I covered the Ed Meloan case in South Carolina. Meloan had used his position as a tv personality as a means to serially molest young boys over several decades. At first, for me, it was just a news story like all the others I covered until I heard a quote from one of the victims. He said that he came forward because he could no longer live with the guilt of knowing that his failure to report Meloan meant that other kids became victims of the man. He said he knew that by staying silent, he aided and abetted a criminal and was therefore guilty himself.
That quote hit me in the gut. I understood what he meant, I was in the same boat. I had harbored the same type of terrible secret for decades. So, I called Sheriff Whittle and told him what happened to me in the summer of 1984. That is when we all learned of the statute of limitation on child molestation in Georgia and it set me and many others on the path that we continue on to this day.
Four years ago I sat down and told Austin, Mary Liz, Harley and our general manager Kent that I felt compelled to work to change that law. When Austin learned of what happened to me as a kid, he said, “just damn.” Austin works with kids every year through Storyland Theatre, he is really a “softie” when it comes to kids, and I could tell he almost took it personally because the situation left us all powerless.
We decided that my reputation and my credibility as a reporter had to be protected, so it was agreed that I would do research and stories on the matter and we would work through the channels we had to get new legislation passed.
We contacted Ben Harbin who immediately got to work with Barbara Simms and Lee Anderson. The bill to eliminate the statute of limitations was drawn and filed. It then died slowly in committee. Local political adviser and Boy Scout leader Jim Cox got involved as well as Columbia County Chief Magistrate Bobby Christine. For years, we all pushed to get the bill out of committee and on to the floor of the Assembly. Nothing seemed to work.
“We need a face to put on this crime, Scott,” Judge Christine told me. “Someone needs to step up and say that it happened to them, without it, we just can’t get the momentum.” As it turns out, Bobby’s brother-in-law Jared shared a similar story with me and Jared decided that he would step up and talk about it. I decided, against the advice of everyone at the radio station that I must do the same.
Jared and I went and sat down with Governor Deal and we told our stories and I agreed to go on camera here in Augusta to help get the grass roots support that Ben needed to relaunch the bill. Then this mess in Penn. State happened and it created the momentum to make this a state wide issue.
I have to confess to you that this has been emotionally trying on me, my family and my co-workers. We have had to make hard decisions over the past four years, but we all understand that it is a conversation that we as a society need to have. We need the mechanisms in place within the law to protect our children. If that means that some of us have to come forward and divulge details we would really just like to forget, then so be it, we must. Having access to the media and to the people who craft and vote on our laws comes with its own set of responsibilities.
A reporter never wants to become a part of the story, we are supposed to simply be the medium to disseminate information. But sometimes, we have to break the rules if it is for the greater good. Neither Jared nor I see ourselves as victims. We are both successful and happy in our lives. However, there were events that happened to both of us in our youth that we want to prevent happening to other kids. If nothing else, we want to give a voice to victims of child molestation that do struggle with what happened to them. We decided to man-up and put a face on this crime.
You can help get this bill passed. Send an email to your state representative and your state senator and tell them you support HB 676. The battle to get that statute overturned is four years long at this point, but we are committed to getting it done this year. With your help we will do it.