I was 17, an impassioned art student, finally away from my mother and step-father and the abusive, emotionally devastating, soul crushing environment of the so-called family home. I loved my newfound freedom and relished every aspect of being a student, in particular fine art painting, art history and textile design. I was hopeful and excited... and more than a little naive.
I had the same teacher for both history and painting; the oldest tutor in the school, of Italian descent... with all the stereotypical flourishes and gesticulations you might expect. He was particularly passionate about the Renaissance period and eroticism and sensuality in art through the ages... and I still have the same enthusiasm for art history that he helped impart to me. He was knowledgeable, talented and engaging. But there beneath that learned teacher facade lurked a predator. Not that this should have been a surprise, he had carried on a quite open and public relationship with a student a couple of years before I attended the school. It was mystifying to almost all of us what she saw in him.
I have zero recollection of our 1st sexual encounter, but I am positive it wasn’t rape. I always found him sexually creepy and too old to be as lecherous as he was, (he had a disconcertingly sweaty top lip), and for whatever reason how it happened is permanently blotted from my memory. Hashish was a newfound hobby, along with as many trips to the pub as my student grant would permit, so who knows?
I was indeed the perfect prey; vulnerable, wounded, needy through emotional neglect, and in a relationship with one of his prior star students who was now attending college in another part of the country. Through a combination of shame, insecurity and fear, it was pretty much guaranteed that I would tell no-one. And I haven’t. Until now. 51 years later.
The fact that I have never felt able to tell ANYONE has only made it weightier. It has caused me to lie and privately cringe... a lot. I have zero doubt that the cunning nature of a predator intentionally created this scenario. I did not even mention it once in 8 years of therapy and 6 years in a women’s group. The stink of shame is potent and silencing.
I don’t even know how long it went on for. I do remember the energy around it ending. Being on a class field trip in Wales and feeling as fragile as glass. He could see that I was breaking and that it was time to release his jaws from my neck as I shifted from being a fun plaything to a liability. He was skilled. I was not the 1st and wouldn’t be the last. The cunning of these people cannot be overstated. There is good reason for the label: predator.
Within a few years of it ending my life spiralled completely out of control, resulting in complete disregard for my own well-being, suicidal tendencies, and extreme substance abuse. And no, he did not cause any of this, but what had happened was one more tiny chip had been taken out of my ability for self-care. My present strong and well, fierce self now knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that everything that happens leaves its mark, especially when it’s sexual and involves the penetration of ones being.
I visit the town where it happened in England frequently, it is a place I consider a home and where many wonderful friends still live. But I never pass my old art school without remembering. There are certain spots and streets where conversations and encounters took place that still burn with recollections. I fantasise about confronting him, but don’t even know if he is still alive.
And the point of dredging this up now and why is it suddenly looming so large? Logically it shouldn’t be such a powerful thing after all this time... but it is.
The catalyst is that I am hearing things in my astrological community having to do with sexual misconduct, (as if it’s as trivial an act as not paying for your bus ticket). I find myself reacting strongly, and I am not in the least sorry. Nobody knows how vulnerable the foundation of another human being is, or what can actually crack and break them. ESPECIALLY when there is an acute imbalance in positions of power. Student/teacher, client/therapist... abuses of these relationships and the trust lost can devastate the vulnerable. And this is not something that can be assessed externally... especially when the perpetrator is primarily focused on their own pleasure, and probably doesn’t even care to begin with.
I am at a loss at what to call the women this happened to, some of them have been clear that they don’t want to be called “victims”. This I completely understand as I don’t think of myself as one either. I also completely understand their seemingly out of control rage at what has happened to them, I kept my own experience bottled for decades because I had no clue as to how volcanic it might be.
Pretty volatile it turns out, as I stand in support of them and with every other person who has been manipulated and exploited sexually by someone in a position of power who knows better, and they ALL do. NO excuses EVER.
Time’s up... whoever you are.