Victim of prolific child sex offender: 'If I didn't come forward, who would come forward?'

Says there is no 'mild predator'

Michael Crider couldn't let his attacker's story go unanswered.

"I was 12, hadn't quite turned 13 yet … that was when he first made his sexual advances," Crider said.

For nearly three decades, Crider says he's kept the trauma he experienced as a child close to his chest. That changed when he saw Jack Reynolds, a prolific sex offender now living in "sobriety" in Madison County, do an interview with RTV6 last month.

SEE OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH JACK REYNOLDS HERE

Reynolds, who spoke candidly about his years sexually abusing children – and his years in prison for those crimes – claims to have molested at least 300 victims. Crider was one of them.

"Even when I called in, I contemplated it over the last couple of days, because my face was going to be out there. I was going to be the face of one of those 300 individuals," Crider said. "But if I didn't come forward, who would come forward? There needs to be a face of those victims, and somebody needs to speak up. So that's why I came forward."

A position of trust

Crider first met Reynolds in the '80s while a member of the Boys and Girls Club of Noblesville, where Reynolds was working as a volunteer and referee. He says Reynolds, who was around 40 at the time, often forced him to pose as a relative during the time he abused him.

"He made me call him Uncle Jack," Crider said. "He actually wasn't even married at that particular time, but he was engaged to his wife. And I actually had to sing at their wedding. As his 'nephew.'"

Crider says the attacks from Reynolds continued for more than a year.

"He would follow me around in his vehicle," Crider said. "Sometimes I would make it to school. Sometimes I wouldn't."

Reynolds was eventually sent to prison for 12-and-a-half years when a boy he attempted to molest at a sleepover turned him in. While he was in prison, Crider wrote letters urging he not be paroled. He also had to deal with his own trauma – something that came to a head after his grandmother, who raised him, died when he was 17.

"I was placed in a padded room in St. Vincent's, with, basically, a NERF bat, and I beat the walls for maybe two hours. That's how extensive an impact it had on me," he said. "But I can honestly say that it was liberating getting it off my chest, because I think from that point it no longer made me a victim."

The voice of his abuser

Jack Reynolds contacted RTV6 in October with an offer: He, a convicted sex offender with hundreds of victims, wanted to share his story.

READ | Prolific sex offender says he victimized 300 boys before he was stopped

He spent the better part of two decades behind bars, first on a five-year sentence in the Florida correctional system and then for more than 12 years in Indiana. He was released early thanks to a favorable post-conviction relief ruling, but says he hasn't re-offended since 1989, when he was arrested for the final time in Tipton, Indiana.

Reynolds said he came back to Indiana after his incarceration in Florida without any intention of changing his ways.

"I began molesting children [in Indiana] by becoming a high school official with the IHSAA," he said. "I also got married to a woman to hide what I was doing in society. I wanted people around me to think, you know, he's normal. He's married. He has a job and a place to live, there's no reason to question."

Post-prison for the second time, Reynolds married his high school sweetheart Francine, who died in 2007, and pursued continuing sex offender treatment in an aftercare program. He also began attending sex offender counseling groups six times a week.

Reynolds didn't shy away from the reality of his life: He wears rubber bands every day to snap himself when he gets "urges" -- desires to re-offend that still well up after 26 years of "sobriety." On his wrists, Reynolds has tattooed "Not today" and "Not ever again" – constant reminders of his past crimes.

Even simple, mundane tasks like going to the grocery store remain a challenge.

"If I'm alone in the store and I have 'eye candy' walking around and I catch myself I will push my cart and say 'No!' out loud. That warns me that I'm in a danger zone," Reynolds said. "People around me can look at me and think I'm crazy, but I do not care. I know what I'm doing. That's part of me remaining safe."

Crider says at that part of the interview, he was horrified.

"I was actually kind of shocked by his responses. First of all I was shocked when, as a grown man, he said he was in a grocery store and he referred to children as 'eye candy.' That was horrific to me in the worst way," Crider said. "I was thinking, for someone who's in rehabilitation, why would you be referring to children in that matter? I just don't see how flipping a rubber band or having tattoos on your wrist will help keep someone from reoffending. I don't understand that. Because myself as a victim, I have permanent scars from what that man did to me."

