Victim Impact Statements

Jamie Forbes - September 30, 2022

Warning: the following content describes sexual abuse and the impact it has had on other’s lives. Some may find it upsetting.

Last Friday, I sat in a courtroom with the man who sexually abused me. It was the first time since I graduated from high school - more than 37 years - that I had seen him in person. This was the culmination of a 5-year criminal case against Rey Buono, the teacher who repeatedly raped me when I was in 9th grade. 

What follows are three Victim Impact Statements. These are letters written by survivors to the judge to describe the impact that the crime being discussed had on them. I share these Impact Statements because they each illustrate a different perspective. They are powerful stories that I hope promote conversation and understanding. 

There is so much discomfort that people feel when talking about sex. It’s even more challenging to talk about sexual abuse. Talking about sex and sexual abuse, over time, can reduce the discomfort, and it certainly helps to reduce the shame for survivors. Talking about it helps kids understand the issue; it helps build a vocabulary and trust with adults. Most importantly, talking about sex and sexual abuse is the best way to protect the people we love.

It is in this context that I share with you what I, along with two others who were also abused by Rey Buono, said in court. Each statement is different, and together they provide poignant and moving insight into how the abuse affected each of us and many, many others who still suffer in silence.

My Impact Statement

It has been more than 40 years since Rey Buono repeatedly raped me, and not a day goes by that some aspect of his sexual, physical and emotionally abusive behavior doesn’t haunt me. The first time he laid his hands on me, I was terrified. I didn’t know what I had done to make him think I would want that. It rocked me to the core because it made me question so much in my life I thought I knew about myself.

When Rey touched me that first time, he stole my childhood. When he invited me to his apartment, suggesting he could help me prepare for my history test, where he raped me the first time, he stole my voice. When he did it again and again, he shattered my ability to love and trust myself.

I have spent my life since then trying to reclaim what Rey Buono stole from me, trying to scrub the shame that seeped into every thought as I tried to process who I was. Before he stole my childhood and my voice and burdened me with a shame that suffocated me, I looked to older adults to help me understand life and how to navigate it. After he repeatedly raped me, I didn’t trust adults to care for me. I avoided people in positions of authority. In fact, I actively passed up opportunities to become a leader because leaders, to me, were not trustworthy. 

When I most needed mentors in my life, I shied away from finding them because Rey showed me they were dangerous.

If it weren’t for my friends, I am sure I would have spiraled into a darker place. They prevented that. In school they were my protection, my solace, my reassurance that I wasn’t as damaged as I felt inside because of what he did to me. My friendships fortified and protected me against the shame and self-doubt that he forced on me. While I have made a lot of progress, I still carry those feelings with me every day because of what he did.

Telling people that Rey raped me has been an important part of my healing. When I posted on Facebook that I was one of the many people he abused, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. I was also struck by the number of other people who reached out to me who he had abused. I heard their stories.  Most of them were tragically familiar to me.  Still others were much worse and left survivors addicted, homeless and suicidal. 

Hearing from some of the others he raped gave me some comfort, knowing I wasn’t alone in my experience. Every time I think about what he did to me and to so many others, I taste the bile of disgust and revulsion. Today I am here, able to read this statement with anger fueled not just by the devastation he caused in my life but also by the wake of pain and suffering for the unnamed others who are unable to stand and speak with me today about what he did to them. I share my words today in solidarity with them and because it is impossible for me to separate what he did to me from what he did to so many others.  

When Rey Buono raped me, he turned me into a self-doubting shame machine. At a time I should have been thriving, all I could see of myself was a vulnerable kid who didn’t have much to offer the world. I have spent the majority of my life rewiring the connections in my brain so I no longer have to listen to a constant litany of critical voices. But they still creep in from time to time, and I blame him for that.

I am a firm believer in the mind-body connection. Scientists have concluded that child sex abuse survivors are 49% more likely to get cancer than those who were not abused. Is it also his fault, therefore, that I developed a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer when I was 46? I have been living with cancer for nearly 10 years. While I’m still ALIVE, I have Stage 4 cancer, which has spread to my bones. 

It’s incurable. 

