The Boston Globe ran an article recently about an incident of sexual misconduct at my high school. This is the latest in a string of stories about sexual abuse, harassment, and assault at private high schools across New England, and several of the events happened at my school.
I love my high school and its surrounding community, where I was born and raised. The school is a place where intellect and kindness are both prized, and where reasoned debate is essential.
It’s a house of privilege in many ways. Financial privilege, in that many of the kids who go there come from wealthy families. (Many others do not.)
Academic privilege, because every student is expected to work hard, and the teachers do as well. Social privilege, because of the powerful connections you build there.
I was able to go because I got a full scholarship, since my parents both were employed there. I worked my ass off, and I learned a lot. Way more than I did in college.
But while I was growing up in this bastion of fortune—a place where I felt nourished and protected every day—some of my peers were being abused, by each other and by faculty members.
I’m lucky that this didn’t happen to me. It shouldn’t happen to anyone.
What’s been striking lately is the flood of reports of sexual assault, harassment, etc.—some of them from 20, 30 years ago or more.
I hate the idea of someone carrying that malignant memory inside them, silent, all that time.
From my experiences with obsessive compulsive thoughts, I am familiar with the sensation of having a small, dark room in my brain piled to the rafters with shit.
For me, therapy and the book Brain Lock helped me open the door to that room, hose it down with warm soapy water, and air it out.
Having obsessive thoughts is not the same as living with the memory of sexual assault. Not even close. But I remember how it felt to carry something ugly around inside me. Like having a blighted spot, permanently, in the corner of my vision.
These stories about young people in my community getting assaulted and abused fill me with anger and a toxic sense of powerlessness.
I’ve written a letter to the school’s administration to ask them to up their game on how they respond to student allegations of sexual misconduct.
I signed another letter, along with 900 other alums, putting the same challenge to the trustees.
Other than that, not much else I can do. My feelings of insufficiency about that bother me—but they’re really not the point.
I admire everyone who’s coming forward to share your stories. I wonder if it feels like hosing out a roomful of shit in your brain.
Probably for some of you, it’s more like ripping a bandage off a wound that’s been festering for years, or for decades. And inviting the whole world to watch you do so.
All I can offer is my limited understanding of what you went through, and my desire to understand better.
If you were abused, assaulted, molested, raped—at my high school or elsewhere—I’m so sorry that you went through that.
And I admire you for talking about it.
You’re very brave.
Photo credit: by William Murphy via Creative Commons license