Joshua Meribole — Staff Writer
Curtis Van Dam has been sentenced to spend 60 years in a state prison by Judge District Judge Steven Andreasen on January 11.
He will be required to serve at least 32.5 in prison before being eligible to be on parole. He received 15 years for the federal charges and 60 years for the state charge. Van Dam would first serve his federal sentence and then serve his state sentence.
Garth Van Donselaar, who was present at the court case, described the mood as tense and the room as packed. Parents affected by what had happened read victim statements describing what their children went through, the lack of trust they felt, and the pain they felt.
It has been over a year since Van Dam was accused of sexually exploiting children at Sioux Center Christian School.
In a plea agreement with the state, Van Dam pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse in the second degree, five counts of sexual abuse in the third degree, and one count of sexual exploitation by a school employee.
In 2017, Van Dam faced a total of 140 charges. Of those charges 103 were felonies. But a plea was reached so that minor victims did not need to testify.
Although Van Dam has been sentenced to jail, for many of his victims and the community members closely related to the issue the story is far from over.
Professor Mark Christians, who teaches psychology, says that the trauma people affected face is a like a “giant boulder that has been dropped in a lake and the effects of the trauma can ripple out for a long time for the person directly affected by the trauma and also to friends and family who are close to the victim”. Victims of sexual abuse may have problems dealing with fear and anxiety and relationships afterwards. Victims can also face problems with self-worth.
“It’s not an easy process, it could take months and years,” says Professor Christians.
He ended with saying that “there is an opportunity to walk along side people” and to help a community heal.