If Rey had anything to do with my cancer, then he not only stole my youth, but he quite likely also stole my ability to watch my daughters become adults and have their own families. Rey has stolen my ability to nurture and love my wife as we grow old together. He has stolen experiences and emotions that I will never have. I can absorb the impacts that his actions had on me, but it’s nearly intolerable for me to imagine the tremendous impact Rey continues to have on my family. 

I wish Rey Buono were going to jail with the other criminals who are unfit to live in society.  It’s where he belongs. But instead I have to settle for knowing that his admission to repeatedly raping me is as good as an admission to stealing so many other childhoods. Rey’s admission of guilt means he’s no longer fighting against the truth. And that means I don’t have to fight for justice any more. It means I’ll have more strength to fight cancer instead and hope that I’ll be able to enjoy more time with my wife and get to watch my daughters raise their own families.

I will walk out of here with my head held high. And Rey is incredibly lucky that he gets to walk out of here with his hands free instead of into a jail cell. I hope in whatever years he has remaining, he will spend the majority of it being someone who doesn’t hurt people, motivated by the knowledge that he has a lot of deep and widespread pain to make up for.

Important Note - For the sake of clarity - particularly to those I know personally - I want to assure you that, while what I wrote about my cancer is true, I have every intention of eradicating it from my body. While I’ve had cancer in my bones for the past 3 years, it has not grown since it was detected there. My treatments are working. And while current medical protocols have been unable to cure metastatic prostate cancer, I fully believe in the power of the body to heal. I have already defied the medical survivability statistics. With this court case resolved, I will have more energy to focus on making my body inhospitable to cancer. And I plan to do just that.

Beau Ryan’s Impact Statement

It was some 48 years ago, when as a young, physically and emotionally immature boy, I was molested and raped for the first of many times by Rey Buono. Rey was the “floor master” in my dorm and in an ideal position to get me into his apartment and abuse me. In doing so, he destroyed my adolescence and almost my life. The shame and confusion I felt was immense and unbearable.

At that age, I should have been taken care of, not taken advantage of. After barely graduating from Milton, my life went on a downward spiral of drugs and self destruction……ultimately ending up with me living on the streets strung out on heroin.  Thankfully, at some point, I was able to decide that I wanted to live, not die or go to jail.

My life and my relationships have all been tainted by my rage at what Rey did to me all those years ago. I have spent countless years in therapy trying to let go of some of these feelings. The things that I wish I could have said back then: get your hands off me, stop that, leave me alone, are things that haunt me to this day. I wish I could speak directly to Rey and tell him exactly what I think of him and what he did to me. I wish I could show the court my 1977 yearbook in which a picture of Rey sitting on the grass leaning against a tree was inscribed by him to me: “the pleasure was all mine”. I wish I could let out all the anger, rage and pain on him. Because that is what I am feeling standing here. I am just lucky to have an amazing and eternally supportive wife and family.

I would like to thank the court for the opportunity to make this statement. I would also like to thank Lisa Beattie and Kristin Collins for advocating for me to have this chance. It means the world to me and something I never thought possible. One of the most difficult things, in the last 6 years especially, has been the feelings of helplessness. Due to the unfortunate timing of the statutes of limitations at the time, I could not bring charges against Rey now. Since he was extradited, I have hoped that I might get a chance to testify at his trial. I have done my best to support Jamie and the DA’s office……but that really didn’t and wasn’t going to help me resolve my conflict and frustration. In some small way this does.

It is my firm conviction that I am only one of potentially dozens or even hundreds of victims of Rey’s, not just here in the US, but overseas. I believe that he belongs in prison for the rest of his life. It’s unfortunate that only recently have enough of these cases come to light that the laws and statutes are changing. This plea is a gift…….it does not compare to the extreme damage that he has caused. However, I do take some solace from the fact that he will have to suffer some consequences of his actions and not be able to walk free and continue his destruction. 

David Saltonstall’s Impact Statement

Your Honor,

My name is David Saltonstall, and Rey Buono abused me for five years of my life, starting when I was a child of 13.

