May 21, 2008 -- "I arrived at a point in my mind," David Holthouse says, "where it seemed to me that murder was entirely rational, justifiable and even a morally responsible course of action."
Holthouse's 25-year path to revenge began in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1978, at the home of his parents' best friends. The friends' son was 10 years older than Holthouse, and was the quarterback for the high school football team. Holthouse admired him. But one night, the high school quarterback lured the 7-year-old downstairs to play and trapped him in a corner.
The older boy forced a terrified Holthouse to stimulate him orally. "Then I remember being face down on his waterbed with a pillow over my head," Holthouse says. "I had no concept of sex or rape or anything like that. I just knew that it hurt like hell." Once the teen had finished violating Holthouse, he ordered him never to tell anyone what had happened.
Holthouse grew up to become a journalist; his career took him from Alaska to Arizona to Colorado. Then one night, his parents called with a remarkable coincidence to report. Their best friends' son was also living in the Denver area.
The knowledge tormented Holthouse. Memories of his violation flooded back. "And I just fixated on it," he says, "and fixated on a desire to kill him."
And so, using the skills he employed in reporting one of his stories, Holthouse carefully, incessantly plotted his revenge.
'I Just Wanted to Shoot Him'
"Once I decided I was going to kill him, I felt a lot calmer about things," Holthouse says. "I was convinced that I was not his only victim and that in all likelihood, he was still raping kids. And therefore it was crucial for me to wipe him off the face of the earth."
"That's what I told myself. That's how I justified it. I think that really, I just wanted to shoot him."
But before Holthouse could take action while his mother was cleaning out his old bedroom in Alaska, something caught her eye. It was a long-forgotten childhood diary -- Holthouse's diary -- in which he'd confided what had happened to him.
Horrified, his mother fired off a brutally frank message to the man's parents. She says she "told them that, um, that their son had raped my son when he was 7."
"And once my parents told me that, I knew that there was no way I could go ahead with my plans to kill him," says Holthouse.
Then Holthouse thought of another way he could get revenge. He decided to write about being raped and about his plan for vengeance. He knew that meant confronting the man at last.
When the two met, Holthouse's hidden tape recorder captured the man's voice. "It happened one time I don't know why It never happened since, it never happened before," he told Holthouse.
"I guess my main concern is that you're okay I'm never going to be able to apologize to you enough."
Those words led to another momentous decision: Holthouse decided not to name the man in his story. The story set off a firestorm of reaction from readers. "Person after person after person saying, this happened to me too, this happened to me too, when I was a kid."
'You Have the Obligation to Exact Some Form of Revenge'
Four years later, Holthouse is now married and is a writer and editor for the Southern Poverty Law Center, where his words and stories seek to expose klansmen, neo-Nazis and other purveyors of hatred. He is still sought out by victims of child rape. He tells them revenge is their right and maybe even their duty.
"Not only do you have the right," he says, "but arguably, you have the obligation to exact some form of revenge on the person who sexually assaulted you when you were a kid. Because you have that same special, critical knowledge that I had. You know, beyond any doubt, the identity of a kiddie rapist."
What Holthouse is willing to offer is what he calls "conditional forgiveness." He wrote a second letter to the man who raped him.
"If you were telling me the truth when you said I was the only one, then I accept your apology and I offer you my forgiveness, and I wish you the best of luck. If you were lying, then God help you, because you're going down."
Was running that story a more satisfying way to deal with what had happened to him than killing this man would have been? "Definitely," Holthouse says. "I think it did more good for a lot of other people. I think it did more good for myself. And that's a relief."
This report originally ran on Feb. 2, 2007.