So, since my teacher, after sexually assaulting me after class one day, when we were alone drinking, decided to act as though nothing untoward happened, what was I going to do? The idea of ever seeing him again makes me feel sick. It’s true that I didn’t directly say what happened, but let’s have a quick recap of what happened:
- After class, the class (as usual) went to a local bar to hang out.
- He and I were the last two people there.
- When I returned from a trip to the bathroom, he asked if we could share a friendly hug of solidarity because he felt close to me after our conversation about chronic pain earlier in the night.
- After the hug, instead of letting me go, he started kissing me and fondling breasts, telling me what an amazing lover he was, and that he’d always felt attracted to me and had “an understanding” with his wife. Before this, the only physical contact we’d had was the occasional hug good-bye after class. There was no flirting, no innuendo, no reason for me to suspect he had anything other than purely friendly feelings towards me.
- I froze, completely stunned and shocked at what was happening. Outwardly, yes, I did look compliant, and possibly like I was even enjoying myself. Inwardly, I was freaking out, felt violated, reeling, and confused as to why this was happening. I was trying to figure out if there was a way to extract myself out of this situation without losing this class I loved so much, as well as how to put this new behavior of my teacher’s into context.
- I didn’t go to class the following week, as I’d realized that I could never go back to that class, and never wanted to see Teacher again.
- Teacher did not contact me at all about what happened. His next contact was over a week later, and it was a simple request to know if I could present on a subject for the next class.
- I asked how he felt about what happened at the bar after class the other week. His responses were entirely to do with something that I said, apparently, about how much energy I had. There was no comment whatsoever on his behavior. Unless he was blackout drunk (and couldn’t remember), I find it completely improbable that he didn’t realize what I was asking about.
So, given that I didn’t feel I could ever go back to class, and given that teacher seemed to be playing dumb, I decided I write a letter resigning my participation in class. This letter felt like I best thing I could do to express my anger (in a way), and make it clear that I goddamn well knew what happened, even if he wouldn’t admit to it.
This is what I wrote:
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to return this semester. I wanted to share what’s going to be taking up so much of my time; I wouldn’t leave a class midway through without good cause.
I have been asked by a friend to help her write a multi-piece series on sexual assault for her blog. There will be a particular focus on sexual assault perpetuated by a figure of trust, such as a police offer, supervisor, or teacher. Special emphasis is going to be placed on calculated, premeditated sexual assault that occurs by these figures and is followed by a concerted effort to gaslight, ignore, or discredit the person who has been assaulted. This is a subject that I have some experience on, which I will tender in these pieces.
These occurrences develop far more often than reported; only 10% (or less) of them are reported to the authorities. Many sexual predators who are also figures of trust typically assault over forty people in their lifetimes, making this reality even more alarming. These despicable people engineer their actions and behavior post-assault to make victims seem uncredible, crazy, or liars. This allows them to continue their predation unchecked, and utterly uncaring about the lives they destroy.
It is a sad fact, but you do know people who have been sexually assaulted under these circumstances. The victims may be afraid to talk openly about their experience. Even so, they worry that staying silent may potentially allow you to trust someone who will assault you in the future. These people – victims and predators alike – are your friends, your family members, and acquaintances who you meet in all walks of life.
If you have been assaulted by a person who is a figure of trust, and would be willing to talk about it, I would love to talk. I sincerely hope that no one here has, but if you have, please know that there are resources and other survivors who would like to offer their solidarity to you.
So what is this? It’s not an accusation. It doesn’t defame anybody, or point fingers at anybody. It’s not libelous, and sounds like it’s more about me, and my life than anybody else. Hopefully, if anybody in the class had already had some sketchy happenings with the teacher, it jogs their memory of that.
Was it a good idea? I honestly don’t know. It’s the best I could think of to do.
What I would have expected from him, an intelligent adult male who (I’d assumed) wasn’t a predator, would have been some form of acknowledgement (preferably unprompted) that something way beyond the norm of our relationship had occurred, and that it wouldn’t happen again, unless I was 100% on board. Also, as he is a figure of trust, and a teacher, any such overtures should include an explicit statement that my decision in terms of a relationship does not in any way change our teacher/student relationship, nor is my continued acceptance in his class contingent upon acquiescing to a relationship with him.
Any mature, responsibility-accepting response on his part would also be contingent on him acknowledging that the way he “presented” a relationship to me was not appropriate, and didn’t give me the space needed to ensure that my response was uncoereced and completely of my free will.
Instead of making a mature, respectful attempt to salvage a relationship, Teacher instead close not to contact me for over a week, and then to contact me only in regards to presenting to the class, as if this giant sexual transgression didn’t exist. When I pointedly asked his feelings about what happened, he began talking about something that had absolutely nothing to do with him latching on to me and groping me while telling me what a wonderful lover he was and how we should have a relationship.
Between his despicable behavior and his words after – either breathtakingly ignorant or a deliberate unacknowledgement of what happened – I didn’t feel like I had a lot of options. He is no longer someone who I feel capable of sharing any level of intimacy with. I wasn’t going to keep asking or extend myself further towards him when I’m still reeling from and dealing with the emotional aftermath of his behavior. But at the same time, I wanted to make damn sure that he understood my feelings about his behavior, and I was hoping to at least lodge something in the minds of other female students to think about, while I decided how I could reach out to them to let them know what happened.
That’s the only left that’s really important to me. I don’t want another student of his to be placed in the same position that I was, because they didn’t know that he’s apt to turn a hug (or in Andrea’s case, a shared cab ride, or merely sitting in close proximity at a bar) into an opportunity to force himself on someone sexually. I still want to reach out to them privately, to caution them about him. I also, quite honestly, want to be left alone to continue to process and recover and think through if I can get my body and mind to respond differently if a similar situation occurs.
I don’t know how to reach out to them. I have their email addresses, but not phone numbers. Well, I have one phone number. So maybe I start there. Make the commitment to call that student, share what happened, and then see how that goes.
I need more time to think. If nothing else, at least that is clear.