Male sex assault victims find help at The Healing Center

Center wants men to know they are not alone
Posted at 9:15 PM, Apr 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-04 23:15:07-04

The Nicolet School District is still looking for potential victims after a former teacher was accused of sexual assault. 

While the investigation continues, a local counseling service wants to send a message to male victims: they are not alone. 

On March 26, the current school district notified parents and alumni about an investigation into David Johnson, a math teacher at the school from 1958 to 1991. 

The investigation began after a student came forward in 2016, claiming Johnson had sexually assaulted him on multiple occasions. A Milwaukee law firm hired to look into the claims found that there may have been another victim. 

Two days after the school district released its preliminary findings, police say Johnson was found dead in his Waupaca home of an apparent suicide. 

A potential third victim spoke out to TODAY's TMJ4 on March 30, claiming he was also a victim of Johnson. 

He graduated Nicolet High School in 1980 and said he still battles guilt for not coming forward sooner. 

"I wish I would have been brave enough early to do that," he said. His identity has been concealed per his request. 

His comments about guilt and anxiety encouraged Rhonda Zolecki to reach out. She says she survived her own sexual assault that led to dysfunctional behavior earlier in life. 

"The reason why we feel guilty and the reason we feel shame, the perpetrators make us feel that so we stay silent," she said. 

She says she didn't accept what happened until she found The Healing Center at Aurora Health Care. 

"I first had to acknowledge that something happened to me which was very very difficult to do," said Zolecki.

The Healing Center focuses specifically on sexual abuse and helps both men and women. 

Maryann Clesceri is the manager of Aurora Healing Counseling and says they help more than 100 people a week, about 10 percent are men. 

"They have had so much fear about not being believed, they should have gotten over this a long time ago that, it doesn't happen to men," she said. "They have a lot of these beliefs that frankly aren't true. They come with a lot of fear." 

She says they focus on healthy coping strategies and also use art therapy and therapy dogs when needed. 

"Once they come in and begin disclosing, it's a big relief for them to know there's a place that really understands men," said Clesceri. 

She also said men can feel left out when it comes to sexual assault awareness. 

"Which just leads to further isolation," she said. "I want them to find us."

There is no cost for services at The Healing Center. They are funded by federal grants, as well as the United Way and the Aurora Health Care Foundation. 

More information about The Healing Center can be found here.