I have not spoken these words publicly until today, but let me be crystal clear: Rey Buono’s pattern of abuse over many years robbed scores of children of their innocence, including mine. He has said over the years that he never touched anyone without their consent, which is as cynical as it is offensive. The concept of consent has no meaning for a child, who has no capacity to give it. There is only fear and innocence at that age – fear of disappointing someone who you thought was a trusted mentor, fear of being found out, and innocence surrounding the physical abuse that is suddenly, inexplicably, being forced upon you.

While much has been established about Buono’s years of abuse at Milton Academy, I want to make clear that there remains another mostly silent group of children that Buono abused in his typically calculated way. I was not a student at Milton Academy. I was a young person from another school who joined one of the bike tours he led in the summer. In that way, my story is exactly like Jamie Forbes’ – days of biking, the introduction of alcohol by Buono at night, and then a pairing up into tents that for Buono became the perfect, predatory trap. It is where I was abused for the first time, and I feel confident in telling the court that there are many other “bike kids” who like me had no connection to Milton but remain scarred and alive. Some may have no idea this proceeding is happening today because they have no formal connection to Milton, so as a survivor I stand for them as well in giving voice to Buono’s predations.

I am grateful that with today’s proceeding, Rey Buono’s webs have all come undone. All his cowardice and running have been overtaken by the bravery of those who refused to let justice be deferred any longer. I know in my heart that in confessing to some small subset of charges today, he is confessing to all in the eyes of his many victims. I hope the sounds of their anguish will ring in his ears every hour of every day, like the rattle of his father’s old key chain, and haunt him for the rest of his days.

Sincerely, David Saltonstall

Final Reflection

I didn’t know either of these men before I returned to Milton Academy in 2016 to tell them about being sexually abused by Rey Buono. While shame kept us apart for more than 30 years and prevented us from creating community through our shared experience, this shared experience, as tragic as it is, has brought us together. I salute Beau and David and send strength and light out to all survivors who feel unable to push beyond shame to find healing and community. May you someday find comfort in sharing your story with others so that you, too, may feel the power of community and the promise of healing through storytelling. 

Silenced While Seeking Justice

By Jamie Forbes, CEO and Survivor

I set out to write a series of blog posts about my experience as a survivor of sexual abuse. As I began the process, the words and the topics to write about poured out of me.  I realized there was a lot I wanted to cover as I began to pull apart the different aspects of my abuse. I made a list that included how the abuse kept me small and prevented me from taking risks; why I decided to return to Milton Academy to report my abuse after 31 years; my process and what it felt like to participate in the school’s investigation; why I chose to declare publicly that I was one of the unnamed people in the Investigation findings; why I decided to respond to some press inquiries and not others; what made me decide to press charges against the man who abused me and my experience of the subsequent legal process: these were all topics that others agreed would have value to readers.

I wrote my first post, and it felt good to release.  And the second one spilled out of me 3 months later. And then Boston Magazine published my story. Writing has always been a way for me to process my own experiences. And the possibility of sharing these details to help others is what helped me overcome the nearly crippling fear about going back to the school that betrayed me and hoping things would be different this time. Things were different when I returned. And identifying the power that he took from me when he abused me and sharing it in a public way has enabled me to reclaim that power. This reclaiming has been a critical part of my healing.

And then I stopped writing the series.

I had so much more to write. I had a long list of topics to cover, but something was in the way. I can point to lots of reasons that kept me from writing more on the topic. The most obvious is that I was busy.  But that was too easy an answer, and it wasn’t the whole story.

What I realized is that fear has blocked me from writing more. It’s not fear of what you might think though. I am not afraid about what people will think of me. While shame is still a deeply ingrained aspect from my abuse, what has kept me from writing more is the fear that what I write will be used against me in court. Every word I write and have written about my abuse will be dissected. Every triumph over the pain will be used to show that the damage to me wasn’t that bad. Any revelation or explanation of healing will be evidence that whatever harm I have claimed could not have been as traumatic as the prosecution is claiming.

I imagine myself sitting on the witness stand and having to defend out of context quotations; I anticipate being asked just how well I remember incidents that happened more than 4 decades ago, especially when alcohol was involved. Trauma does strange things to memory. The criminal justice system has little tolerance for trauma’s impact on the brain, especially when there is also no physical evidence. 

