My name is Bret Douglas Nighman and I became friends with Anthony Edwards when we met in theater class at the age of thirteen at Santa Barbara Jr. High. When we were fifteen we toured California in a production of Peter Pan directed by Gary Goddard. One night while on tour I awoke to find Goddard trying to get into my bed, under my covers and into my underwear. I fought him off and pushed him away. Although it was dark I saw him force his way into Tony’s bed — which was about twelve feet from mine. I thought that Tony would fight him off too. I lay in my bed with my heart pounding and listened to one of my best friends who I loved get sexually molested. I was scared, in shock, heartbroken and confused. I couldn’t understand why Tony didn’t push him away.
Tony and I didn’t speak about it and I didn’t tell anyone for the next two years. I thought I was protecting his right to privacy and didn’t want him to be embarrassed or risk his career.
It wasn’t until I read Tony’s story a few days ago in which he said that his relationship with Goddard started at age twelve, and the sexual abuse started before he was fourteen, that it finally made sense why Tony didn’t fight back and push him away as I did. I realized that, of course, it had happened to him before. I now knew that Tony had been groomed for years by this pedophile who we thought was our friend and mentor.
Goddard directed shows for Santa Barbara Youth Theater that had many boys in the cast such as “Oliver” and “Peter Pan”. Many of these young boys’ careers would ultimately end up being managed by Goddard as he took them to Hollywood, got them agents and helped them get commercial work, TV shows and movies.
The next Fall, when I was sixteen, I was cast by Goddard in Jesus Christ Superstar which would be produced and performed in Northern California. Neither Tony nor any of Goddard’s “other boys” were allowed by their parents to be in the show — because it would take them out of school for a month. However, my parents said yes to me and I travelled to Northern California to begin rehearsals for the production. After one rehearsal Goddard drove me to the home I was staying in and attempted to molest me in the car. I fought him off and pushed him away.
When the production concluded. Goddard called me and said he had printed a bunch of photos of me from the show and invited me to his home in Sherman Oaks to pick them up. I travelled down to Los Angeles from Santa Barbara, and for some reason — I can’t remember why — I spent the night. Goddard asked me to sleep in his bed with him and I said no and slept on the floor. In the middle of the night I awoke to him rubbing my crotch and he grabbed my hand and forced me to rub his erection through his underwear. He then tried to force my hand into his underwear and I fought him off and pushed him away. This was the last time he tried to molest me. I never slept at his home again and I didn’t perform in any other shows he subsequently directed.
When Tony and I were seventeen we were roommates in London while we attended summer school at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. One night when I thought Tony was asleep I told another friend about Goddard’s attempt to molest me, and witnessing him sexually abuse Tony. To my horror, Tony was not asleep and he bolted from the room in tears. I felt so horrible and guilty, like I had now betrayed my friend for a second time. When Tony returned after several hours we did not discuss the sexual abuse, and I thought that possibly we never would.
I am telling my story now after reading Anthony Edwards’ story because I am furious and tremendously saddened that Tony was sexually abused by Goddard. I am furious that Goddard has denied Tony’s brave story of sexual abuse. I truly want to support my friend who I know is telling the truth. Tony has no reason to expose this now in his 50s and accuse Goddard of sexual abuse if it wasn’t true — and since I endured it myself, witnessed it myself, I know it is the truth.
We must speak out to protect all children, and to ensure that Goddard stops his abuse of boys. Many of us victims feel shame and guilt that we have stayed quite all these years while Goddard continued preying on children. I hope that Tony’s story and now mine will help others to come forward to tell theirs. Telling my story now I feel a burden lifted, and I am free of the abuse, guilt and shame at last. I can finally let it go.
I would like to thank my friend Kathleen and my new friend David for their help and support of me to come forward with my story in support of Tony. This happened after I made a comment on Facebook about witnessing his abuse. They gave me a kind and gentle push in the right direction. I would also like to thank my husband Brad who’s love and support these past twenty-five years has brought me so much joy.
Peace and love!