A very personal revelation from a very public person
Fresno State Director of Athletics Jim Bartko speaking publicly for the first time about a secret that he’s held deep inside for decades: on-going sexual abuse he says he endured for two years beginning at age 7. “I was scared and embarrassed, he was recognized in the community to be a hero and it affected me,” Bartko says.
Bartko says the alleged perpetrator was his basketball coach and priest, Father Stephen Kiesle of Saint Joseph Church near Oakland. The former priest is listed on the Megan’s Law website. Bartko says he never told a sole, not even his mother who questioned him when others accused the priest of misconduct. According to Bartko, “When my mom asked me “did he affect you?” And I said, “no”. And I was eleven. I felt everyday after that if I had said “yes”, he would have been in prison and not affected the other people that he did. And I live with that every day.”
The priest did serve prison time; convicted of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14, and was released, but Bartko was never freed of the burden. He says it weighed on him. He had anxiety and insomnia. That combined with the stress of October’s firing of Bulldog Football Coach Tim DeRuyter prompted Bartko to take action,
In December, just before Christmas and his son’s birthday, Bartko checked into an Arizona treatment facility. And it was there, he says, at the urging of a therapist, his secret was revealed. “And once I talked about it, I felt relief, a burden was off my shoulders. I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m not looking for anything in that regard.”
Bartko’s planned one week stay for treatment turned into a month. He returned to Fresno last Wednesday and revealed his secret in an email to Fresno State staff and administrators last Thursday. “That was off my shoulders and I was able to talk them through it and figure out why. Now I’m just grateful I’m able to be .. To have a career and I love what I do here in Fresno.”
Bartko says he does not blame the church for what happened to him. He says he was just the victim of one person.
Bishop Michael C. Barber of the Diocese of Oakland did release this statement about the allegations the against the now former priest. It reads in part: “”I am deeply sorry for the hurt caused by Stephen Kiesle. While I know my predecessors and others moved as quickly as they could to remove his access to children, the pain that he inflicted on vulnerable young people is a crime and a sin.”
Bartko says he will continue with his therapy here in Fresno. He says he has his family’s support, and that of others around the country. He’s looking forward to getting back to work leading Fresno State Athletics. But life for him will never be the same. “It’s going to be a journey. It’s not. You can’t surpress 44 years of one thing and two weeks later say i’m fine. It will affect me every day,” he says.
he hopes to use his secret now revealed to help others. Proving that life somehow can go on. According to Bartko, “If I can share my story it might affect other people, that’s what I hope to do.”