Forgive the obscene length of this post, but I feel I have to include all the detail. Don’t worry about reading all the way to the end, I’m writing this mostly for me anyway.
First some background.
I come from a stable two-parent home with an older brother and an older sister. We are a pretty tight-knit family who visit and celebrate holidays together even though we now all live in different states, none of which border each other. When I was growing up, my father always left for work very early and came home very late, and so I saw him mainly on weekends and for an hour or so after he came home each night. My mother didn’t work outside the home and basically raised us alone. I love my father very much and he loves me, but I never had a real bond with him as a child. I have a much stronger bond with him now that I am an adult.
After my freshman year in high school, my father moved us to New York City for his job. I was starting a new school and had no friends there other than my sister, who was in the same boat as me. My brother didn’t make the move with us as he was starting graduate school in the Midwest and was making his own big move. Sometime toward the middle of that first year in my new school, a teacher I had never seen before approached me as I sat reading in the hallway. He said “I hear you’re a good writer.”
It turned out that this teacher was the faculty advisor for the student newspaper and was looking for new recruits. My own English teacher had recommended me, and so I joined the paper and became a budding journalist. I really liked writing for the newspaper and was assigned mainly sports articles at first. I got to interview star players and it was a great way to make some friends with popular kids. The faculty advisor noticed my dedication and started having me edit stories and help with layouts and headlines. I started working much more closely with him and the seniors on staff.
The faculty advisor noticed something else too. While I liked sports and popular culture (I am still a HUGE Metallica fan), I also liked art, and classical music, and classic films. These were things that set me apart from many of my peers and certainly my family who had no such interests. I had just moved to New York City and I was taking advantage of the museums, but I had never seen a show on Broadway, and I had never been to Lincoln Center. He catered to those interests and invited me to shows and to the ballet and the symphony, always with his wife and young daughter. They looked like a nice, normal family. And he was an Episcopal priest to boot. I never suspected a thing and I certainly didn’t recognize his behavior as “grooming” me for anything.
That summer I was 15 and went off to summer camp for the first time in my life. It was another great place to meet new friends, but it was also the first time I was away from home for any length of time. And so being around 60 other boys my age and nowhere near my parents for two months, it was a great place to explore among other things my budding sexuality. I wound up having a fling with a boy – just some comparisons and mutual masturbation. But I was confused because I had a crush on a boy. I always lusted for the girls, never a boy.
When I came home from camp, my newspaper advisor called me at home and invited me for pizza. He had traveled to France that summer and said he had bought me a souvenir. I had come to see this man as a friend and a father figure. And so when he asked how my summer was, I told him about camp. And when he asked if I made any friends, I told him about the boy with whom I had my fling. And when he asked if we had fooled around, I admitted that we had and told him it had confused me and that I didn’t know what to make of the situation. And then everything about our relationship changed…
Instead of going out with his family, he started to take me out alone. And now we would have dinner before the show or concert or movie. He claimed his wife was too busy to go out and he said he enjoyed my company. And truthfully at that time, I enjoyed his.
One Friday night in November (I was now 16), he asked if I would help him with the newspaper layouts, which I had done several times the prior school year. I agreed and when I met him after school in the newspaper office, he told me that we should go to his house to work on them because he had to pick up his daughter from her school. I had never been to his house before, but it didn’t seem strange to me at the time.
After picking up his daughter, we went to his house and he made dinner while I started the layouts. This was before desktop publishing software and so we used the old cut-and-paste method, with real scissors and real paste. I was done with the first page when his wife came home, dinner was ready, and it was time to eat. We had a very nice dinner, and then his wife asked his daughter if she was ready to go. It turned out his wife and daughter were going out for the evening.
