SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- After years of keeping his secret and his identity to himself, Westfield resident Michael Mautone since March has outspoken about the role the Newark Archdiocese played in sheltering former priest, Kevin Gugliotta, who led St. Bartholomew Church's youth ministry in Scotch Plains for several years.
Gugliotta, Mautone said, was an Assistant Scout Master and close family friend, who sexually abused him as a teenager in the late 1980s. Gugliotta later became a Catholic priest, and his longest assignment was at Saint Bart's.
"I warned the Newark Archdiocese in 2003," Mautone says.
His vigilance has grown since a new alleged victim from Saint Bart’s came forward in March 2019.
"This is what prompted me to go public and this was the main reason I spoke at a public event on Thursday evening. I believe and support the new victim. I know it is not easy or comfortable to read such things and really consider such issues," Mautone says.
"For me it is not about what is comfortable or easy. It is about what is the right thing to do," Mautone explains. "If you are a part of the Scotch Plains Fanwood community, please talk to each about this and support each other with love and compassion. I know Kevin was an active part of your community for several years. I'm here for you."
Since he has gone public, Mautone says that people have been supportive of him.
"They applauded me when I finished my talk," he said. "Many commended me, thanked me, and some said something to the effect that it resonated with them and effectively articulated what they also felt and experienced as survivors."
Mautone does not have any specific next steps planned. He said that his main focus is "standing in support of victims and everyone in the community who was impacted by Kevin."
"I am very open to sharing and discussing my story with any who are trying to come to terms with this and struggling in deciding whether and how to act," Mautone told TAPinto. "I really am sincere in this gesture."
"The point is for any of this to change, we all have to be willing to have awkward and uncomfortable conversations and take some uncomfortable actions. It is very uncomfortable and difficult," Mautone added. "Things have to change. I want people to know it's OK for them to say they have seen my story and say what they think. A couple have done so, and I greatly appreciate this. It really helps."
What does Mautone want people to walk away knowing?
For victims: "Even if you choose not to take criminal or civil action, tell someone; seek help. Holding onto such secrets is not healthy and pushing them down only lasts so long. Eventually, you have to look at and process the abuse. Seek help for your own good. Of course, I hope other victims of Kevin find the courage to report his crimes to authorities. It is a very scary, difficult and confusing situation. So first and foremost, I wish for their healing."
For families of potential victims: "Understand there are many reasons victims do not come forward and might even deny being abused when asked directly. When approaching them make it clear that you support them no matter what has happened and that if something happened it was not their fault. They are not to blame. Ensure them you would do nothing harsh such as taking matters into your own hands. If they disclose abuse to you make it very clear you believe them."