WASHINGTON, August 9, 2013 — Michael Reagan is the adopted son of former president Ronald Reagan and actress Jane Wyman. He is also a survivor of child abuse and child pornography.
After he was adopted in 1945 by former president Ronald Reagan and actress Jane Wyman, Michael Reagan fell victim to circumstances that defy our perception of the life of children of celebrities.
Michael Reagan’s descent into a world of pain and suffering began in 1948 at the age of three with the divorce of Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman. This event changed Michael’s world as he was placed in the custody of his mother and the time spent with his father became a shadow of their former relationship. Divorce can be difficult to process in the mind of a young child, and many internalize the blame for the breakup of their parents, saddling themselves with a lifetime of guilt.
Michael struggled with feelings of loneliness and abandonment as he tried to make sense of his father’s absence and a sometimes emotionally distant mother. Michael always knew that his mother and father loved him but with their busy schedules as actors, there were times that he felt alone and isolated. The loneliness he felt as a child would only be amplified when at age six he was sent to boarding school. Michael speaks of crying himself to sleep every night during his time away from home.
At the age of eight, Michael and his sister moved to a “day” school, where they returned home every night. Due to their mother’s busy schedule as an actress, the two children were enrolled in an after- school program, and it was here that Michael was targeted by a pedophile.
The man who ran the after school program began working his way into Michael’s life, filling the void left by the absence of his father. He taught him how to throw a baseball and attended all of his sporting events. Michael says, “There was a point where he owned me and molested me sexually three days a week. This continued for a year, and even though I knew it was wrong, for an eight year old it was just too much to process. There was no one I could tell about the sexual abuse. My relationship with my parents was strained due to their divorce and my struggles with being adopted. I knew what was happening to me was wrong but children always bear the greatest burden as victims of child abuse and they keep that secret at their own expense.”
Pedophiles “groom” their victims by psychologically manipulating them into a trap that leaves them powerless. They often threaten to withdraw the affection the child craves, stop giving them expensive gifts or threaten to tell the family the child is a “bad seed.”
Childhood sexual abuse has no sense of economic status, ethnicity, gender or celebrity. One in four girls and one in six boys are victims of child sexual abuse. There are over forty-two million survivors of child sexual abuse in the world today. According to a Centers for Disease Control study, the lifetime costs for the victims of child sexual abuse reported in one year is $124 billion.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that there are currently 500,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, and typically 100,000 of those are unaccounted for. Other pedophiles are not on records or in databases. Pedophiles like Jerry Sandusky walk silently among us, and Sandusky showed us just how well they can disguise themselves.
Research has also shown that each victim of child sexual abuse has to tell an average of seven adults before they are believed, and those who make it to the seventh adult are few in number.
Michael Reagan’s abuser did not stop at molesting him, and soon he was using him for child pornography. Michael remembers the moment as a young boy he believed that his life was over. His abuser would often drive him home at the end of the day, and one evening, as his mother waited at the front door, he asked, “Mind if I take him to dinner?” Jane Wyman waved standing on the porch and said, “Fine, see you in a bit!”
Instead of taking him to dinner, Michael’s abuser took him back to his apartment. In the kitchen, his abuser drew back the curtains to reveal a photography developing studio. As his abuser began moving a sheet of paper from pan to pan, an image of mountains appeared. He allowed Michael to try, and to Michael’s horror, the image he developed was not a landscape but a picture of a nude eight-year-old Michael Reagan.
It was at that point that Michael knew his life was over. He was consumed with an uncontrollable anger and hatred of himself that would haunt him throughout his life.
Michael Reagan remembers as a young boy smashing his bike with a hammer when the chain came off and as an adult taking a sledgehammer to a 1965 Oldsmobile at his father’s ranch when the battery died. The car and the bike represented his abuser, and Michael’s anger towards the man who stole his innocence was a bottomless well.
The anger he felt towards his abuser became directed not only outwards but inwards as well. After the abuse, Michael struggled with his own sexuality, and he speaks of how at sixteen he stole money from his father’s wallet to pay for prostitutes as a means of reinforcing his masculinity.
Rates of suicide among male victims of childhood sexual abuse are 14 times higher than the norm, and they are 38 times more likely to die from a drug overdose. Male victims are also prone to more aggressive behavior than female victims. A male victim is 53% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile compared to others and 38% more likely to be arrested for violent crime as an adult. Victims face a lifetime battle with depression, anger, addiction and possibly suicide, and the cost to society is the loss of a productive individual who could have changed the world if it were not for their victimization.
In 1965, Ronald Reagan announced he would run for Governor of California. Michael remembers the moment his father decided to run and his thoughts about that decision.
“At that point I was angry and frustrated. Everybody expects me to be a success but I was scared of the entire concept of success. I would have been living a nightmare expecting the photographs that my abuser took of me as an eight year old to surface. I was praying that my dad runs for Governor and that the love that people have for him will rub off on me, but I was also deathly afraid that those photographs would come out and hurt my father’s political career. I was bearing the burden for my abuser, and that is what victims of child abuse are forced to do. It’s despicable what children are put through by these predators and then they spend their lives suffering because they were innocent victims targeted by evil.”
In 1987 Michael Reagan was offered two million dollars to write a “tell all” book about his parents, Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman. As he began writing, something unexpected happened; he began getting angry, and as he struggled with a whirlwind of emotions, he finally realized he could no longer keep silent about his molestation.
Michael met with then President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan. Michael began to shake and tears welled up in his eyes as he told his father how his innocence was stolen. He remembers First Lady Nancy Reagan rubbing his back and his father’s hand on his shoulder. Michael also remembers his father’s words “Where is he so I can kick his ass!”
Michael’s book, “On The Outside Looking In,” was published in 1988 and chronicles his early life and the abuse he suffered.
Michael Reagan has beaten the odds by surviving childhood sexual abuse, and when asked what gave him the strength to avoid the self-destructive path many take, there is no hesitation. “God has given me the strength to survive and my wife Colleen is my North Star. She guides me when I feel lost and teaches me every day the meaning of unconditional love and dedication.”
In 1975 Michael and Colleen were married. He thanks God for bringing Colleen into his life and for their two children, son Cameron and a daughter, Ashley.
Michael Reagan has achieved many things in his life, including becoming the founder and chairman of Reagan Legacy Foundation, a New York Times bestselling author, Townhall columnist and former talk radio host. He has also dedicated himself to ending the scourge of child abuse, and today he works with the organization Childhelp to educate and empower parents and children.
Along with Childhelp, Michael is working to protect our children from predators through the 1-2-3 formula. The first component of this is the implementation of “Erin’s law” created from the courage and determination of author and advocate Erin Merryn. “Erin’s law,” implements child sexual abuse education in grades Pre-K through eighth grade.
The second component of the 1-2-3 formula is the implementation of Childhelp’s Speak Up Be SafeTM (SUBS) premier curriculum for grades one through six. Through education and empowerment of parents and children, the program combats the ever-growing threat to our children from cyber bullying, Internet predators and “sexting.” The final component is the utilization of technology such as smart phones as aids in the education and prevention of child abuse.
Michael Reagan’s abuse as a child haunts him every day, and his voice the pain is palpable as he speaks of the trauma he suffered as an eight-year old boy. His tone soon changes, however, when he talks of his fight with Childhelp to save the next innocent child, and the force and conviction of his determination not to let another child suffer as he did are patently obvious.
To find out more about Michael Reagan go to his website here (http:/ www.michaelereagan.com). Please join Childhelp, Michael Reagan and me in our fight to save an innocent child from the next Jerry Sandusky.