I feel like this is the last hurdle. Over the past three weeks I have been wrestling with the following and I think I have finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel. Catharsis or absolution? What am I really looking for? I wish I knew. But I think it’s the former and I hope the very act of writing and posting this should get me over it.
I am thirty-three years old, and when I as nineteen I had an inappropriate episode with a teacher who I had know since the sixth grade.
The confluence of two events has brought me to this moment.
The emerging Penn State story which leaves me feeling vulnerable and weirdly guilt ridden. Logically I know that there is nothing any authority figures could have done- there was no crime committed. I was 19 years old- an adult by every legal definition. Still, I wish I had informed someone- so there would have been someone who could have watched for a pattern. On the other hand, I know that, if I am brutally honest with myself, deep down I really don’t care about unknown “others.” I want to know that he was disgraced, removed from a position of influence, shunned by society- in a word punished. I wonder if other “victims”-god I hate that word- feel the same. Or do they mean it with their whole heart and soul when they raise tear stained faces to the world and bemoan the loss of innocence of nameless others. I really don’t know if that makes me a terrible person. I hope not.
The other factor occurred when I finally jumped on to Facebook. I can’t believe that he had the consummate gall to try to “friend” (another word I am growing to hate) me. I got a cutoff message that said “it’s up to you…It’s OK with me “ then it ends. I blocked him from my page, but we all know that doesn’t really mean anything.
I come from a “broken home.” My father died when I was in grade school, but my parents had split up before then. My stepfather and I got along for the most part. That is my background. (BTW, it also pisses me off that both my parents were right about this and had reservations about him but I totally missed it.)
I met this teacher when I was accepted to a gifted and talented program in sixth grade. Classes were taught at a local college. I took his class on “heroes of the middle ages”. In the following three years of the program I took other classes, but he always let me sit in on the class he was teaching. It was usually offered last, so I always tried to make it. We spoke on the phone, wrote letters, etc. I had him over for an “authentic” dinner, which I cooked, and he met my parents. I went to all of his speaking engagements at local book stores and libraries. I even got him a speaking job at my high school. God, as I write that I realize I was so stupid. My face is actually burning. I never thought of him in anyway accept as a teacher. I was very interested in the subject matter- I wound up majoring in history and going on to grad school at Princeton to study medieval literature. I really do love the subject and he introduced me to it. How stupid was I???
Anyway, my freshman year of college he organized a trip to Great Britain for the students in that gifted program- he was one of the most popular teachers- not surprisingly. The trip wasn’t cheap- parents took their kids as a family vacation- and I was allowed to go as an “assistant.” I went for free but I wasn’t paid. On the second or third night he kissed me. I was a little drunk and was so stunned I didn’t do anything. I froze. For the rest of the week we made out. We never had sex, but there was petting. Have I mentioned he was married with two kids and his wife was always very sweet to me?? He told me all about the other women he had affairs with- he saw himself as a mixture of a Beatle and tragic movie star. I was so dizzy, confused, flattered, and weirded out I didn’t stop it. It was like being in a romantic movie. When we got home I want back to my boyfriend- now my husband- who I love more than life itself. Then I started to feel ashamed, grossed out, taken advantage of, scared everything all at once. He also got creepy- he would call me and tell me where we would have our first time. I wanted to be sick. I stopped speaking to him. He apologized and I cut off all communication.
I don’t know what makes me madder- the fact that I didn’t see what was going on or the fact that my parents did- or at least sensed it. But there was never anything inappropriate when I was a child. Except for the whole- he had known me from the time I was eleven- angle. What does that make him? In one sense I wish I had been underage- then it is cut and dry- he’s a pervert period. This is- I don’t know what this is. It sure isn’t the Thorn Birds or whatever fantasy he wanted it to be. And I never saw it coming. And then I didn’t stop it and I hate myself for that. He is still teaching and I don’t know if he ever did anything like this again, but I’m not sure I care. He did it to ME and that is enough. I won’t claim it has warped my relationships with other men but I do think I was cautious with male authority figures after that. But maybe I always should have been. I don’t know.
I don’t think it is out of line to say he took advantage of me. I just don’t know what I want. Again, I ask myself- catharsis or absolution. Did I do anything wrong? Who should I ask for forgiveness? His wife- I wasn’t married to her. My husband- we were only dating at the time. I didn’t have sex and I have never looked at another man in the entire time we have been married (10 years) and dating- 4 years before that. Was that cheating? According to my mother you can only cheat if you are married. I don’t know if I believe that, but I never told him. I never told anyone. It is the only secret I have ever kept- well the only important one. And I don’t want to keep it anymore.