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Dr. Bartlette shares childhood experiences at Victim’s Rights Luncheon

| April 23, 2013
Dr. Don Bartlette spoke at the annual Victim’s Rights Luncheon on Tuesday, April 23 at Grace United Methodist Church. Bartlette told about his childhood and how he suffered abuse due to his Native American race and disabilities.

Dr. Don Bartlette spoke at the annual Victim’s Rights Luncheon on Tuesday, April 23 at Grace United Methodist Church. Bartlette told about his childhood and how he suffered abuse due to his Native American race and disabilities.

COSHOCTON – Grace United Methodist Church hosted the annual Victim’s Rights Week Luncheon today, April 23 at Noon with the theme, ‘New Challenges, New Solutions’. A lunch of sandwiches, soups, vegetables, dessert, and drink was provided by the women of Grace United Methodist Church.

The speaker for this year’s luncheon was Dr. Don Bartlette who has traveled the country for 40 years speaking about his childhood experiences. Growing up in the 1930s as a Native American in North Dakota with a severe disability, Bartlette told of how he was not only mistreated by his dominantly white community, but how his own father rejected him upon seeing his deformities at birth.

“When my father saw me, he made a choice,” said Bartlette. “He chose to run away. He could not accept a handicapped baby.”

His mother, who Bartlette said valued human life regardless of any disability or ailment, called the local doctor, who came to examine the baby. When the doctor saw Bartlette, he told his mother to abandon him and let him die because he would never learn, walk, or talk due to his absence of a nose and upper lip, and exclaimed to the white community that Barlette was a freak.

When Bartlette entered school, both the children and the teachers abused him repeatedly. His elementary school teacher locked him in the janitorial closet every day and Bartlette remembers the children tying him down and beating him after school.

One night, Bartlette broke into the elementary school where he found a book and tried to read.

“I wanted to read,” he said. “I wanted to learn.”

He fell asleep at the school where two policemen found him the next morning. Instead of helping him, the two men took him to prison where they beat and sexually abused him. When his father came to pick him up the next morning, he threatened to kill his mother and beat Bartlette senseless.

When Bartlette was 12 years old, a white woman from his community heard about his treatment and took him in to her home where she clothed him, taught him how to read, write, talk, and eat.

“As I felt that touch of the white woman who believed in me, my life began to change,” said Bartlette. “I will never forget that woman.”

One day, the woman took him back to the elementary school and fought for his right to be educated. Years later, he graduated high school as valedictorian and went on to study at three universities where he eventually earned his doctorate in special education. The woman also took him to a local hospital where he had 17 surgeries. He now has a plastic nose, new teeth, and a new upper lip.

Bartlette met a woman who had the same passion for helping victims of crime as he did and they were eventually married. Through her encouragement, he began to speak publically about his experiences, hoping to help other people, and begin the process of healing and forgiveness.

After Barlette’s presentation, the 2013 certificates of appreciation for outstanding service for crime victims awards were presented. Award winners were Beth Walsh, Jon Mosier, Barry Ackerman, Rev. Michael Bilsza, and Donna Fischer.

Lifetime achievement awards were given in memory of Judge David Hostetler and Greg Nowak. Linda Hostetler accepted the award for Judge Hostetler and Linda Nowak accepted the award for Greg Nowak.

“They will never know how much we appreciated them,” said Vicki Laudick, Executive Director of First Step. “I don’t know where First Step would be without their support.”

For more information on how you can help victims of crime, visit firststepcoshocton.org or call 622-8504.

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Category: People & Places

About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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