The recent media coverage of the testimonies of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh left me so sick to my stomach and even though I never had planned on telling my own story somewhere in the middle of the night I was seized with the urge to write. I don’t know what happened with these two individuals even though I do have my intuitions but I do know my own story and I regret not telling it years ago not because I can predict things would have turned out differently for me and my family or that it could have prevented the disaster my experience with not one but more than one sexual predator wreaked upon all of us but just because.
When I was 14 years old (above) I was a very serious competitive tennis player and I had a private coach who was very well known in the community as well as born into a very wealthy and influential politically active and liberal family who hobnobbed with the likes of Norman Lear and other Los Angeles actors and celebrities. His wife was also the tennis coach at my high school — an elite, moneyed all-girls college-prep school which was also littered with children of celebrities. I was part of a small group of pupils of this coach and it became obvious I had favor in his eyes. At the time I thought it was a crush and I actually felt happy for the attention. Well one day out of the blue when I was getting ready to play in the semifinals of a tournament out in Claremont, CA., the coach announced to my parents that we would need to travel separately to the tournament . . . me and the coach in one car and then my parents should drive in a separate car, so that we could discuss strategy. On the way to the match he pulled over and told me that he was in love with me . . . a 36 year old man in love with a 14 year old, that he hadn’t had sex with his wife in 7 days (wtf? and why was he telling me this), and that he dreamed of running away with me as soon as I turned 18. After the match which I won we had a nice lunch with my Mom. (?!). It later became known that my coach, also a freelance “writer” (unemployed), had years earlier published a book entitled “Birthday” which was a near pornographic tale of an older man who falls in love and runs away with a teenager when she turns 18. Nice.
The next day I was to play in the finals and the morning of the match my Dad went out to get me breakfast and brought me my first ever bagel. He brought it to me in bed and I ate it and thought it was very good, but minutes later got violently ill and threw up the whole thing. I got up and dressed for the match, traveled to the tournament in the same manner as the day before, that is with my coach and my Mom traveling separately, and won the tournament. I’ll never forget that day because I played against Pete Sampras’ sister and little Pete was there.
I was thrilled with the win but an absolute mess of confusion over my coach’s revelations and it turns out indeed he did have plans for us plans that included me and a hotel room on more than one occasion and also included was the plan to tell my parents I was babysitting his 3 small children. Well it turns out my best friend had called on one of those days when I was to be babysitting, looking for me, and my Mom gave her the phone number of my coach’s house and you can guess how this part of the story ended, which is with me backed up against the corner of my parents’ bookcase trying to eek out every possible lie about where I was until it became obvious what had happened not once but twice and my parents freaked the f out. In a vague attempt to protect the family of my tennis coach’s wife and her children and to protect myself from publicity there were no criminal charges brought against my coach even though my parents absolutely wanted to and were ready to that very moment when I was up against the bookcase . . . but I begged for them not to. Thinking back on this makes me sick and also sad. I had so much shame and guilt. But indeed eventually everyone knew what had happened because not only was I grounded for 6 months and not able to go anywhere but I had a new coach, my coach and his wife were divorcing, and I went into complete emotional hiding. This all happened within a matter of days. Soon began the weekly trips to the psychiatrist and then there would be, later, years and years of alcohol abuse and institutionalization for me and that’s only the beginning of another awful story that would take books to finish.
Sadly before the coach was the neighbor I babysat for, when I was 12, who was trying all kinds of perverted bullshit on not only me but my sister and my friends who would come and swim in his pool. That came to my parents awareness as well and guess what my Mom told the wife, she didn’t believe, her husband denied and they up and sold their house and moved to Redding, CA. As a final insult to injury there was also, many years later when I was in the throes of alcohol abuse, the man who brought me to my first meeting and employed me, a man sober for 30 years and a lector in our parish, and perhaps the most vile of the offenders because he, although 40 years my senior, was trying to put the most disgusting moves on me when I was in periods of blacked-out stupor.