Thirty-seven years after I left the school where my abuser walked the halls, I am currently grinding through the court system seeking justice - and consequences for the man who abused me. He fled overseas after being fired for admitting he had abused another student. He went to Thailand and Malaysia, where he continued to teach until a court in Massachusetts indicted him for what he did to me. It took 8 months to get the indictment. It took another year and a half to get him extradited from Southeast Asia. And it has taken another 3 years to argue through endless motions and appeals. There is still no court date on the horizon. The case may be dismissed before it even gets to trial. But if the case does go to trial, I know that every statement, everything I have written will be pulled apart for inconsistencies, for evidence that my memory (indeed that I) am unreliable and should not be believed. This is not only my fear. It is the fear that everyone who has been victimized has to consider if they report abuse: being told that it didn’t happen, that what they’re saying can’t be true.  Too often that stops them, and I understand it. 

I have a lot to say about the impact and what I have learned from being sexually victimized as a  young teen. And writing about the experience has been a powerful salve for the wounds that still fester. So I am left to write about not being able to write - about being afraid of what I say because I know everything will be challenged with the objective of discrediting me. In fact, my choice to start Learning Courage has already been used in court as evidence that this organization is merely an opportunity to profit from my experience. 

Seeking justice has been a long grind, and the outcome remains uncertain. And yet the criminal process favors those who remain silent. Seeking justice means submitting yourself to further victimization because it’s built into the process. Part of my healing has come from expressing and sharing my experience. And doing that also puts the case at risk. These elements are all reasons that prevent people from reporting abuse and pressing charges.    

And they are at the heart of what has kept me from writing. 

Resilience Event - Pink Martini

Learning Courage hosted a virtual event on January 12, 2021. The theme of this event was Resilience. This theme resonated for all of us at that time because we were approaching a year in the grips of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Everyone was fatigued from all the restrictions and losses that came with the pandemic. And yet resilience represented something we all felt connected to. We needed more of it and yet we all had to demonstrate it. And resilience is a significant part of our work at Learning Courage. Our goal is to support and promote resilience in schools by providing tools that reduce sexual assault and minimize trauma for those who have been harmed.

If you were unable to join the event, you can click on the image below to experience the amazing artists who gave their time to support our work. To listen to more of Pink Martini, click on this link or visit PinkMartini.com.

Resilience - Pink Martini

A Survivor's Reaction to the Senate Judiciary Hearings

By Amy Wheeler, VP of Memberships at Learning Courage

September 15, 2021

Olympic Gymnasts Testify to US Senate

As VP of Membership at Learning Courage and a survivor, my unwavering conviction for the need for Learning Courage was reinforced yesterday when listening to the courageous and painful testimony of four gymnasts in front of the Senate Judiciary. Our systems need to radically change in order to stop abuse and promote healing. 

Today I feel like a victim not a survivor. Caught in my body as if back in the abuse, caught in the shame, vulnerability and despair instead of the strength, courage and resilience of my more familiar survivor self.

There are so many of us. So many children abused by adults, let down by the adults and the systems that are supposed to protect us. I am a survivor of abuse after abuse after abuse. A victim of trusted adults harming kids and not doing the right thing. A victim of trusted adults doing the absolute wrong thing. A victim of trusted adults and trusted systems perpetrating more harm. Over and over and over again. As if the sexual abuse was not enough, then there is the neglect, the disbelief, the mixed messages, the lack of action. The harm done in the guise of support, once again. Betrayal. Re-victimization. From the organizations, the government, and the people we are supposed to trust to protect us and care about us.  How many times can we be abused? What is the cost?

Watching the gymnasts testify today in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee hit close to home. They spoke of the sexual abuse and the subsequent lifelong trauma that results from that. They also spoke about the failure of the adults to do anything about the abuse they had the courage to report; the collusion of those in power to silence the survivors and shield the perpetrator and others in power. They spoke of the ways the adults lacked any understanding of what it means to interview a survivor, how they minimized their experiences, twisted and changed their reports, did nothing with the reports while saying they were and, most egregiously, protected the adults and their organizations at the expense of the safety and well being of children. The severity of the compounding trauma is unfathomable. The physical and emotional toll it takes to stand up and speak and tell your story is hard to measure. Then to be disbelieved and ignored. To be told by the FBI “it is being handled” and subsequently learning of hundreds more children getting abused when it could have been prevented. Horrifying. Disgusting. Appalling. Devastating.

