Fresno State athletics director Jim Bartko has recently come forward as a survivor of child molestation, detailing his experiences in an interview with the Fresno Bee.
Bartko spent the Christmas holidays at a residential treatment center in Cupertino, Calif., dealing with chronic insomnia and anxiety stemming from when he was a child. It was in those sessions Bartko finally revealed he was molested "around 35 times" as a child by his Catholic priest and basketball coach. "He was the coach and you just kind of idolized him, you didn’t want to let him down, and he used that authority and that power to do things with people that he shouldn’t have done," Bartko said of his abuser, detailing a story so common of child victims of sexual assault.
His abuser, Stephen Kiesle, served six years in prison for other assaults and now lives as a registered sex offender in the Bay Area. Bartko says knowledge Kiesle was free and living near to him triggered the symptoms that had followed him like a shadow for four-and-a-half decades. (Bartko does not blame the church, and his son and daughter each attend Catholic schools.) "I used to crawl out of bed when he would abuse me and I’d go roll on the couch and kind of cry when I was little, and to this day, I still go to the couch when I can’t sleep," Bartko said. "When I talk to people about it, they say that is kind of your safety net and your ‘binky.'"
Sessions at the treatment center led Bartko to inform his mother, wife and children, then his Fresno State staff, and now the public.
Now, Bartko wants to help others dealing with the same trauma he's experienced come forward and live healthy, productive lives.
"I want to make sure that people know there's people out there that will help you," he said. "Talking about it is the best thing.... Don't feel shame, don't feel guilt. You'll feel much better by talking about it."