Editor’s note: Normally, KOIN 6 News does not identify victims of sexual abuse. Originally, the survivor we spoke with asked us to share her story with her name, but has since reconsidered. We honor her request.
SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) – – A sexual abuse survivor is speaking out after her abuser’s sex offender status was reversed.
The 30-year-old survivor says her ex-stepdad molested her as a child four times, touching her under her clothes when her mother was out of the house. He also “groomed” her in between instances of abuse, she said, and “gaslighted” both her and her mother.
Paul Wayne Landaker, 66, initially pleaded not guilty for an incident that got him arrested which took place in Lake Oswego in 2002. He ultimately took a plea deal and served five years in prison and has had to register as a sex offender each year since, until now.
The survivor told KOIN 6 News she was “disappointed” but not surprised at the outcome for the man who she said sexually abused her when he was 48 and she was just 12.
“I’m not surprised that at this point in my life that there isn’t a ton of protections against what happened to me,” the survivor said.
She added that compared to many other women’s stories in instances of sexual abuse, she found herself to be extremely lucky and privileged that her mother believed her when she came forward and that she was able to go through the initial trial that resulted in punishment for Landaker.
In Oregon, low-level sex offenders can petition the state’s board of parole and post-prison supervision to be “relieved” from having to re-register as a sex offender each year, under certain restrictions and criteria.
Landaker was the lowest level sex offender, level one out of three. He became eligible to make the petition following five years after his supervision ended. He was granted a hearing at a Salem courthouse Tuesday, which disallowed cameras.
When asked at his hearing by the board why Landaker wanted to have his sex offender status stricken, he said: “It’s been over 15 years…I would like to move on with my life, possibly move on to another state.”
Landaker pleaded his case for relief, which obliges providing the parole board with “clear and convincing evidence” that he’s not likely to re-offend and doesn’t pose a threat to the general public. That included pointing out that he did not have a criminal record before the incident and hasn’t committed a crime since, experienced financial hardships, and that it was a chapter in his life he truly regrets.
The parole board also asked him questions related to healthy relationships with others and what support system he had in place since then.
Though Landaker cited having a “lack of judgement,” he essentially described the incident itself as giving his then-stepdaughter a massage after asking and receiving permission from his victim, who then found it to be uncomfortable.
The survivor vehemently disputes the claim that she welcomed the touching, as well as Landaker’s assertion that the incident was a one-time event.
“The trope of sexual assault ever being a misunderstanding is a metaphor that is too often used,” she said.
The survivor testified before the board at Landaker’s hearing that the incidents caused her significant emotional trauma, like recurring nightmares and difficulty feeling safe around men.
Despite that, she said she overcame those hardships and helped to launch a successful public relations company in New York City.
The irony was not lost on the survivor that Landaker was requesting “relief,” something that she said is elusive for many survivors of sexual assault.
“Relief. I think of the relief that I craved when I was 12, desperately attempting, but unable, to make friends with any of my male peers because I was too afraid of them. I want relief from the hours spent, the dollars spent, the tears spent at therapy trying to unpack what he did to me and how it will affect every part of my life, for the rest of my life,” the survivor told KOIN 6 News, her voice full of emotion, as a family member sobbed. “As long as I do not have relief from what [he] did, I do not believe that [he] should have relief from [his] sexual offender registration.”
She said she was inspired to testify in hopes it will encourage more women to tell their stories of sexual abuse.
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