Four Sisters Who Confronted Their Father and Their Pain

My father, was a Los Angeles Police Officer. He was a child sexual abuser, and child rapist. He used weapons on me to silence me. Edward Rodgers was a former state and federal law enforcement official. His daughter’s story is below:

By Patricia Brennan, March 20 1994

“At times, “Ultimate Betrayal” (a made for TV movie that was broadcast in the 1990’s) is not an easy movie to watch. Based on a true story of incest and physical abuse, it follows four adult sisters as they share their memories and decide to sue their father in civil court.

Their precedent-setting 1990 lawsuit in a Denver court has repercussions on Capitol Hill. If Rep. Patricia Shroeder (D-Colo.) gets her legislation passed, the Child Abuse Accountability Act will establish procedures to allow child abuse victims to claim court-ordered financial restitution by garnisheeing the federal (but not military) pensions of their abusers even years after the abuse occurred. Currently, federal pensions can be garnisheed for alimony and child support.

In the film, Marlo Thomas plays Sharon Rodgers Simone, eldest of seven children in a Colorado Springs, Colo., family. Now a middle-aged wife and mother, she is a fearful person on the edge of a nervous breakdown, a woman who sleeps in her car at night, returning at dawn to help get the children off to school. Her husband is keeping the family together.

When Sharon’s youngest sister, Mary Rodgers LaRocque (Ally Sheedy), calls to ask if she’ll join in a lawsuit against their father, Sharon learns that her three sisters also are leading dysfunctional lives. All four have sought psychological help; three have attempted suicide.

But unlike Sharon, who has no explanation for her undefined fears, the other sisters know why: As children, they say, they were sexually abused by their father. Sharon hears her sisters’ stories but denies that such horrors occurred — certainly, she believes, not to her. As Thomas put it, “Only Sharon had trouble connecting the dots.”

Filled with shame, the sisters — Mary, Susan (Mel Harris) and Beth Medlicott (Kathryn Dowling) — had never confided in one another.

“One of the things that Sue says on the stand is, ‘All my life, I thought this was my shame,’ ” said Thomas. “All of us carry little secrets that have tremendous power because they’re secrets. A secret tears you apart; it stops you. But if you let it out, it has no power. It doesn’t have to be a secret as big as theirs. The secret can be that you just weren’t loved, just the fact that your parents didn’t have time for you.”

But Mary’s secret was a big one, one she had never told. Sheedy, in one of the most touching and unsettling scenes in the movie, recounts to her older sisters the repeated sexual abuse, including a rape that occurred when she was very young and was the only child left at home.

Edward J. Rodgers Jr. said that never happened. Rodgers had been an FBI agent for 27 years when he retired from that career in 1967 and became a child-abuse investigator for the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office (El Paso County) in Colorado Springs. He also served on the board of a group that supports the rights of abused children.

The same year he retired from the FBI, he separated from the mother of his seven children. Two years later, he married a woman with a son and two daughters.

In 1990, long after the Rodgers children were grown, Susan Rodgers Hammond and Sharon Rodgers Simone sued their father, not only to gain money to pay for their therapy, but also hoping for a public accounting and to hear their father acknowledge what happened.

That he would not do. Edward Rogers failed to appear in court, and in a written deposition, he denied that the sexual abuse ever occurred, although he admitted that he had been a physically rough disciplinarian with a quick temper.

Nor would his sons Edward, Steve and John, who are seen in the film being beaten as children, participate in the lawsuit. They are seen in the film berating their sisters in the courtroom at the close of the trial. Sharon’s therapist (played by Eileen Brennan), did testify, as did Sharon’s husband, Patrick Simone.

Without the defendant present, and with no defense counsel, a six-woman Denver jury heard the testimony, considered the evidence for 90 minutes, and awarded them $2.3 million, the largest settlement (at that time) in a case of this nature.

Thus far, said Thomas, Rodgers has never paid a penny of that sum. Schroeder’s bill, introduced in November of 1993, would tap into Rodgers’s FBI pension. Currently, a federal employee’s pension can be garnisheed only for court-ordered child support or alimony.

Thomas pointed out that unlike other cases that have caught public attention recently, “This isn’t a case of false memory or repressed memory,” said Thomas. “The other sisters said, ‘I’ve known this all my life,’ but Sharon wouldn’t allow herself to admit that.”

They related all of this to producer/director Donald Wrye, writer Gregory Goodall and a therapist in an emotional two-day session before the movie went into production. Simone reviewed at least 10 drafts of Goodall’s script. Then the actors were cast.

“The abuse psychologist we spoke to said everybody plays a different role in the family,” said Thomas. “Sue was the one who fought back and got beaten the most. Sharon was the one who tried to make her father calm down and feel loved, met him at the door, brought him a beer. She thought she was helping by helping her father feel loved. But underneath, there was the guilt of the collaborator.

“To me, what was very touching was that she {Sharon} didn’t want to lose her father. Every girl needs her daddy. Sharon told me, ‘There’s a part of me that still loves my father.’ Her fantasy was that they would have this trial, the father would be found guilty, and then they would all go around and help other families. She said, ‘I thought maybe we’d make all this bad become good for somebody.’ ”

Thomas said Sharon eventually came to understand that her vision of family healing was an unlikely scenario. Instead, helping make the movie and working for the Child Abuse Accountability Act have become her way of making “bad become good for somebody.”

