Mark Gastineau, the former star defensive end of the New York Jets during the 1980s, opened up for the first time about being repeatedly raped as a child in an interview with the New York Post published on Saturday.
The 62-year-old, who was recently declared cancer-free after undergoing treatment for stage 3 colon cancer, told the Post that a man sexually assaulted him when he was between the ages of 11 and 14.
“I was raped,” Gastineau — who went through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments during his battle with cancer — claimed. “But I held it in for so long. Maybe cancer has made me confront it.”
Gastineau said he suppressed the trauma for years until he married his third wife Jo Ann, 12 years ago.
“I didn’t even think about it until I married her and I could trust someone to tell,” he said to the Post. “But I held it in for so long.”
Gastineau was a five-time Pro Bowler during his 10 years in the NFL, and earned 74 sacks during his tenure, which is still a franchise record today, according to Bleacher Report.
“Can you imagine, somebody like myself, a football player, a big bad guy, getting raped at that age? He scared me to death,” Gastineau said. “You would never believe I was going to grow up to be a football player.”
Gastineau said the death of his mother last year also compelled him to finally speak out about what he endured.
“If my mom were alive, this story would never be out there,” he said. “I would never, never be telling this story because it would kill her. My dad still has a hard time believing it.”
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He told the Post that he hopes that by sharing the painful experiences he kept secret for so long, other parents may think twice about the people they leave around their children.
“I might as well get used to talking about this. I am sure people will be shocked,” he told the Post. “I really need people to watch what goes on around their kids.”