Ron Bilton has spent much of the past 25 years trying to convince others to make confessions.
Now, the veteran Winnipeg police officer has come forward with one of his own: He was sexually abused as a child.
Bilton, 52, has self-published One Piece Of A Life, a powerful book in which he reveals years of childhood trauma he endured and then kept hidden from family and friends.
"Every day when I wake up, I think I must be out of my mind (for writing the book). But the potential benefit people can get from my experience is outweighed by anything I can suffer personally," Bilton told the Free Press.
Bilton is believed to be the first active city cop to add author to his resumé. He spent four years writing the manuscript, then several months awaiting approval from his employer, which included getting a legal opinion, before it recently went to print.
'Every day when I wake up, I think I must be out of my mind (for writing the book). But the potential benefit people can get from my experience is outweighed by anything I can suffer personally' -- Patrol Sgt. Ron Bilton
Bilton hopes his story inspires other victims to confront their demons. He has invested more than $13,000 of his own money -- and more than a few tears -- but said it's been worth every penny.
"People need to know how this happens, how a predator sets things up," said Bilton, who is a patrol sergeant.
His story begins at the age of 10, when his parents opened up their Winnipeg home to boarders. One of the people they took in was "Don," an aspiring businessman in his 30s.
Bilton said in reality Don was a pedophile who preyed upon him for nearly seven years. He writes explicitly about the grooming process and how the abuse progressed over time without anyone finding out.
It was only in the mid-1990s -- several years into his job as a police officer -- that Bilton first disclosed what happened to him during a meeting with Dr. Bill Davis, the police psychologist at the time.
"I think there's a point you hit, as I did, in your early 30s where you are at a level of maturity that you're able to start to process that information properly," said Bilton. He admits he was nervous, especially given the stigma associated with police officers and the misguided belief they should never show "weakness."
It was the start of a therapeutic journey that led Bilton to begin to tell loved ones what happened. With every disclosure "it felt like a little bit of that weight came off," he said.
Bilton writes candidly how the abuse led to thoughts of suicide and a divorce.
Davis, now retired, wrote the foreword for Bilton's book. And in a unique twist, Bilton has spent the past four years serving as the wellness officer with the Winnipeg Police Service. The role brings him into frequent contact with officers who have gone through a traumatic event, such as a shooting.
"I'm exactly where I should be," said Bilton. His career has given him a "unique perspective" that includes wondering if he could have turned out like so many of the people he's arrested who have endured trauma.
"I often think how I could have been on the other side," he said. "I think it has made me more compassionate, more understanding."
Bilton credits a few role models in his late teens who kept him out of trouble and steered him toward taekwondo. He eventually became national welterweight champion, competing in international events for his country, including the 1987 Pan American Games.
"That kept me sane, kept me going in a positive direction," he said.
Bilton graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Manitoba and was accepted into the WPS in 1988 -- meaning he had to take a pass on competing for Canada in the Seoul Olympics. He doesn't regret the path he chose.
"Since I was about 10 I knew I wanted to be a police officer. I don't know if it was because of the abuse I suffered, wanting to right the wrong, protect other kids. I'm sure it had something to do with it," he said.
Bilton never filed a complaint to police about what happened to him, a move he admits may lead to criticism from some. He explains his rationale in his book, including concerns about the justice system.
"My decision is my decision," he said. Bilton believes his abuser lives in Toronto. He has wondered if the man, who is in his 70s, victimized others.
Other cops are applauding Bilton for his courage.
"He's a man who possesses the kind of uncanny strength and steely determination required to do what few people burdened with his life circumstances can do," said James Jewell, a retired homicide investigator.