Thomas said after she read the script, she gave the movie a lot of thought.

“I’ve never done an ‘abuse movie’ before,” she said. “I put {the script} down and I thought, there’s something very special here. It took a lot of courage for these women to stand up to their father. There’s something basic about having your pain acknowledged, having your reality acknowledged.

“The father had every opportunity to acknowledge his daughters. They asked him to talk, they asked him for money for their therapy, and as a last resort, they sued him to get money for their therapy. But that doesn’t seem to be the real issue. The real issue is, if Dad won’t acknowledge what happened, maybe the jury will. That was the triumph for them.”

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THE DENVER POST – Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire
May 17, 1990
Sisters win sex lawsuit vs. dad $2.3 million given for years of abuse
By Howard Prankratz
Denver Post Legal Affairs Writer

Two daughters of former state and federal law enforcement official Edward Rodgers were awarded $2.319,400 yesterday, after a Denver judge and jury found that the women suffered years of abuse at the hands of their father.

The award to Sharon Simone, 45, and Susan Hammond, 44, followed testimony of Rodgers’ four daughters in person or through depositions, describing repeated physical abuse and sexual assaults by their father from 1944 through 1965.

Rodgers, 72, who became a child abuse expert after retiring from the FBI and joining the colorado Springs DA’s office, failed to appear for the trial. But in a deposition taken in March, Rodgers denied ever hitting or sexually abusing his children.

He admitted that he thought of himself as a “domineering s.o.b. who demanded strict responses from my children, strict obedience.” But it never approached child abuse, Rodgers said. “Did I make mistakes? Damn right I did, just like any other father or mother…”

Thomas Gresham, Rodger’s former attorney, withdrew from the case recently after being unable to locate his client. Rodgers recently contacted one of his sons from a Texas town along the Mexican border. Gresham said his last contact with Rodgers was on April 24.

The sisters reacted quietly to the verdict, and with relief that their stories of abuse had finally been told.

“I feel really good that I’ve gone public with this,”Hammond said. “I am a victim, the shame isn’t mine, the horror happened to me. I’m not bad.
“My father did shameful and horrible things to me and my brothers and sisters. I don’t believe he is a shameful and horrible man, but he has to be held accountable,” Hammond added.

The lawsuit deeply divided the Rodgers family, with Rodgers’ three sons questioning their sister’s motives.

Immediately after the verdict, son Steve Rodgers, 37, reacted angrily, yelling at his sisters in the courtroom.

Later, Rodgers said he loves his father and stands by him. He said his sisters had told him their father had to be exposed the way Nazi war criminals have been exposed.

“In a way I’m angry with my father for not being here. But I’m sympathetic because he would have walked into a gross crucifixion,” Rodgers said.

Steve Rodgers never denied that he and his siblings were physically abused, but disputed that his father molested his sisters.
Before the jury’s award, Denver District Judge William Meyer found that Rodger’s conduct toward Simone and Hammond was negligent and “outrageous.”

Despite the length of time since the abuse, the jury determined the sisters could legally bring the suit. The statute of limitations for a civil suit is two years, but jurors determined that the sisters became aware of he nature and extent of their injury only within the last two years, during therapy.

The jury then determined the damages, finding $1,240,000 for Simone and 1,079,000 for Hammond.

The sisters had alleged in their suit filed last July that Rodgers subjected his seven children to a “pattern of emotional, physical, sexual and incestual abuse.”

As a result of the abuse, the women claimed their emotional lives had been left in a shambles, requiring extensive therapy for both and repeated hospitalizations of Hammond, who was acutely suicidal. Simone developed obsessive behavior and became so unable to function she resigned a position with a Boston-based college.

Despite the judgment yesterday, Rodgers cannot be criminally charged. the statue of limitations in Colorado for sexual assault on children is 10 years.
Rodgers, who worked for the FBI for 27 years, much of it in Denver, became chief investigator for the district attorney’s office in Colorado Sp;rings. during his employment at the DA’s office from 1967 until 1983, he became a well-known figure in Colorado Springs, and lectured and wrote about child abuse both locally and nationwide.

He wrote a manual called ” A Compendium — Child Abuse by the National College of District Attorney’s,” and helped put together manuals on child abuse for the New York state police and a national child abuse center.

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/tv/1994/03/20/four-sisters-confront-dad-and-the-past/d312385d-584d-45be-bf91-1dbc96036432/
http://www.headwatersproductions.com/press/article5.html
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2 Responses to Four Sisters Who Confronted Their Father and Their Pain

  1. Little Nel says:

    Those sisters are courageous. I’m glad that they had their day in court after all.
    Their father will never acknowledge the legacy of pain, shame, and damage that he caused to their feminine souls that left them broken as adults.
    I’m glad that you posted this, Alethea.

    • Alethea says:

      Thanks Little Nel. A friend of mine’s father was a judge, and he was this man’s best friend. She is looking for other victims of this man because she thinks he might have victimized her too (along with her father).

      If anyone who reads this was victimized by this man, please contact me: sanjuanangel7@yahoo.com

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