How many times do the victims have to be hurt for people to learn?

A Survivor's Journey - The Impact of Abuse

The Chorus of Critics

I recognize that it’s impossible to separate how much my life - the way I act and think - would be different if I hadn’t been sexually abused.  Being sexually abused changed me in both profound and small ways. I believe that the abuse magnified existing, latent and emerging impulses and thoughts.  I don’t believe it’s useful or even possible to identify how different I would be if I had not been abused.  But I do think it’s important to acknowledge what consequences feel directly tied to the abuse I sustained.  My objective in writing this, after all, is to provide perspective rather than definitive connections. And much of what I describe here are common reactions to sexual abuse. My experience is therefore not unique at all.  Rather it is all too common.  Above all, I write this with the intention to help others understand.  I hope you will read it with that in mind.    

What follows, therefore, is a brief list of ways I believe the abuse impacted me, both during high school and the years that followed.

The Chorus of Critics - This is what I call the unproductive voices in my head that grew in volume and confidence during high school.  They ganged up on me, preventing me from focusing in school, on the sports field and even during social interactions.  You’re not good enough. What makes you think you can do that? You know you will fail!   Voices of doubt are part of the human condition. For most adolescents, they come and go.  Mine just sat on my shoulder and yelled at a volume that drowned out a lot of what was going on around me. To say this was a distraction is an understatement in the extreme.  I was berated incessantly. If things were going OK, the critics told me things were about to go south any second.  If I was doing something poorly or received a bad grade, they jumped up and down and screamed. You see?  We told you this would happen!  Why do you even bother? 

Over time and with lots of therapy, I began to recognize the power that the Chorus had over me and how damaging they were - and also the reason they existed.  They were part of my protective shell.  Today I’m more practiced at talking back to them, thanking them for protecting me from being disappointed or hurt.  I try to recognize when they are helpful.  The vast majority of time, though, they hold me back.  Thankfully, they hold less sway with me today than they did earlier in my life when I couldn’t separate them from the truth.

Shame - The Chorus of Critics are fueled by shame.  They have a voracious appetite for it.  They have an encyclopedic memory of my behavior and thoughts, and they used this evidence to remind me that I wasn’t worthy, wasn’t good enough, that someone else was more deserving.   While I knew intellectually that the abuse was not my fault, this shame guided my behavior. It created this self-sabotaging doom loop that prevented me from committing to anything wholeheartedly.  If I didn’t succeed, I could always tell myself that at least I hadn’t really given it everything I had. This played out in the classroom and on the sports field primarily, but it was a pervasive mindset that informed the calculation for many decisions.  As with the Chorus of Critics, I began to see how detrimental this mindset was for me - particularly in my professional life.  Knowing something is bad for you is important.  Changing the well-worn grooves on this vinyl record took years.

While I would sing with passion and emotion in front of my bedroom mirror in my high school days, I held back in front of my band mates.  I did a semester program with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) my fall semester of my first year of college.  When my trip leader suggested I consider taking the Instructor’s Course, I was flattered and terrified.  I could never be that much of a leader, I told myself.  I never applied.

I thought I had processed the abuse over the years, much of that in therapy sessions but also with close friends and family.  What I realized, however, was even recently, as I wrote my first blog post, some of the words that came out of my head and onto the page were still laden with guilt.  Seeing the words and phrases on the page gave me an opportunity to recognize the shame that still infiltrated my words.  Once I could see it, I was able to re-think and then re-write the details, using words that were more appropriate for the power differential and conflict that the abuse created within me.   

Self-Doubt / Lack of Confidence - The manifestation of the Chorus of Critics and the shame was a crippling lack of confidence.  If I wasn’t worth my parents or the school leadership sticking up for me, for protecting me, I certainly wasn’t going to do it on my own.  I was, in my own mind, only at the school because of my family history and because my mother worked in the development office at the school.  Why else would the school have admitted me?  Any merits I thought I could contribute and might even be recognized for were invisible at Milton.

