They’re Naming a $30 Million Theatre After My Abuser
When I spoke with the principal of the all-boy Jesuit High School about the abuse committed by a recently deceased teacher which I previously wrote of , she said, “Even though I believe you, we’ll need more evidence,” which seems like an alternative way of saying, “I don’t believe you.”
When I expressed my concern over the school renaming their recently-built $30 million theatre after an abuser, my comment was brushed over.
I was told, “Well, I would have to talk to his wife about this, and you need to be sensitive because she just lost a husband.”
For fifteen years, I hadn’t talked about my abuse, even with my own therapist, because the constructs of our patriarchal society taught me not to do so. So while people are mourning the life of a predator of now multiple victims (as women who had read my previous essay contacted me with similar stories), may I reflect on what I lost in the last decade and a half of my life.
After news of his death and finally being able to name the violations made toward me were abuse, I had a variety of panic attacks:
The kind where you fall asleep and hold your breath, and wake up gasping for air.
The kind where you have nightmares and scratch yourself in your sleep until you bleed.
The kind where you spontaneously vomit throughout the day.
After my first semester of college, a friend had attempted suicide. As a means of recovery and having support, he invited friends and his mentor, TA over to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation together. I was in one corner of the L-shaped couch, while two boys made space for TA’s arrival so they could sit next to him on the other end. Upon entering, TA passed the space on the couch and sat on the floor right in front of me. During episodes, he stuck his fingers in my Batman sock to rub my feet, caressing his hand up my pants and rubbing my calf muscle. He knew my loyalty to my friend, a young man who idolized him, would keep me from speaking out and drawing attention to him. In a time when his mentee needed him the most, he was their for his own benefit, to assert dominance over me as if to remind me that he could have control over me any time he wanted.
The kind of disassociation from your own body that comes with abuse is pounded into the framework of how you think of yourself; after all, what TA's manipulation did to me served as the prime example that I had no say in what was done to my body.
When I was 26, I had too much to drink, after a mutual friend witnessed the way a male friend was looking at me, she warned him, “Don’t do it.” He took me home and had sex with me when I was unconscious.
I woke up the next morning crying, not for the violation upon my own body, but because I was worried that I was responsible for ruining his relationship with his girlfriend (now his wife). I couldn’t name my rape because I had been conditioned not to think of my body as belonging to me.
The TA-parallel I previously wrote of whom I fell I love with, the sociopath, emotionally beat me down until I felt I had no right to question where he was every night till 7am. I wasn’t allowed to have any emotions that possibly held him accountable for his own actions. Like TA, he was a teacher and using his power of influence to prey upon and manipulate students into staying after hours and performing sexual acts in the classrooms in which he taught.
TA had conditioned me in my formative years, had normalized abusive behavior so well that I didn’t know how to call it out. It’s shocking to see how blind I was to the similarities. I would like to think by now it should be unsurprising when I tell you the sexual acts he coerced me into took place on campus, inside the school’s theatre.
In 2010, when he was planning a trip to the city I live in, TA kept texting and emailing me (I had tried to cut him off years prior, and hadn’t seen him in years, but how could someone like him respect someone’s boundaries?) asking to meet for coffee. I submitted and agreed to just coffee, to which he immediately ran with it, giving me his hotel information, emailing me poorly written erotica from his school email address. I felt terrified. He called and left a voicemail where he told me he had masturbated to me “countless times.”
Through his emotional abuse and manipulation, the feeling that became most familiar to me, most like home, was that of hating myself and sharing my needs with no one, all rapidly developed within the time he was using me. It was so ingrained in me that after dating a series of men always with some variation of one of TA’s abusive tendencies over the years, I became suicidal, and even then couldn’t bring myself to ask anyone for help. How could I possibly ask for help when I felt I didn’t deserve to live? TA's cunning emotional isolation took its toll and followed me almost to my death.
That is a portion of what I lost, and I mourn for the first time, the life I possibly could have had if this hadn’t happened to me, if I thought I deserved to live. While I try to grieve, to let go so it doesn’t hold a power over me, so the school's state-of-the-art theatre will be named after a predator who abused his power and multiple young women in his decades-long career, so they can relive their trauma at very mention of his name.
An allegiance to an institution shouldn’t limit the range of one’s compassion, and yet it has.