As I read, something quite unexpected occurred, an “aha” moment in the quiet of my kitchen, with the dog asleep on the floor and coffee cooling in a cup. I leaned against the cooktop. I realized I was writing the wrong story.
Forty-one years ago, while an exchange student living at a convent school in Belgium, I was sexually assaulted by a teacher, a married woman with an 8-month-old son. This is not a newly recovered memory. This is a story I have told repeatedly, though not publicly, for years. I needed to tell it to convince myself it was true.
I choose to tell it here, not because I wish to detract in any way from the severity of the alleged abuse that took place at Penn State but because it illustrates the power of the mind, as psychologist Richard Gartner, author of the definitive book on the subject, Betrayed As Boys, told me, “to put experience in a kind of box so that it doesn’t disturb the rest of you.” Because, while I am a reluctant citizen of the confessional states of America, my experience, which pales in comparison to the trauma described by the grand jury, illustrates the banal ubiquity of sexual abuse and its insidious aftermath.