WILMINGTON, Del. -- Former NFL linebacker Al Chesley said Wednesday he was sexually abused as a teen and is encouraging victims of child sexual abuse to step forward and tell their stories.
Chesley, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1979-82, joined members of the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) in praising a new Delaware law that allows victims of child sexual abuse to seek civil damages for abuse that occurred years ago.
"I'm 50 years old and I'm finally able to talk. ... I'm not so ashamed of my past," he said.
Chesley said he was abused as a young teen by a member of the Washington, D.C., police department. Recounting his abuse for the first time publicly, Chesley said it was only within the past year, after meeting SNAP San Diego chapter director Paul Livingston, that he began to feel comfortable talking about his past.
"I just want to free myself," he said.
Chesley was accompanied by Livingston and SNAP southwest regional director Joelle Casteix. The three submitted a letter to Wilmington Police Chief Michael Szczerba, encouraging him to educate the police force and the public about this matter. They said the new Delaware law can help expose predators and perhaps uncover evidence that could be used in criminal cases to put more molesters in jail.
Livingston and Casteix took advantage of a 2003 California law, similar to Delaware's, that allowed a one-year "lookback" window for victims to file lawsuits that previously had been barred by the statute of limitations. Delaware's law, enacted last year, allows a two-year lookback period.
According to SNAP members, California's civil window has led to criminal convictions against three child predators.
"This law is the only way we can get molesters off the street right now," Casteix said.
Casteix said she and Livingston were among 90 plaintiffs who settled with the Catholic diocese of Orange County, Calif., in 2004 for a total of $100 million. A key to the settlement, she said, was the release of church documents showing that the diocese knew about the abuse and did nothing to stop it.