Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Ward victim takes active role in healing

 

May 3, 2018

Craig Loomis wants anyone hurt by abuse to call him. Kyle Clayton photo.

A month after revelations surfaced that former school superintendent Karl Ward had for decades sexually abused and made sexual advances toward male students, one of the victims is encouraging others to receive help.

Craig Loomis was the first man to speak on the record about Ward's abuse after another former alumnus cited it in a suicide video. Loomis, who was touched inappropriately when he was a student in the late 1960s, said two men have called him since the story broke in early April. One man said Ward abused him when he was younger than 10 years old, Loomis said. Another friend told Loomis he was abused by a Russian Orthodox priest.

"Male or female, if something is happening to you or has happened to you, you have to tell someone," Loomis said. "They can break the ice if they want somebody to talk to and take that first step. I'll be the guy."

Loomis has been encouraging sexual abuse victims to open up on their own time, and to seek counseling services. He made an appointment for himself several weeks ago and got advice from SEARHC senior manager and 20-year trauma specialist Kelly Williamson on how to help anyone who comes forward. Four other men have spoken publicly about inappropriate advances, fondling and abuse. Another man said, in a video he made just before taking his life, that Ward raped him when he was a student.

Williamson said other victims have reached out to her. "Multiple people have come to me. I cannot tell you how good it is. It feels like we did something right about something that was very wrong."

Talking with Williamson has pushed Loomis to reflect on his life since he was a Haines School student. Loomis, a member of the Glacier Bears basketball team, was about 16 years old when Ward fondled him at Ward's home while they were drinking alcohol. He said it happened to many of his peers over decades, but that Ward's behavior was an unspoken yet open secret amongst students, teachers and members of Haines' political leadership-adults that Loomis and his friends called the "Haines Gestapo."

Loomis still feels a certain amount of guilt that he didn't say anything and resentment toward the leaders at the time. "These kids who have been victimized after me, I feel like I should have done something to stop it," Loomis said. "Could I have done something to get somebody's attention? We needed to get this information out of town, away from the Haines Gestapo, is what we called them."

Loomis and his wife, Sheri Loomis, have discussed this issue over the years-where, if and how blame should be placed. In their living room, she explains it to him again, as if she's reading a script- "Because you were drinking and you weren't supposed to and you'd get kicked off the basketball team," Sheri said. "Because you were afraid you'd get in trouble. You've got people in positions of power who are corrupt. You couldn't talk to people you're supposed to trust in a very small community and you know you can't trust them."

Loomis repeats parts of this script and understands the rationale, but doesn't accept it completely. "Why I didn't say anything I still don't know."

Williamson said as a result of their experiences, victims carry a feeling of helplessness with them throughout their lives. She said Loomis' willingness to speak to others who have been dealing with trauma is healing for both parties. "Part of the healing of trauma is to find a safe place to talk, a safe ear to listen and to say it out loud. That's really what it boils down to."

Loomis said he's frustrated by the teachers and leaders who aren't acknowledging publicly that they knew about Ward's abuse. "For these people to sit there and tell the public that's now in Haines that they never knew anything, I call BS. They heard about it. I don't hate these guys for that but I wish they had enough oomph to say 'yeah I'm really sorry, but yes I heard about it.'"

Loomis said Ward's behavior, and the fact that school staff enabled it, not only affected his education, but forever changed his perception of adult authority figures and his ability to trust other people.

Ward would approach Loomis and his friends in study hall. In an effort to avoid him, Loomis would often hide in the locker room. Loomis said teachers would scold, and sometimes physically grab him, when he wouldn't tell them why he left study hall or other classes.

Several years later when he was in the army, he was wakened out of a drunken sleep by a fellow soldier who Loomis thought was touching him inappropriately. "I completely exploded," Loomis said. "I got in real, serious trouble."

Although Loomis said he wouldn't change his past, that he has a loving wife and children, he sometimes wonders where he'd be in life if his attitude had been different. "I think about it and I look back and think if I'd have just had a good education, if people would have known what was happening and they cleared it up, if I had had support from the people I was supposed to trust, what would I have become?" Loomis asked.

Loomis said at this point in his life, Ward's abuse does not affect him like it did in the past, but he thinks there are many men who suffered worse at Ward's hands. He wants them to get the help they need.

"I just want these guys to come forward so badly," Loomis said. "I know there's a lot more guys out there, a lot more. I want to help them. I don't know what their life is like, but I know what it was like in my life and it was not good."

Craig offered his cell phone number, 907-209-9596, to anyone who wants to talk.

Sheri also encouraged victims of abuse to open up. "Even though you don't think it may be affecting you much now, tell somebody," Loomis said. "There's help for that now. We've come such a long way."

This story has been updated with the correct phone number for Craig Loomis.

 
 

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