Substance Use- I started using weed in 7th grade.  That was early compared to many of my peers.  I had friends who were 1 and 2 years ahead of me in school, so I was exposed at a younger age than most of my classmates.  And after the bike trip, when the leader abused me, being high was my preferred state.  It was my escape.  I got high during school, and I often got high after finishing my homework at night.  I drank too, although I didn’t like the feeling of being out of control.  And with a family history of alcoholism, I was always wary of drinking too much.  

The allure of being high led me to experiment with other substances. I suppose the Chorus of Critics helped me as I experimented because I often found myself caught up in the cacophony of their droning reminders of my weaknesses and vulnerabilities. I believe that my fear of becoming an alcoholic combined with the Chorus of Critics playing such a loud soundtrack actually prevented me from going down the rabbit hole of addiction - an all too-common result of sexaul abuse. Cannabis, though, was always a reliable escape. 

Aversion to Leadership - I neither trusted nor wanted to be a leader. Leaders had failed me at Milton.  The leader of the bike trip failed me by abusing me.  The Head of school failed me and others by not holding my abuser accountable, enabling him to abuse an untold number of other students until he was finally fired for abusing another student five years after the school knew of my abuse. 

The pinnacle of my leadership was when my small group expedition on NOLS voted me to lead them.  This was a three-day trek through Utah’s Canyonlands National Park.  There were no roads where we were heading.  We just had a destination and a time we needed to be there.  While leading this type of group was comfortable to me, when it came to more formalized institutions, I steered clear. Not only did I not trust leaders, I wasn’t good enough in my own thinking.  I didn’t deserve to be a leader.  Avoiding leadership is, in business vernacular, a career limiting move. I tried to muscle through my early career with this internal conflict playing in the background.  I worked in positions that weren’t a good fit for my aptitudes.  And after nearly 20 years in large corporate jobs, I left that world behind.  This freed me up to create my own comfort with leadership, but that sentiment still lingers: a holdover from mistrusting leaders.   

Need to be liked - The one area that I actually felt successful was in friendships.  I valued friendships more than anything.  While this is still true today, I am less likely to do or say things to others that I think they want or I believe will make them like me.  In high school, my need to be liked was nearly pathological.  I feared people disliking me.  This wasn’t true for teachers, but maybe that’s because I was abused by one. 

For me, having friends and being likable was my only ammunition against the Chorus of Critics. The only time I could prove them wrong was in my friendships.  At least people like me. I can make friends easily.  And the longer I know them, the more I can be myself.  What a great feeling.   I didn’t have to work as hard with my childhood friends.  I knew they were with me, but with others I always had lingering insecure thoughts that I was one stupid move away from being cast out. The Chorus of Critics knew this fear, and they reminded me often.

Adult Life - I have written here mostly about the impact of my abuse that I carried with me through high school.  The reality is that these impacts don’t just disappear over time.  It’s not like an external wound that you can care for with salves and bandages.  These internal wounds stay with you.  Sometimes they deepen over time while other times they fade in the hold they have over you.  But they don’t typically get better over time without mental health support.

For some, even seeking mental health support is stigmatized, seen as a weakness or disloyalty to one’s family.  I am lucky that I knew therapy would be important for me.  And I’m lucky that I could afford it.  And yet even with the work I have done over the past 40 years, I carry these scars with me.  Many are not so lucky.  They don’t or can’t afford to seek therapy.  For some, the pain becomes too difficult to bear.  Suicide and substance abuse are very common results among victims of sexual assault.  In a 2001 study in Australia, “young people who had experienced child sexual abuse had a suicide rate that was 10.7 to 13.0 times the national Australian rates.” And in a 2001 National Institutes of Health study, 72% of participants with substance abuse reported past sexual abuse.

For me, recovery and healing is ongoing.  

I am lucky.  Many victims of abuse become swallowed by the shame.  They often turn to substances to relieve the pain, to escape from it.  For others, the dark specter of depression is a constant visitor.  Many turn to suicide, unable to bear the weight of their pain.  Unable to see a way out.  

Intervention - ideally early intervention - and support from family and friends is essential for healing. There is a way out. 

If you would like to receive an email with new posts when we publish them, you can click here to register.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. If you're having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area at any time (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). If you are located outside the United States, call your local emergency line immediately.