming years.
Gregory said it often takes years for cases to be reported. Many ofthe cases being dealt with today in places like Chicago go backdecades, he said.
The Archdiocese has set up a Web site for those who want to reportabuse and it includes advice about reporting to law-enforcementauthorities.
Joe's abuse took place in early 1980s.
Shortly after he settled his suit last year, he was hired to try tostraighten out Fulton County's Department of Family and ChildrenServices.
Last spring, he was removed after a state report criticized hismanagement style and questioned his results. Joe has defended himself,saying he was getting rid of deadwood and fighting a bureaucracy thatwas often intransigent.
Perhaps now people will realize the issues that were driving him, hehopes. He had been failed by the church bureaucracy and did not wanthis office to fail others, he said.
"I was uncompromising. I make no excuses for that," he said.
He believes his book will help bring some closure to that part of his life and encourage others who have been abused.
"I had to decide. I had to own [my pain], and as difficult as it was, learn to forgive."
And learning to forgive taught him something about becoming whole again.
"Forgiveness was not for those who have hurt you. It is for you."