Our first SNAP member who played in the NFL and to publicly speak out about his childhood trauma, Roy Simmons, has passed away, and our hearts go out to his family during this difficult and painful time.
Over the past decade, Roy joined us several times in several states (Massachusetts, Ohio and elsewhere) pushing to eliminate and extend the biggest legal roadblock to protecting kids – the archaic, arbitrary and predator-friendly statutes of limitations. He also bravely spoke at several SNAP events. (In fact, if you look at the photo accompanying Roy's obituary in the New York Times, you can see photos of other SNAP members in the background.)
Roy found it both embarrassing and painful to speak publicly about his childhood abuse, even after so many years have passed since it happened. But he spoke up anyway. He said “it isn’t easy, but I can endure this if it will help another child. It hurts so much and I don’t want anyone else to endure this. Kids should not have to suffer like I did.”
He inspired others to speak up too.
Lawmakers - and others - listened when Roy talked. It wasn't just his size and his gentle but impressive demeanor. It was also his unusual candor. He frankly shared the pain he endured as a child but also the many unexpected after-effects of his childhood trauma that plagued much of his adult life.
According to the New York Times:
He said he had been sexually assaulted as a boy by a man he did not know well, a devastating event that caused him trauma and confusion and was not spoken about within his family.
Simmons spoke candidly at a press conference about his own experiences of being sexually abused by a neighbor when he was 11-years-old.
"I remember it as though it happened yesterday," Simmons said. "I will never forget the pain and paranoia. I felt that is was my fault."
“I think all my life it affected me,” he said. “The acting out — the sex with the boys, the girls — the drinking.”
Personally, I'm especially saddened by Roy's passing for several reasons. He was the same age I was and we were both raised in conservative communities (he in Georgia, me in Missouri). And we grew up in cultures that largely worshiped football and despised gays. So I'm perhaps more impressed than younger people might be by Roy's courage.
He will be sorely missed.