Ending the cycle

"I can honestly say: One child is one child too many," Crider said. "But 300 children … there are people these days who get sentences for 12 or 15 years for sexually abusing one child. But, there again, I go back and I think 300 children – if I was the judge, I don't think he would ever be out of prison."

Crider's comments come as a similar conversation swirls around the sentencing of former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle – ordered Thursday to serve more than 15 years in federal prison for paying to have sex with minors and amassing a collection of hundreds of videos and pictures of child pornography.

MORE | What's next  for Jared Fogle? | Jared Fogle's full statement at his sentencing | Jared Fogle, ex-Subway spokesperson, sentenced to more than 15 years for sex with minors, child porn

Crider says he followed the case, and was struck, as were many, by one claim the defense made: That Jared Fogle is a "mild pedophile."

"I don't think there is a mild predator, or a mild child molester," Crider said. "You either are or you aren't."

He was also unconvinced by the hypothesis that Fogle may have traded an addiction to food for an addiction to sex.

"I do believe it is an illness, do not get me wrong, but I do not think you can blame that illness on being previously molested, or 'the diet made me this way,'" Crider said. "You either are, or you're not. He got caught."

Crider's comment references Reynolds' own history as a victim of child sexual abuse while a ward at the Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's Home in Knightstown. Reynolds said he was first victimized at 7 years old by a "gang" of teenagers. As a teenager himself, he turned to victimizing younger children.

Reynolds' view on his development as a child predator seems conflicted. On the one hand, he links his own abuse to "learning" those behaviors he then repeated on others. On the other hand, he has this to say: "I do not shirk responsibility for my molesting anybody due to my youth in that children's home. I made the conscious and deliberate choices, and I hold ONLY myself accountable - and responsible - for them."

If there is one thing Crider and Reynolds agree upon, it's that for sex offenders, particularly child sex offenders, their inevitable return to society is fraught with pitfalls – both for their victims and themselves.

"Once a child is victimized, they live with that forever," Crider said. "I mean, look at me. When I saw Mr. Reynolds' story, I was shocked. It brought all of those emotions back up again. These victims will have to live with this for the rest of their lives."

As proof: Crider says decades after his abuse, an unexpected -- and unwanted -- Facebook friend request from Reynolds caused him to weep uncontrollably, even as an adult.

"I had to look at it a couple of times, because I was just shocked that he would have access to a social media website like Facebook," Crider said. "If this gentleman is in rehabilitation, why does he have access to social media, and why should he be allowed access to social media when there's so many kids there?"

Nevertheless, Crider says child victims of abuse like him aren't doomed to lives defined by their trauma.

"Just because they're victims, it does not mean they will not grow up to live healthy lives," he said. "And it does not mean they will grow up to be child predators."

For those who will ultimately tell Fogle's post-release story years from now, Crider has this piece of advice: Get the stories of his victims.

"If an individual comes forward and says, hey I was 12 at the time and I'm 24 now, but I was a victim. At least get their story. Get their side as well," Crider said. "When those victims see that, those victims are going to be reminded: Oh my gosh, I was prey to this predator. Yes he was sentenced, but the victims have to live with this throughout the rest of their lives."

So far, none of Fogle's victims have chosen to make their identities publicly known.

Crider had one other message: Child victims of abuse need not be silent.

"Whether it's a child, a teenager … it can be kind of embarrassing to go through something like that," he said. "I think people are afraid to come forward, especially children. I would just say that I would like them to reach out to an adult they trust and tell their story, and get in touch with the appropriate authorities so they don't have to continue to be victimized."

Crider said children who might currently be victims of abuse need only look to his story for hope.

"I choose not to be a victim anymore. I'm not a product of my environment," Crider said. "Being molested by Mr. Reynolds, it didn't make me grow into an abuser. People who are abused, and children who are abused, whether it be young men or young women, they can grow up to have healthy, productive lives and, you know, not make that choice to hurt others in the way in which they were hurt."

In Indiana, if you are a victim of abuse or know a child who you suspect might be, you can make an anonymous report to the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556, Nationwide, you can find a list of National Children's Alliance-affiliated child advocacy centers here.

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