Almost as soon as his wife left with his daughter, this man (who had a few glasses of wine with dinner) looked at me straight in the eyes and in a calm voice said, “I want you to go upstairs, go into our guest bedroom, and take off all of your clothes.” I was stunned. I didn’t know how to react or what to do. I laughed nervously assuming that he must be joking and/or slightly drunk and not really serious. He then stood up, stood right in front of me, and repeated himself in that same calm voice, “Go upstairs, go into the guest bedroom, and take off all of your clothes. Do it. Now.”
Oh my God, he WAS serious. I went into a panic and insisted that I wouldn’t do it and he said that he wouldn’t take me home unless I did. I should mention that although he taught in New York City, he lived in the suburbs, and I was still relatively new, and I didn’t know what town I was in or how to get home on my own. I didn’t know what to do. I started shaking, literally shaking. He said, “The guest bedroom is at the top of the stairs to the left. There’s a bed in there. Go upstairs and lay down.”
So I went upstairs and laid down, and he followed, and then I started to cry. He asked me why I was crying! (Really???) I told him I didn’t want to do these things. He told me he didn’t understand why not as I had already had a same-sex experience, which he said meant I was gay. He stroked my hair, said that he loved me and that he couldn’t help himself. He told me that I was different from the other kids my age. I was smarter and more cultured. He said he enjoyed sharing these things with me, and that he knew I valued our relationship (some time before this day I had made the mistake of admitting that I loved him)… and if I wanted any of it to continue, I would have to do it. And so I did. And then he drove me home in silence. And then I remained in silence.
The following Monday in school, he acted like nothing had happened – and so did I. And for weeks, things went on as before – including an occasional dinner and show. But eventually, there would be another incident. And then another. This would go on for nearly two years until finally when I started my first year at University I told him that this could not continue and that he could no longer be in my life, nor I in his. He acted genuinely shocked when I told him how much his behavior had hurt me. He said he had no idea, and when I pointed out to him that I cried every single time it happened while it was happening, he shrugged and told me he thought it was just a case of “the lady doth protest too much.” I’ve never seen nor spoken to him since.
So as I said in my introduction post, intellectually I know I was groomed by a sexual predator. But deep down, I can’t shake the feeling that I could have prevented this whole thing. I could have stuck to my guns and waited for his wife and daughter to come home. I could have run out of his house to a neighbor and asked to use the phone. At 16, I was physically bigger than him and probably could have overpowered him if I tried. But I didn’t do any those things; I went upstairs instead. Even after that first night, I had options. I could have reported what happened to my parents (with whom I had a close relationship); I could have told a school counselor or administrator. I could have called the police or confided in a close friend. I did none of those things. I remained silent and I let it happen again and again for almost two years.
This experience has affected every personal relationship I have had. For starters, I cannot accept compliments without suspecting an ulterior motive. “I hear you’re a good writer” was the bait, followed by “You’re so smart.” If that were really true, I would have chosen one of the options in the previous paragraph. I can’t hear anything like that without assuming the person is looking for something.
I have had bouts of alcohol abuse (especially at University), drug abuse (a continuing problem), and other self-destructive behavior.
I can no longer use a bathroom in the presence of another person, male or female. This was never a problem before the abuse, but it has been a problem ever since. Using a public bathroom is an impossibility and severely limits my social engagements. I can be out in public no longer than approximately 4 hours without having to worry about finding a “safe” bathroom.
I have not been able to have a normal sexual relationship with anyone in my adult life. I often cannot achieve an erection in the presence of another person, and even when I do, I cannot reach orgasm during a sexual encounter. That leaves most of my partners feeling inadequate. Because of this, I have avoided intimate relationships for years and have learned to live without them.
I still have a great relationship with my family. My sister and brother are both married and have five children between them. I have a great relationship with my nieces and nephews. But in many ways I feel isolated from all of them. I feel they don’t really know who I am and I don’t know how to introduce the real me to them. They wonder why I haven’t settled down or started a family – why my personal life appears so unstable and why I have so few people close to me. My parents worry for my future and fear I will be lonely as I grow older. How do I explain to them that I am already lonely?
So that’s my story. Hope you’re not all bored to tears by it.