A childhood sex abuse victim turned to social media for justice. Boston entrepreneur Matt Lauzon alleges he was sexually abused at the age of 13 or 14 in Biddeford, Maine.
Matt Lauzon, a 30-year-old who founded tech companies Dunwello and Gemvara, claims a local man who lived across the street from the little league baseball field where he frequently played sexually abused him.
Lauzon was terrified to tell anyone about the abuse, especially his father. According to Fortune, Matt’s father was “very Catholic and homophobic” and Matt was afraid to let his father know about the incident.
However, during an investigation, local police learned that Matt had been in contact with the alleged pedophile. Two detectives contacted Matt at his home, and in the presence of his father, Matt denied anything happened between him and the alleged child sexual predator.
One may expect that would be the end of it, however, the story became very grim.
Matt recounted that Biddeford police officer Stephen Dodd contacted him via an online message board. Dodd claimed he knew what happened to Lauzon and offered to help him.
According to coverage of this story in Fortune, Lauzon wrote a letter to Maine’s attorney general explaining his experiences.
“I felt a sense of relief as I had regretted not talking to the two detectives and it felt like this was a chance to talk to an officer I could trust.”
It turns out Stephen Dodd did not intend to help Matt. When Dodd met with Matt, the former police officer parked his SUV in a dirt parking lot, and Lauzon alleges Dodd sexually assaulted him. Lauzon also claims Dodd sexually abused him repeatedly on various other occasions.
For more than a decade, Matt kept his horrible secret to himself. Even when his father died, he didn’t tell his mother. On his subsequent visits home as an adult, he wouldn’t bring up the incidents to his old friends. The silence nearly drove him to suicide.
Lauzon said he was “very close to killing myself.”
It was when Lauzon read an article in the Guardian that Matt began to sense he was close to justice. In the article, entrepreneur Ruzwana Bashir shared her story about being sexually molested in England.
Ruzwana also explained how she kept her silence until a sex abuse scandal broke out in the town of Rotherham. Matt sent an email to Ruzwana Bashir thanking her for her courage.
Bashir, the CEO of travel startup Peek based in San Francisco, shared her response to Matt’s email.
“We ended up having spending a few hours on the phone together. I encouraged him to go to the police.”
However, when Lauzon reached out using proper channels, he faced one obstacle after another. He was very apprehensive in contacting the Biddeford Police Department because he felt they might be biased since Dodd was one of their fellow officers.
Matt filled out a form on the Maine State Police website. Unfortunately, he never heard back from them.
Eventually, Lauzon did receive an email from one of the Biddeford detectives who originally talked with him years before. The detective asked him to come to the station and give a verbal statement. He was also told his matter would be referred to Maine’s Attorney General’s office.
Matt felt he was getting neglected and stonewalled.
Matt explained how he tried to get sex abuse support using Facebook.
“My first post was really in a fit of frustration. My goal was to get as many people who are my friends to provide me with support. I got that, but wasn’t fully expecting what happened next.”
Lauzon explained how opening the Pandora’s Box drew out other sex abuse victims.
“I started getting messages from other people who had been abused, thanking me for going public. Kind of like how I had reached out to Ruzwana, but some of these were also people who had grown up in Biddeford and say they were abused by Stephen Dodd and another cop.”
Matt’s Facebook postings caused a chain reaction, which included city official emails referencing the case. Today, five other men claim Dodd sexually abused them.
Lauzon elaborated on how his Facebook posts worked for him.
“The way Facebook connections work, my posts were seen by people with ties to Biddeford who I had never even met before. It also caused people in the tech community to reach out to ask if there were ways they could help.”
Matt strongly believes going public with his alleged sex abuse experiences is helping him heal. He encourages other sex abuse victims to reach out, share their stories, and search for justice.
Ruzwana Bashir was able to send her abuser to prison for eight years.
The entrepreneur offered her advice to sex abuse victims.
“We have an obligation to help others. There is this democratization of power now thanks to the Internet, whether it’s by using Facebook or something like my Guardian article or whatever Matt and I come up with. We’ve both heard from so many people everywhere who have had these issues and have not wanted to speak out because of the culture of shame. It’s a real barrier that needs to be knocked down.”
Social media can be a dangerous place, especially for children. However, in some cases, including incidents that involve sex abuse and domestic violence victims looking for support, social media networks can make a huge difference in finding solutions, guidance, and justice.
[Featured image via Gemvara]