Back to the tennis coach who moved into a house his father owned on the property of a now Bristol Farms market, 3 blocks from my parents’ house . . . he would take daily walks right past our house and all around our neighborhood, and he continued to contact me and my parents with letters about how he was sincerely in love with me I distinctly remember my mother telling me it was all she could do not to run over him in her car, over him forwards and then in reverse, over and over again. At our tennis club one time my father was playing golf and decided to have a look down onto the tennis courts from the golf parking lot where he saw my old coach trying to talk to me from an adjacent court to the court was playing on, and he came down and nearly killed the coach with his bare hands in front of everyone.
There is so much else to write but my thoughts today are on how hard it was at the time of the events to come forward with the truth. There was no question as to whether I’d be believed so I can’t really speak to the culture of disbelief of women who are confronting sexual predators, but I can speak to the internal reluctance to come forward and the wrenching turmoil and conflicted emotions regarding speaking up. All of that got pushed down so deep within me and then came out sideways in all kinds of self-destructive behavior, behavior that not only affected me but also was ruinous to my first marriage, my relationship with my parents for a very long time, and had unknown consequences to my son who was a baby and young boy when I was lost in alcohol. I desperately did not want anyone to know what happened and felt so ashamed and disgusted with myself. Also my parents who absolutely I’m certain wanted the best for me and to help, were disgusted and angry with my coach but I think that anger and the fact that it did not get channeled properly towards the perpetrator and in a court of law, got subverted and directed at me. At least that’s how I felt. The way it was framed to me was that “A red light should have gone off in your head but for some reason a green light went off.” It was explained to me that what happened was wrong and there would be consequences for me, namely that I was grounded and not allowed to go anywhere unsupervised and although I’m sure that was in large part to protect me or prevent me from getting into any further trouble, somewhere in my little psyche it felt like punishment for something I’d done horribly wrong.
The anger I started feeling in watching yesterday’s hearing, even though I don’t know what happened with those two individuals, began as I listened to the Judge’s testimony. This is not related to that story per se, but did evoke an immediate reaction in me and what it reminded me of was when I went to visit my former tennis coach, many many years later, when I was struggling to get sober and getting counseling, and he had no f *** ng earthly clue that he had done anything wrong and not an inkling of remorse. 20 years later and he was CLUELESS. I had a curiosity at the time to see his demeanor and confront him. I went to his house, that same house he’d been living in for 20 years, and knocked on the door. He said he was shocked and so happy to see me, that I was still so beautiful and that he wouldn’t have changed a thing about what he did, and then proceeded to show me a book on his table he’d made called “I love my life.” It was filled with photos of his children, his girlfriend, his travels. It made me SICK to my stomach and I felt beyond angry. A few years after this he received “Father of the Year” in the Pacific Palisades newspaper! However soon after that he applied for the contract to run the tennis shop at the prestigious Palisades Tennis Center, and a fellow bidder who’d heard of the reality of his past, contacted my father to give a “statement” in non-support of his bid, and indeed he did not get the bid. A newspaper writer who had been a friend of my mother’s told the fellow bidder that they might want to contact our family. Ugh. Also throughout the years I’ve come into contact with other former pupils, in recovery, who said “Yeah, that happened to me too.” It is astounding to me the sheer numbers of sexual abuse victims.
I think I’m pretty much done with this story this morning and I’m not sure it helped anyone besides me but there you have it I just wanted to write today. I can really say that even though I’m 51 years old, there are so many times I feel exactly 14 years old and stuck in that moment when things changed my life forever. I wish it never would have happened. I wish it never would happen to anyone, female or male, child or adult. I wish those men in my life weren’t such assholes and perverts and jerks. Sometimes I feel the human species is just a hair’s breath away from being animals with the base and vile instincts and at any given moment likely to turn mad. Just chaos and disaster waiting to happen at any second. That’s how I feel today. It has taken years to unpack all of the bullshit and poison that sexual abuse and a violation of that kind brought to my life and my family’s life and it’s still not all unpacked. It’s a long process of truth telling and then forgetting but forgetting is not possible so I try for understanding, letting go, and other things. It’s still a tender topic and one I almost never talk about, but today was different. That’s all for now.